40 days of jerseys #6: Cincinnati Cyclones (IHL)

IHL Cincinnati Cyclones
IHL Cincinnati Cyclones

Jersey #6 of 40: IHL Cincinnati Cyclones (No name, number)

Style: Replica
Size: XXL
Manufacturer: Starter
Obtained: Store bought, ~1995

There’s a couple of reasons I got this jersey. For one, I became a fan of Cincinnati after they became an IHL team, and for another, in my ham radio life, I’m big on weather, and weather spotting, and the Cyclones “Twister” logo is suited for my SKYWARN pastime.

The Cincinnati Cyclones got their start in the ECHL in 1990. The city’s had hockey teams before, during, and after, and oftentimes the franchise has been about as unstable as their moniker, despite some of the wildest fans in all of minor league hockey.

The city has had hockey several times over several decades (Mohawks, Swords, and Stingers to name a few) and were in the WHA in the 1970’s. Some NHL Hall of Famers like Mike Gartner and Mark Messier played there as did ESPN analyst Barry Melrose. They were one of two cities that did not go to the NHL when the WHA folded, despite respectable attendance.  A couple of CHL attempts floundered, and the 80’s saw little pro hockey in Cincy. When the Cyclones debuted in 1990 in the Cincinnati Gardens, the hockey-starved fans responded in droves.

Original Cyclones logo
Original Cyclones logo

When the Cyclones entered the ECHL in 1990-91, the team had the highest average of fans (7,696) in the entire league that season, a league record at the time. The following year, they averaged over 9,000 fans per game! The franchise was turning heads across the hockey spectrum, and Ohio was becoming a hockey mecca, with 3 additional cities moving in (Toledo, Dayton, and Columbus).

The Cyclones’ ownership rode that wave of success into the higher-level International Hockey League in 1992 after only 2 years in the ECHL. The jump to the higher level was a bit of a growing pain, missing the playoffs and a slight reduction in attendance, but still 2nd overall in the AAA-level league.

One of the most memorable games I attended in Knoxville history had to be against the Cyclones when Knoxville was still in the ECHL. Circa 1991-92 season, there were rumors in the weeks prior, that there were a large number of Cincinnati fans planning to attend a game in Knoxville late in the year. My wife and I weren’t dating at the time and so I took my mother along to see this game. Back then, the upper level of the arena was general admission seating, so the earlier you arrived, the better seats you had to pick from.

When we got there, there were at least 7 buses from Cincinnati!!! And word of mouth was that some had kegs of beer on board, and several of the fans were already blitzed before the doors to the Coliseum even opened. I was told that the Coliseum was originally not going to allow them in to the building, but for whatever reason relented, and extra security was called in…and needed.

Over the course of the game, several fans in Cyclones jerseys were seen taken away by KPD and escorted either back to their bus, or for one fan, off to the slammer. That fan, for whatever reason, took a puck and threw it down to the level below, barely missing the head of a daughter of a friend of mine and into the back of another fan’s head who had to be taken to First Aid (I never knew the eventual outcome of his injury). When the cops went up into my section, dozens of fans pointed to one specific person, who nonchalantly kept watching the game, beer in hand, oblivious to the fingers directed at him.

When the cops talked to him, he of course denied anything, but they decided it was time to take him out and have a talk with him. As they escorted him (one cop with a hand on his arm, the other on his jeans pocket) he started to resist. Biiiiiig mistake. He ended up getting dragged down the remaining steps, and tried to hold on to the guardrail was he was being hauled away, the crowd cheering in unison.

A friend of mine who was working concessions that night later said that as the fan was hauled into the area behind the stands he pushed a cop, yelling “F*** YOU I PAID FOR THIS TRIP!”, to which the officer replied, “F*** you, you get to spend a night with us for free!”. I’m sure it wasn’t “free”, in the long run. I don’t know how he got home…

That night it was hard to tell who was the home team. So many fans made the trip from Ohio by bus, car, plane, and probably hitchhiking, that when Cincinnati scored, it sounded louder than the Cherokees fans.

The game went to an eventual shootout, which the Cyclones won. It was a raucous game from before the start to after the finish. Even though I was a die-hard Cherokees fan, I had a great deal of appreciation for the Cyclones and their dedicated fans.

Toledo storm logo
Uglier than this?

Their logo was notorious for being considered the “ugliest in hockey”, with the scribbled twister behind a goalie’s back, wearing a Friday the 13th’s style mask, as his stick and pad made a cheesy looking “C” shape, with an oddly scripted “CYCLONES” below, and the goalie wearing the logo of himself in some sort of “Inception” style. Some thought it was worse that the 8-bit logo of the Toledo Storm…seriously.

Still, the logo endeared to the fans, myself included, and made an appearance in the 1993 movie Airborne, filmed in Cincinnati about a California rollerblading surfer kid trying to fit in with the local hockey kids. Two twin brothers who play minor characters in the movie wear the Cyclones Jersey almost the entire time throughout. This film might be more notable for Seth Green and Jack Black being featured. You can see them (and the jerseys) in the trailer below:

In 1995 the logo was changed to the one I am wearing. I found the jersey in a sporting goods store here in Knoxville. It was cartoonish, but still, I thought it looked just as good as the old “C”-shaped goalie logo. It’s on the shoulder pads, albeit with a more modern facemask. I’ve worn it several times to games, and once when visiting the Predators. There’s always a Cincinnati fan who comes up to me no matter where I go with it and remarks about the team.

I used to be able to listen to Cyclones IHL broadcasts on AM clear channel radio direct from Cincinnati on WCKY 1530. I was envious of their fan base and became a distant fan, despite having no ties to Cincinnati other than being born in nearby Dayton.

New logo
New Cyclones logo

Over the years I have followed them off and on and wondered how things might have been between Knoxville and Cincinnati had the Cyclones stayed in the ECHL, or had Knoxville stayed. It was a Knoxville businessman that started the Cyclones after all, and a great rivalry was getting started before they “graduated” to AAA hockey.

However, the IHL folded, the Cyclones came back to the ECHL (albeit another franchise with the same name) and have even won the ECHL Championship twice since re-joining.

Last year, the Cyclones ditched the “Twister” logo for something more minimalist. It looks more like the Carolina Hurricanes logo, yet they are affiliated with the Nashville Predators, now. It’s received mixed reaction.

Their recent trip into the ECHL is just starting to revive the glory days of when they barreled into the ECHL like a…some kind of a wind that swirls…the attendance numbers were lower than some of the Ice Bears’ numbers back in the mid-2000’s when they re-entered the ECHL. I’m not sure why, other than possible competition with the now-defunct AHL Cincinnati Mighty Ducks or something political, I really can’t say. However, winning two championships might have warmed the Queen City’s faithful back on board, slowly but surely.

Despite not having ever attended a game in Cincinnati (every time I’m up in the area they’re not playing, or playing on the road) I have become a fan of the team and hope to one day make a trip to see them. Then I can wear this jersey to one of their games. Until then, at least, this jersey is not for sale.

Tomorrow: NHL time!


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