Did you know Kentucky got its first professional hockey team In 1948?
That’s right, the Bluegrass State has had pro hockey for over 70 years! The Louisville Blades were a minor league pro team that played within the International Hockey League (IHL) between 1948 and 1950.
Fast-forward to the 2020s, and, while Kentucky doesn’t currently have a high-level pro team, they still have a few high-level hockey teams.
In this article, I’ll show you what hockey teams are in Kentucky and what college and junior teams compete in the state.
Pssssst! Are you curious about hockey teams in other U.S. states? You can learn more by checking out our other posts: What Hockey Team Is in Florida, What Hockey Team Is in Louisiana, and What Hockey Team Is in Pennsylvania.
Let’s dive in.
Here’s What Hockey Teams Are In Kentucky:
While Kentucky doesn’t have an NHL team, its top teams are the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky men’s ice hockey teams. They’re D2 college hockey teams that compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).
Does Kentucky Have a Hockey Team?
So, what is Kentucky’s top hockey team?
Kentucky only has a few high-level ice hockey teams. However, they don’t have an NHL team as it’s a smaller state (4.5 million people), and there are too many competing markets nearby (Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, and the Nashville Predators).
The top hockey teams in Kentucky are the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky men’s ice hockey teams. They’re D2 teams that compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).
Does Kentucky Have an NHL Team?
So, will you find an NHL hockey team in Kentucky?
Unfortunately, no. Kentucky’s population is about 4.5 million people which is just a bit too small for an NHL team, let alone any major sports team. Plus, they have too many nearby hockey markets like the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Kentucky has had several professional teams over the years in multiple leagues including the AHL, IHL, ECHL, and more.
What NHL Team Does Kentucky Root For?
Kentucky doesn’t have its own NHL team. However, The Bluegrass State still has an active NHL fanbase.
The most popular NHL team for Kentuckians is the Nashville Predators. This is primarily due to the fact that the Predators (in Nashville, TN) are quite close geographically to Kentucky, located about 2.75 hours of a drive away from Louisville.
The “runner-up” team would be the Columbus Blue Jackets and then the St. Louis Blues.
What Hockey Teams Are in Kentucky?
So, what hockey teams are in Kentucky? The Bluegrass State only has a handful of hockey teams as seen below:
Kentucky doesn’t have an NHL team.
Kentucky doesn’t currently have an American Hockey League (AHL) team. The AHL is a high-level professional sports league just one step below the NHL.
While they don’t have a team right now, the state has had two American Hockey League teams in times past: The Kentucky Thoroughblades and the Louisville Panthers.
The Thoroughblades played between 1996 and 2001 in Lexington, Kentucky at Rupp Arena. The Panthers played between 1999 and 2001 in Louisville, Kentucky at Freedom Hall.
Kentucky used to have three professional ice hockey teams that competed in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The ECHL is a mid-level professional sports league just one step below the AHL.
1. Lexington Men O’War: The Men O’War played in Lexington, Kentucky out of Rupp Arena. The team played in the ECHL from 2002 to 2003.
2. Louisville Icehawks: The Icehawks played in Louisville, Kentucky out of Broadbent Arena. They played between 1990 to 1994. The IceHawks were the affiliated minor league team to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
3. Louisville RiverFrogs: The RiverFrogs played in Louisville, Kentucky in the ECHL out of Broadbent Arena. They played between 1995 to 1998.
D2 College Hockey
Kentucky has a total of two (D2) varsity college hockey teams that compete within the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA):
- University of Louisville (ACHA Men’s D2)
- University of Kentucky (ACHA Men’s D2)
Kentucky doesn’t currently have any junior ice hockey teams.
Is There High School Hockey in Kentucky?
Yes, there is high school hockey in Kentucky. The Bluegrass State has a single governing body for all high school hockey: The Kentucky High School Hockey League (KHSHL).
The KHSHL includes seven teams from across the state:
- Northern Kentucky
- Saint X
Is Hockey Popular in Kentucky?
So, do they play hockey in Kentucky?
To be honest, hockey isn’t the most popular sport in Kentucky. The state loves their baseball and soccer (two of the highest level sports teams are in baseball and soccer)
Kentucky doesn’t have a current professional hockey team.
In 2022, WalletHub crunched the numbers to determine which hockey cities were best for fans of the sport. In the study, WalletHub ranked the top 72 cities in the U.S. They worked with 21 key indicators of what made a city a “good” hockey city. Different indicators included stadium capacity, ticket prices, and the performance of major teams, among many others.
Kentucky didn’t have a single city crack the top 72. Overall, Kentucky is probably one of the least hockey-centric states in the U.S. However, hockey is growing in the Bluegrass State and with a population of 4.5 million, there’s certainly room for the sport to grow. Plus, it’s not too far of a drive if you want to see some NHL hockey with nearby markets like the St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Are you curious to know more about hockey in other states across the U.S.? Don’t forget to check out our other full guide: Hockey Teams in Every U.S. State: Complete NHL & College List (2023).