Gladiators schedule preseason game at IceForum

DULUTH -- The Gwinnett Gladiators open their 10th anniversary season at home on Oct. 19, but fans can get a sneak peek at this year's team two weeks early.

The Gladiators will play two preseason games, including one on Oct. 7 at the IceForum in Duluth.

It's the first time a home exhibition game has been open to the public.

Gwinnett will play in Greenville on Oct. 5 and then against South Carolina, which ousted the Gladiators from last year's playoffs, at home two days later.

The talks started just with Greenville, but that left South Carolina without a nearby opponent. So a three-team, round-robin preseason schedule was constructed.

"We're going to do a fun little thing at the IceForum and raise some money for youth hockey," Gladiators president Steve Chapman said.

The proceeds from the home game, set for 4:05 p.m., go to the Southern Ice Hockey Association foundation. Seats will be offered first to full season ticket holders. The team is asking for at least a $5 donation for each of the just 400 spots available.

The Gladiators had a closed-door exhibition game during their inaugural campaign in 2003-04. Other than that, all their preseason games have been on the road. And there were several years when they didn't play any.

"(Former head coach Jeff Pyle) was never big on them," Chapman said. "If it was not a big deal to him, it was not a big deal to me. We always had a great record coming out of the gate, so there was no reason to push."

The disappearance of other teams in the South -- Greenville, Augusta and Pensacola -- also limited the options. But Greenville returned to the ECHL in 2010.

"With Greenville out of the league, it was difficult," Chapman said. "We did go down to Florida a couple of years ago.

"I could never find anything that showed me playing or not playing exhibition games helped the team. But I said if a reasonable scenario presents itself, we'll do it."