Founded in 1993, the South Carolina Stingrays are the are the second-longest tenured franchise in the ECHL. Originally to be named the Sharks, the team’s current name, Stingrays, was adopted to avoid copyright infringement issues with the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Stingrays have been based in North Charleston, South Carolina, since their inception and are the current affiliate team for the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the AHL’s Hershey Bears.
The ownership of the team had gone through a few challenges and controversies early on, but these were eventually resolved in 1994. At that time, the sale of the team was approved by a local investment group headed by Edwin Pearlstine (Pearlstine Distribution – Budweiser Distributor). Jerry and Anita Zucker, along with Harvey Nathan and Lynn Bernstein (Nathan’s Deli), were also part of that ownership group, along with the Greenwald family. The Zucker family took over majority control of the ECHL franchise in 2011. They would sell their majority interest in the Stingrays to Connecticut businessman Todd Halloran in 2018 but would remain connected to the team in a minority capacity.
The Stingrays have been successful in creating a solid fan base in their hometown and boasted an average attendance of over 9,100 fans per game for their inaugural season – one of the largest crowds in minor league hockey. Though that level of support continued into their second year, they have since experienced a leveling off in attendance, though still averaging roughly 5,000 fans per game.
The team continues to show strength and growth as a team on the ice, earning a Kelly Cup Championship in 1997, 2001, and 2009, respectively. They are currently tied with the Alaska Aces, Florida Everblades, and Hampton Roads Admirals for the most Kelly Cup Championship wins (3 each). As of 2023, they have made a total of six appearances in the Kelly Cup Finals, one of the highest in the league, an accolade that they now share with the Florida Everblades.
Several former Stingray alumni have gone on to play for the NHL. Most recently was goalie Logan Thompson of the Vegas Golden Knights. Thompson played for the Stingrays during the 2019-2020 season and had a goal-save percentage of 0.929 that year with three shutouts. As a Vegas Golden Knight, Thompson had a save percentage of .915 in 2022-23 with over 37 games played with the team – ending with 21-13-3 in the regular season. Though Thompson did not participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs after experiencing his second lower-body injury that year in March, he still shared in the team’s successful Stanley Cup run, earning his name being etched on the coveted cup.
Rich Peverley, also a former alumnus of the Stingrays, made his professional hockey debut with the South Carolina Stingrays in the 2004–05 season. Peverley signed with the Nashville Predators in 2007, appearing in 13 NHL games with the team. Peverley would end up splitting the 2007–08 season between the Predators and the Admirals but would appear in all six games for the Predators in the Stanley Cup playoffs that season before being claimed off waivers by Atlanta. He was later traded by the Atlanta Thrashers to the Boston Bruins and would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.
The organization continues to be very active in their local community and has supported several local charities, including MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, and Hockey Players for Kids, which aims to support youth hockey locally. Their community service efforts, aimed at honoring the memory of former owner Jerry Zucker, who passed away in April 2008, had led to the creation of the Jerry Zucker Community Service Award. This award is given to one player on the roster who has made the most impact on the Stingray Community that season. The first player to receive the award was Stingrays forward Spencer Carbery. Carbery would move on to coach the Hershey Bears from 2018 to 2021 and now serves as the head coach for the Washington Capitals.