The Cleveland Monsters are Cleveland, Ohio’s professional ice hockey team for the Americal Hockey League (AHL). Ever since the team’s debut in 2007 as the Lake Erie Monsters, the team has been hitting the ice and winning the hearts of fans all across the country. Since 2015, the team has served as the top affiliate for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League (NHL). Currently, the team plays their home games from the incredible Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in downtown Cleveland and have earned recognition for big wins, especially during their 2016 season run.
The team got its start in 2006 after the dormant Utah Grizzlies AHL franchise was purchased by a Cleveland ownership group led by Dan Gilbert. Gilbert was also known as the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans at the time. The decision to have a Cleveland based hockey team came after the former Cleveland Barons departed to Worcester, Massachusetts after their 2005-2006 season.
The team was moved to, what was then known, as Quicken Loans Arena as their home venue. The franchise was then officially announced on January 25, 2007 as their original name, the Lake Erie Monsters. The name was based on Bessie, as creature and cryptid of local folklore. The name was chosen by focus groups around Cleveland and the logo incorporated the regions connection to Lake Erie.
The Monsters first head coach was Joe Sacco who was joined by general manager Dave Oliver. The team opened their inaugural 2007-08 season with an at home loss against the Grand Rapids Griffins on October 9, 2007. The season ended with a 26-41 record.
The franchise picked up steam shortly after resulting in their 2010-11 season, where the Monsters qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time in team history. The team had an early 3-1 series lead over the Manitoba Moose, only to lose the series with a 4-3 record.
Blue Jackets era
Fans were stunned by an announcement on April 17, 2015 of a multi-year agreement where the Monsters would become the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This agreement took effect in the 2015-16 season and was later extended in 2019.
This announcement may have spurred the team on during the 2015-16 season, as they set a franchise record in points (97) and qualified for the playoffs for the second time in team history. On April 23, 2016, the Monsters defeated the Rockford IceHogs, their first round opponent. The Monsters then advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals to paly the Grand Rapids Griffins in a best-of-seven series. The Monsters defeated them 4-2, then swept the defending Calder Cup Champion Ontario Reign in the Western Conference Finals to reach their first Calder Cup Final. This led to an incredible series where the Monsters swept four games of the Hershey Bears, with Oliver Bjorkstrand scoring the Cup-winning goal in overtime.
This become Cleveland’s first AHL title since the Barons won their last Calder Cup in 1964 and 10th overall for any Cleveland-based AHL team. Game 4 of this series was played before a sellout crowd of 19,665 people at Quicken Loans Arena — which was also the second largest crowd for a professional hockey game in Ohio behind only the Cleveland Lumberjacks in 1996.
Cleveland Monsters era
The franchise changed their name to the Cleveland Monsters on August 9, 2016. After this, winning head coach Jared Bednar was hired by the Colorado Avalanche. He was replaced by their new coach John Madden, who failed to lead the team to the playoffs during the 2016-18 seasons. But the team returned to the playoffs as the fourth seed in the North Division in the 2018-19 season.
During the playoffs, the team upset the division champion Syracuse Crunch before being swept by the Toronto Marlies in the division finals. Mike Eaves then replaced John Madden, but the 2019-20 season was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic. During the recent 2020-21 season, the Monsters ended the season as second place in their division.
Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Stadium
The Cleveland Gladiators are proud to play their games from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. This multi-purpose arena in Cleveland, Ohio also serves as the home for the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters.
The arena opened in October 1994 as part of the Gateway Sports and Entertainment Complex and Progressive Field, which opened earlier that year in April. The facility replaced the Richfield Coliseum as the primary entertainment facility for the region.
When the arena opened, it was known as the Gund Arena, named after former Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund who had paid for naming rights. But in August 2005, the arena was renamed Quicken Loans Arena after his lending company. The name stuck until April 2019, when the mortgage lending service renamed the arena after its online mortgage lending service, Rocket Mortgage. The renaming came along with the facility’s renovations and expansion.
Notable Sporting Events and Records
The stadium today has space for 19,432 spectators in their basketball configuration and 18,926 for ice hockey events. Since its opening, the stadium has been home to at least 8 tenants both former and current. These tenants include:
- Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) 1994-Present
- Cleveland Monsters (AHL) 2007-Present
- Cleveland State Vikings (NCAA) Secondary: 2015-Present
- Cleveland Lumberjacks (IHL) 1994–2001
- Cleveland Rockers (WNBA) 1997–2003
- Cleveland Barons (AHL) 2001–2006
- Cleveland Gladiators (AFL) 2008–2017
- Cleveland Crush (LFL) 2011–2013
When the Monsters made their playoff debut in 2011 and returned to the playoffs in 2016, the team had advanced to the Calder Cup final and swept the Hershey Bears in four games. This was their first Calder Cup in franchise history. Games three and four were held at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, with game four drawing a sold out crowd of 19,665 fans, setting a record for the largest crowd to see a professional hockey game in the state of Ohio and the second-largest postseason crowd in AHL history.
The stadium is also used regularly for concerts and other athletic events such as men’s and women’s basketball tournaments of the Mid-American Conference (MAC), as well as the 2007 NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Final Four.
The WWE has also used the arena for several of their pay-per-view events, including 1996’s SummerSlam, 2001’s Invasion event, and 2019’s Fastlane.
And the stadium has been home to a sold-out boxing event when Internet personality turned professional boxer, Jake Paul, took on MMA fighter, Tyron Woodley in an 8 round professional boxing match. Paul, a Cleveland native, rocked the nearly sold-out crowd when he won the bout by a split decision.
Franchise Awards and Award Winners
From their rocky first seasons to their explosive playoff appearances of today, The Cleveland Cavaliers are a force to be reckoned with. So it’s not surprising that the franchise has gained several awards and fielded award winning players. These are a few of the standouts below.