Indianapolis’ first professional hockey team, the Capitals, made its debut in October 1939 and played in the newly constructed Indiana State Fair Coliseum. The team was part of the American Hockey League (AHL) and was affiliated with the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League (NHL).

Posed commercial photo of a group of men in hockey uniforms.
Indianapolis Capitals Hockey Team, 1947-1948 Credit: The Indiana Album: The Indiana Album: Ray Hinz Collection View Source

The Capitals were a successful team that won three divisional titles (1940, 1942, 1946) and were the league’s Calder Cup champions in 1942 and 1950. In 1950, they became the first team in AHL history to go a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs. Future NHL stars who played for the Capitals included three goaltenders who would be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame: Terry Sawchuck (21 seasons, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers), Harry Lumley (17 seasons, Detroit, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston, Toronto), and Glenn Hall (18 seasons, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis Blues). The Capitals would also feature Hall-of-Famers Alex Delvelecchio (24 years, Detroit), Marcel Pronovost (20 years, Detroit, Toronto), Sid Abel (13 seasons, Detroit, Chicago), Syd Howe (18 seasons, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Quakers, St. Louis Eagles, Toronto, Detroit), and Bill Quackenbush (14 seasons, Detroit, Boston). Herbie Lewis, a Hockey Hall of Fame member, coached the Capitals in their first three seasons. The team ceased operations in October 1952, after the Red Wings and the State Fair Board were unable to reach a long-term lease agreement for the Coliseum.

The second hockey team, the Indianapolis Chiefs, debuted in October 1955. This locally-owned team of the semiprofessional International Hockey League (IHL) also played at the Coliseum but had no NHL affiliation. Although the team never won a divisional title, it was the league’s Turner Cup champions in 1958, defeating Louisville 4 games to 3 in the championship series. Marc Boileau (26 goals, 87 points), Pierre Brillant (45 goals, 71 points), goaltender Cliff Hicks, and coach Leo Lamoureux led the 1958 championship team. With few wins and small crowds, the Chiefs lost money in all seven of its seasons in Indianapolis and ceased operations in 1962.

A new team called the Indianapolis Capitols began play in October 1963. A member of the newly formed Central Professional Hockey League (CPHL), the Capitols were again the minor league affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings and also played in the Coliseum. The team had played only nine games in Indianapolis before the October 31 Coliseum Explosion resulted in a mutually agreed upon termination of the lease and the team moved to Cincinnati. The team went 1-7-1 in its nine games, with the lone win being by forfeit.


Indianapolis did not have another hockey team until 1974 when the city was awarded a franchise in the newly formed, major league World Hockey Association (WHA). Indiana Pro-Sports, Inc. owned the Racers, which began play in the newly built Market Square Arena (MSA). In 1976, the Racers won the league’s Eastern Division under coach Jacques Demers, and the following year reached the semifinal round of the postseason playoffs after sweeping the Cincinnati Stingers 4 games to 0 in the opening round. In Game 1 of the 1977 playoffs, the Racers played the longest game in WHA history, beating Cincinnati 4-3 on Gene Peacosh’s goal 108:40 into the game. The Racers led the WHA in attendance in the 1976-1977, averaging 9,295 fans per game.

A view of a hockey game in mid-play. A group of players are crowded by the edge of the rink trying to gain control of the puck. A player guards the goal.
Indianapolis Racers Hockey Game, ca. 1975 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

After several changes in ownership, financial losses, and the departure of Demers, the Racers came under the control of Canadian businessman Nelson Skalbania in October 1977. In May 1978, Skalbania signed 16-year-old Wayne Gretzky to a Racer contract. Gretzky played his first eight games in Indianapolis, scoring three goals and three assists. Financial problems continued to plague the Racers, and in a desperate move to keep the team in operation Skalbania sold Gretzky and two other top-flight players to the Edmonton Oilers for $850,000. This measure failed and the team ceased operations in December 1978. Gretzky went on to play 21 seasons of major league pro hockey, with 940 goals and 2,967 points in 1,567 games with the Racers, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, and New York Rangers. The Racers also featured Hockey Hall of Fame members Dave Keon in the 1975-76 season and Mark Messier in the 1978 season.


The following year the New York Islanders of the NHL moved their top affiliate in the Central Hockey League from Fort Worth to Indianapolis. The team was named the Checkers and began play at MSA in October 1979. Financial disagreements between the team and MSA management resulted in the return of professional hockey to the Coliseum for the 1981-1982 season. Coach Fred Creighton led the Checkers who won the Adams Cup in 1982 and 1983 and were runners-up in 1984.

After the CHL folded in 1984, the Checkers were sold to local ownership and joined the IHL. A year later, Larry Woods purchased the Checkers, the team moved back to MSA, and it served as an affiliate of the North Stars and New Jersey Devils. Citing financial difficulties, the Checkers suspended operations after the 1986-1987 season. Notable NHL players to play for the Checkers include Kelly Hrudey (15 seasons, New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks), Gord Dineen (13 seasons, Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota, Ottawa Senators), and Greg Gilbert (15 seasons, New York Islanders, Chicago, New York Rangers, St. Louis). Other notable players included Scott Howson, Bruce Affleck, Rob Holland, Garth MacGuigan, Kevin Devine, Darcy Regier, and Ron Handy. In 1986-87, Handy set an Indianapolis record with 55 goals and 135 points.

Indianapolis Ice

The Indianapolis Ice, also of the International Hockey League, began play in 1988 at the Coliseum under the ownership of Chicago businessman Horn Chen. The team, without an NHL affiliate for its first season, compiled a 26-54-2 record. The following season, they began a 10-year affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks, who moved their top affiliate from Saginaw to Indianapolis. In 1989-1990, the Ice set an Indianapolis hockey franchise record with 53 victories in addition to winning the Turner Cup, sweeping the Muskegon Lumberjacks 4 games to 0 in the final series. Future Stanley Cup-winning coach Darryl Sutter led the 1990 championship team which featured future NHL veterans Brian Noonan, Bob Bassen, Warren Rychel, Mike Eagles, Cam Russell, and Mike Peluso. In 1992-93, Tony Hrkac set franchise records with 87 assists and 132 points. The Ice also won the IHL’s Central Division championship in 1997.

In 1998, the Ice hired Bruce Cassidy – who had played four seasons with the team – as its head coach. He led the team to a playoff appearance. After the 1998-99 season, the team ended its affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks and moved to the Central Hockey League. At that time, Chen sold the team to a quartet of local owners led by Gary Pedigo, but Chen re-purchased the team in 2002. Coach Rod Davidson and leading scorers Yvan Corbin and Chris MacKenzie led the Ice to win the CHL’s Miron Cup championship in 2000. Corbin scored an Indianapolis hockey record 75 goals in the 2000-01 season. In 2004, the Ice ceased operations.

Notable players during the Indianapolis Ice’s existence include Sean Williams, Mike Stapleton, Jim Playfair, Sergei Krivokrasov, Ryan Huska, Karl Dykhuis, Steve Dubinsky, Keith Carney, 1980 U.S. Olympian Dave Christian, and Hockey Hall of Fame member Dominik Hasek. The Ice played at the Fairgrounds Coliseum from 1988-94 and again from 1998-2004. They played at Market Square Arena from 1994-98 and select games in 1998-99. The Ice also played a few games each season at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (renamed Gainbridge Fieldhouse in 2021) from 1999-2004.

Indiana Ice

In 2004, local businessman Paul Skjodt purchased the assets of the Ice, renamed the team the Indiana Ice, and moved the franchise to the United States Hockey League (USHL), a junior ice hockey league for players ages 16-20. The Ice won the USHL’s Clark Cup championship in 2009, led by coach Jeff Blashill, and in 2014, led by coach Jeff Brown. The Ice featured over 20 future NHL players, including Torey Krug, Blake Coleman, John Carlson, Casey DeSmith, and Matt Roy. In 2011, Coleman was named the USHL’s Player of the Year and the USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year after tallying 92 points in 59 games. The Ice called the Fairgrounds Coliseum home from 2004-12, with one game each season at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. From 2012-14, the team split its home games between Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Pan Am Plaza rink. After a decade, the team went into voluntary suspension.

Indy Fuel

Several hockey players struggle for control of the puck near a goal.
Indy Fuel’s Keoni Texeira (74) shoots around Fort Wayne Komets goalie, Stefanos Lekkas (50) during a game at the State Farm Coliseum, 2021 Credit: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source

In 2014, the Indy Fuel began to play as part of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) under the ownership of Jim Hallett. The team, which affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks, played in the renovated Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The Fuel featured future NHL players Kevin Lankinen, Justin Holl, and Collin Delia.

Amateur Hockey

In addition to professional hockey, amateur hockey has been active in Indianapolis since 1958 when a program was initiated at the Coliseum for youths ages 8-18. Participatory interest in the sport continued to grow in the city, with an additional and larger league emerging at the Carmel Ice Skadium in the 1970s. Leagues also formed in Perry Township, at Ellenberger Park, and at Pan American Plaza. Boys and girls ages 4-18 continue to participate in these programs. Hockey has been played at the high school level since 1975 with several Indianapolis area schools combining talent to form one team. The city also supported another junior hockey league team, the Indianapolis Junior Ice of the North American Hockey League, for amateur players ages 18 -20, from 1989-85. There are also senior leagues in Indianapolis for men aged 18 to late 50s. Two women’s hockey teams have played in Indianapolis; both Ms. Skates and the Race-Hers participated in national women’s leagues in the 1970s.

Revised November 2021

Help improve this entry

Contribute information, offer corrections, suggest images.

You can also recommend new entries related to this topic.