The Corpus Christi IceRays were established as a professional franchise in July 1997 under the principal owner and team president, Rick Brezer, with the Western Professional Hockey League (WPHL), marking the first ice hockey franchise in Corpus Christi. Founded with a growing city and strong sports fanbase, the IceRays brought a fresh sport into an unconventional market, educating the new fanbase with community programs and physical, “blue collar” hockey. The IceRays opened their first game at the Memorial Coliseum (known as “The Igloo” for its frigid temperatures only during games and its shape) on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1998 against the Austin Ice Bats, losing 4-3.
The IceRays spent three seasons in the WPHL, amassing a 114-77-19 record with appearances in the WPHL Playoffs in all three years under Head Coach Taylor Hall, who now leads the Tulsa Oilers (ECHL) as the general manager. In 2001, the WPHL merged its 10 teams with the Central Hockey League (CHL), bolstering the revived league into a strong presence in the Midwest. The IceRays would remain in the CHL through 2009-10 season, serving 12 seasons as a professional franchise.
Under new ownership, the IceRays rebranded to the “Corpus Christi Rayz” prior to the 2003-04 season after five seasons as a professional franchise, keeing the stingray as its official mascot but altering the logo to incorporate the Texas state flag and colors.
In 2004, the Rayz moved from the Memorial Coliseum to the team’s current home, the American Bank Center, and opened on Oct. 22, 2004 against the Austin Ice Bats to a sold out crowd of over 7,500 fans, one of just four sellouts in IceRays franchise history at the American Bank Center. This was also the first event held at the American Bank Center in the building’s history.
Following the 2007-08 season, the Rayz suspended operations without a suitable owner to take over the team. That summer, the IceRays were purchased by current owner Tim Lange, preserving ice hockey in Corpus Christi despite missing the playoffs in six of the previous seven seasons since joining the CHL. With the change in ownership, the Rayz brought back the old “Corpus Christi IceRays” name and a fresh, redesigned logo featuring red, gold and black as its primary colors. The IceRays returned to the playoffs during the next two seasons, recording a 58-56-2-12 record despite exiting the CHL Playoffs in the first round each of those two seasons.
Following the 2009-10 season, IceRays ownership suspended operations for the second and final time in order to make way for the purchase of a North American Hockey League (NAHL) franchise to bring to Corpus Christi. The former Alpena IceDiggers franchise became one of four former CHL franchises to make the move to the NAHL, including Amarillo, Fort Worth and Wichita Falls. The new IceRays junior franchise played their first game on Sep. 15, 2010 against the Traverse City North Stars at the NAHL Showcase, falling 1-0. The IceRays played their first junior game at the American Bank Center on Oct. 1, 2010 against the Wichita Falls Wildcats, winning 4-3 in a shootout.
During the 2011-12 season, IceRays goaltender Anthony Stolarz was scouted heavily by the National Hockey League (NHL), ending the season fourth in the NHL Central Scouting List among North American goaltenders. On June 23, 2012, Stolarz became the first player in IceRays junior franchise history to be drafted by a NHL franchise, joining the Philadelphia Flyers as the 45th overall pick (2nd Round). During the same season, former CHL player Ryan Garbutt (‘09-’10) became the first player to sign a NHL contract, inking a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars. On Feb. 18, 2012, Garbutt was recalled by Dallas from the Texas Stars and played with the NHL club, marking the first player in franchise history to play in the NHL.
After just three seasons in the NAHL, the IceRays earned their first playoff bid during the 2012-13 season, finishing with a 28-26-6 record and fourth in the South Division under former Head Coach and professional player, Justin Quenneville. The IceRays won their first playoff game on Apr. 5, 2013 against the Amarillo Bulls in a 2-1 road victory before falling in three-straight games to drop the best-of-five series. Following that season, Quenneville stepped down as head coach after two years at the helm, making way for new hire John Becanic to take over for the next three seasons.
The IceRays set multiple franchise records during the 2014-15 season, marking the best record in junior franchise history at 31-24-5 and their second appearance in the Robertson Cup Playoffs. The team would fall in two-straight games at the American Bank Center to the Wenatchee Wild in the South Division Quarterfinals, 3-2 (SO) and 3-2, respectively. On Feb. 7, 2015, the IceRays set a junior franchise record for the highest attendance as well as a league attendance mark, bringing in 6,965 fans during the annual Stars & Stripes Night, honoring military, first responders and law enforcement.
In the 2015-16 season, the IceRays set one more junior franchise milestone thanks to former goaltender Pheonix Copley (‘10-’11). On Feb. 27, 2016, the 24-year-old replaced St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen with 4:26 remaining in the second period, marking the first player in junior franchise history to earn playing time in the NHL. On June 30, 2016, the IceRays hired former assistant coach Brad Flynn as the team’s fourth head coach in junior franchise history.
In his first season, Flynn's IceRays squad would break 14 different junior and overall franchise records during the 2016-17 season en route to the best finish in junior franchise history and second-best in franchise history behind the inaugural season: 32-19-4-5 with 73 points and third in the South Division. Included in the records for the junior franchise are (but not limited to): most wins (32), most points (73), best point percentage (.608), best standings finish (3rd), longest win streak (7), most consecutive goaltender wins (8), longest point streak (12), and first playoff series win. For the entire franchise, records include: most playoff wins (5), best playoff record (5-0-3), first playoff series sweep, best playoff point percentage (.813), deepest playoff run, and most playoff shutouts (2). The IceRays swept the first round of the playoffs 3-0 against the Shreveport Mudbugs including a 2-1 overtime win on Apr. 19, 2017 to seal the series and pushed the eventual Robertson Cup Champion Lone Star Brahmas to elimination in Games 4 & 5 of the South Division Final but fell 1-0 in overtime in Game 5. They were the only team to beat the Brahmas in the postseason and included one shutout win.
During that same season, the IceRays broke the two million fan mark midway through the year, becoming the first franchise in the NAHL as well as those stemming from the former CHL to reach that fan plateau. The 3,028 fans per game set the team atop the NAHL attendance list for the fourth-straight season and 13th-straight year of over 3,000 fans per game. In addition, Stolarz became the first junior IceRays alum to start a game in the NHL and earned his first win on Nov. 27, 2016 as well as the first shutout on Dec. 11, 2017. Finally, IceRays goaltender Tomáš Vomáčka became the second player in junior franchise history to be selected in the NHL Draft, going 154th overall (5th Round) to the Nashville Predators at the 2017 draft. The team also earned the most NCAA Division I commitments in team history (nine).
The 2016-17 season started a streak of three straight playoff appearances for Corpus Christi. Two of the Robertson Cup playoff appearances had Brad Flynn captaining the ship with the third having Ryan Cruthers behind the bench. The Rays ultimately fell in the divisional quarterfinals in each season. The IceRays did not have the season that they would have liked in 2019-20 before the early end to the season. In Nate Weosnner's only season as head coach, the Rays won 16 games and were on the outside of what would have been the Robertson Cup playoffs. 2019-20 marked the tenth season of NAHL hockey along the gulf coast. In the first ten seasons as a junior program, the Rays found themselves in the playoffs in five including three of the last four seasons of the inaugural decade in the league.
The IceRays pandemic shortened season of 7 games being lost turned into 67 games being lost by Corpus Christi. The IceRays decided not to play during the 2020-21 season because of the pandemic. The IceRays announced the return of hockey to the Coastal Bend in May of 2021 with the hiring of new head coach Mike Lysyj. Following the NAHL Showcase, the IceRays returned home to a crowd of 4,250 at American Bank Center for the team's first home game in over a year and a half.
This was a fun game. The most physical game I’ve been to in awhile. We recently moved to Texas from a state that has a lot more hockey so we were missing this aspect of life, but we found the ice rays not too far from home so we gave it a shot. Holy cow, the price was so good. We got 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs and 4 drinks for $40… and free parking. 😳 I feel like they just paid me to enjoy a game. The arena was nice and clean, the bathrooms were kept up well and the food was good. We are already planning our next trip! 🏒🥅 Go Ice Rays!
Love supporting our local teams and tonight we got that win! Good job ice rays
A great deal for an exciting night! The Ice Rays really give it their all. Let's be honest I love the fights too!
My family loves going to the hockey games! Tickets are really affordable, however food at the stadium is kind of expensive (not surprised about this though). The games are fun and entertaining to watch, and most nights there's some kind of theme or something special going on.
Love Ice Rays hockey. Win or lose I'm a fan
The family decided to try something new so we finally got to go watch these guys play. Took the family out and we all watched our first Hockey game. It was pretty exciting for us all.