40 days of jerseys #27: Asheville Smoke

smokeback smokefrontJersey #27 of 40: Asheville Smoke (Dexter, #12)

Style: Game Worn
Size: Unknown (fits as an XL)
Manufacturer: AK
Obtained: Trade with a friend, Mid-2000’s

The stories I could tell about the United Hockey League (UHL )would make one’s head spin, especially when considering how that league survived for as long as it did with the incompetence that permeated the league. One of them was putting two teams in the Southeast, both owned by brothers, who somehow thought they could operate the teams geographically isolated from the rest of the league that promised to expand into the south, only to go in every other direction but…at least, as long as these two teams were in the league…

Brantford Logo

The Knoxville Speed came about after moving from Madison, WI, in 1999, and the Asheville Smoke came from Brantford, ON a year earlier. Both of these teams’ owners were brothers. Andrew (Knoxville) and Dan (Asheville) Wilhelm.

Because the two cities were less than two hours apart, and the next closest team to either city was about an 8-10 hour drive, these two teams spent a majority of their time playing against one another during the three years Knoxville was in the UHL. And it got bloody at times, not just on the ice, but off.

I went to Asheville about 4 times to see games, and each time I went, the hostility between the two groups of fans got worse. The last time I was there, the only thing that kept me from getting jumped by a couple of fans was the fact I was carrying my then-1-year old daughter, and even then I don’t know if that would have stopped them, but the police officer I was standing next to sure did…my crime apparently was wearing a Knoxville Cherokees sweatshirt.

On the ice, however, things weren’t better. It peaked on Super Bowl Sunday of 2001 (back when the Super Bowl was still played in January…) when both of these teams in an afternoon game cleared the benches in a brawl that resulted in suspensions that decimated both teams as they were making a run for the playoffs.

A video of the brawl finally surfaced on Youtube earlier this year:

This happened right before the All-Star Game the UHL held later that week. And both teams had players going to the game that rode the same bus up to the game. Talk about an awkward trip…

The fans on both sides of the Smokies often carried out their animosity in the stands and online. However, when the teams filed for bankruptcy in 2002, they found a common ground and a lot of fans reconciled their differences in the notion that in the end, it was only a game.

The following year, Knoxville had a new ownership group that joined the upstart/rebooted Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL), and Asheville went quiet. They later joined the SPHL in 2004 as the Aces, but the rivalry wasn’t the same, and the team folded after just one season.

The jersey is for player Jason Dexter, who played on the team in 1998-1999 (before “the Brawl”). I don’t personally remember him, especially since Knoxville didn’t play until a year later, but he did have a connection to Knoxville in that he played for the former Madison Monsters (I owned a jersey of theirs for a short period of time) a couple of seasons before they moved to Knoxville.

I’ve worn it a few times, but it’s shrinking on me…or I’m getting larger…

However, his jersey is not for sale or trade.

Tomorrow: Kids’ KIB


One thought on “40 days of jerseys #27: Asheville Smoke

  1. Spent all four years watching the Smoke. Jason was a fairly skilled player. albeit in a league where defense and good goaltending were hard to come by. A poor relationship with the city and a bad lease ultimately helped doom the team. To be successful, they’d have needed a new arena, and to have moved to the ECHL which was a little more expensive than the U. Great memories of the games though. And the 2000-2001 team was one of the best teams of that year throughout “AA” hockey.


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