As the Orlando Solar Bears put it, they're coming "out of hibernation" for the 2012-13 season and returning to professional hockey as members of the ECHL. The last time the Solar Bears played a game they were winning the IHL's final Turner Cup before the league folded in the summer of 2001.
To celebrate their return after over a decade away, the Solar Bears, an affiliate of the Minnesota Wild, announced on Tuesday that they will finally honor the 2001 team by raising the championship banner during a pre-game ceremony in February.
From the Solar Bears:
"From 'Day One' of our existence we have had every intention of honoring the past as we celebrate our future. This is unfinished business," stated Solar Bears Managing Partner Jason Siegel. "For the players and coaches, front office staff, Amway Arena staff, and fans of the 2001 Championship team this ceremony is long overdue and we are honored to play a small role in assuring it happens."
The banner raising pregame ceremony will include special appearances by members of the Solar Bears' championship team. Arrangements have been made with the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto to have the Turner Cup on hand and the current Solar Bears team will wear commemorative throw-back jerseys that night. Fans in attendance on February 2 will take home commemorative mini-banners as a keep sake.
That 2001 team featured the likes of Todd Richards, Dan Snyder (RIP), Darcy Hordichuk, Mike Weaver, and the incomparable Norm (All I Need Is A) Maracle. They finished second in the Eastern Conference and dropped four games over three playoff rounds en route to the title. The Solar Bears were approved as an expanson franchise last November and unveiled their sweet logos and jerseys a short time later.
The previous incarnation of the Solar Bears lasted just six seasons. The 2001 banner will be in the rafters of the Amway Center for however long they survive this time around.
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Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy