Hockey has been a part of Cleveland, Ohio history for decades. The first professional team to hit the ice was the Cleveland Indians in 1929. Cleveland was also the home to an NHL team, the Barons, for a very short run of two seasons. When the Barons moved to Minnesota to become the North Stars, Cleveland would not see professional hockey again till 1992 when the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League would begin play. The Lumberjacks lasted in Cleveland till 2001, when the IHL ceased to be. 2002 would mark the return of the American Hockey League to Cleveland. The Cleveland Barons (AHL) would be in town till 2006, when the team would relocate to Worchester, Massachusetts and become the Worchester Sharks.
Enter Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA franchise and founder of Quicken Loans, who saw an opportunity when the Barons did not renew their lease with the arena. On May 16th, 2006, Dan Gilbert announces his purchase of the dormant franchise Utah Grizzlies and their relocation to Cleveland. The Avalanche would announce on December 17th that the yet to be named franchise would enter into a five year affiliate agreement with the club. With a parent club in place and things starting to shape up for the new AHL club in Cleveland, the team would need a name. Dan Gilbert would go on to announce on January 25th, 2007 that his new team would be called the Lake Erie Monsters. The name plays homage to local folk lore about a creature that resides in Lake Erie and bears a striking similarity to the Loch Ness Monster.
Opening night for the new team would come on October 6th, 2007, against the Grand Rapid Griffins. The Lake Erie Monsters however would not notch their first victory until October 20th against the Syracuse Crunch. Being a new franchise, that means franchise firsts. The team’s first goal was scored by Matt Hussey in the opening night loss against the Griffins. The teams first shut out came on the night of November 17th, 2007 by goaltender Jason Bacashihua. The first hat trick came two nights later against the Toronto Marlies by Chris Stewart. During that inaugural season another record was set for the team that has yet to be matched, and that would be most penalty minutes. That record holder is defenseman Mitch Love. The 2007 – 2008 season would close out with the Monsters having a record of 21-46-6-7, having them finish 6th in the north division.
Now entering their sixth season in Cleveland, the Lake Erie Monsters have enjoyed a growing fan base and plenty of exciting hockey. The 2012-2013 season looks to be a promising one and with the chance of a lock out looming perhaps even more hockey fans can catch a game or two in Cleveland.