Anson Carter becomes part owner of ECHL franchise in Atlanta

Anson Carter has become part owner of the Atlanta Gladiators, the Arizona Coyotes’ ECHL affiliate.

Atlanta announced Tuesday that Carter, an NHL analyst on TNT who played 674 NHL games for eight teams from 1996-2007, is its new minority owner and Alex Campbell, director of operations for Capital Staffing Solutions, is the new majority owner.

“I am excited to be a part of professional hockey here in my adopted hometown,” Carter said. “I’ll be actively involved to ensure that Gladiators hockey is widely accepted not only here in Atlanta, but becomes a brand known internationally in the hockey world.”

Carter, a member of the NHL Player Inclusion Committee, said he became interested in ownership after conversations with Campbell, league commissioner Ryan Crelin, Andrew Kaufman, owner of the ECHL Jacksonville Icemen, and after attending a Gladiators game.

“I had no idea what the ECHL was all about — I was so focused on my playing and broadcast career,” Carter said. “I went to my first ‘Glads’ game last year and I was pleasantly surprised to see all the NHL jerseys in the stands. It totally caught me off guard.”

Carter said he learned that the ECHL is a quality developmental league where more than 727 players skated before reaching the NHL and where several NHL coaches honed their skills.

“You look at a coach like Jared Bednar, he won a championship in the ECHL (with South Carolina in 2009) before he moved up to the AHL and then to the NHL to lead the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup last season,” he said. “You look at (Seattle Kraken forward) Yanni Gourdea two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he spent time in the ECHL.”

The Gladiators were 43-24-4-1 and finished second in the ECHL’s South Division behind the Florida Everblades (42-20-6-4) last season. Atlanta was swept in four games by Jacksonville in the 2022 Kelly Cup South Division semifinals.

Atlanta was home to two NHL franchises — the Flames from 1972 to 1980 and the Thrashers from 1999-2011. The Flames relocated to Calgary and the Thrashers became the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets.

Carter said he’s bullish on the growth of Atlanta and the rest of the state as a hockey market because of what he’s seen in recent years. The Savannah Ghost Pirates, the Vegas Golden Knights ECHL affiliate, will make their debut Saturday; ground was broken in Athens for a hockey-conducive $130 million arena in April; the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech have club hockey programs; and the Atlanta area has an active adult league and youth hockey scene, he said.

“With a market as large as Atlanta, with the appetite being there, you just have to find a way to develop that connectivity within that hockey ecosystem and that’s something I’ve been slowly trying to build the last few years,” he said.

Crelin welcomed Carter and Campbell to the ECHL Tuesday, saying “through their vision and commitment to market, hockey in Gwinnett County and the greater Atlanta region is going to grow to new heights, and we are eager to work with them as they embark on the 2022-23 season and beyond.”

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