The Atlanta Gladiators are a professional ice hockey team based in Duluth, Georgia. The team currently competes in the South Division of the ECHL, which is a premier AA-level professional hockey league in North America.
The team was founded in 1995 as the Mobile Mysticks and was based in Mobile, Alabama. The team would relocate to Gwinnett County, Georgia, in 2003 where the franchise would become the Gwinnett Gladiators.
The Gladiators played their first home game in the ECHL on October 24th, 2003, against the Augusta Lynx, winning 5-1. In their first season, the team finished with a record of 42 wins, 22 losses, and advanced to the Kelly Cup Playoff Conference finals.
In the 2005-2006 season, the Gladiators won the American Conference South Division Championship and finished the regular season with a record of 50 wins, 15 losses, and 8 shootout losses. The Gladiators reached the Kelly Cup finals but were defeated by the Alaska Aces.
The team continued to perform well over the next several seasons, making the playoffs in each of their first six seasons. In 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, the Gladiators finished first place in the South Division for back-to-back campaigns.
In 2015, the team changed its name to the Atlanta Gladiators, to better reflect their connection to the city of Atlanta. The team continued to have success on the ice, making the playoffs in the 2017-2018 and 2021-2022 seasons.
The Gladiators have had several affiliations with NHL teams throughout their history. They were first affiliated from 2003 to 2011 with the Atlanta Thrashers. During this period, the Gladiators also had a joint affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2008-2009 season, as well as with the Columbus Bluejackets in 2009-2010. After the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Gladiators became the affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, now known as the Arizona Coyotes, from 2011 to 2015. From 2015 to 2018, the team was the AA affiliate of the Boston Bruins. After resuming play from the ECHL’s COVID-19 shutdown, the team was affiliated with the Ottawa Senators for the 2021-22 season, and affiliated with Arizona once more for the 2022-23 season.
The team has had several notable players throughout their history. Some of the players who have played for the Gladiators and have gone on to have success in the NHL include goaltenders Louis Domingue and Daniel Vladar. The Gladiators have retired the numbers of three players who were mainstays and fan favorites - #44 Cam Brown, #41 Andy Brandt, and #17 Derek Nesbitt.
In addition to their success on the ice, the Gladiators have also been active in their community. They have partnered with local charities and organizations to give back to the community and have been involved in numerous events and initiatives to promote hockey in the Atlanta area. Each season, the Gladiators host their annual teddy bear toss where fans are encouraged to throw stuffed animals on the ice after the team’s first goal which are then donated to local hospitals and charities for children in need.
The Gladiators have also kept the history of Atlanta’s hockey heritage alive with numerous in-game promotional nights honoring the city's past teams including the Atlanta Flames, Atlanta Knights and Atlanta Thrashers. In 2022, the team held their first ever “Believe in Blueland” night in front of a sold-out crowd as part of their 20th season celebration. The Gladiators honored the legacy of the Atlanta Thrashers by donning their uniforms, bringing out the team’s mascot, Thrash, and reviving the Blueland experience for the first time in over a decade.
As of 2022-23, the Atlanta Gladiators became owned and operated by Alex Cambell and NHL alumnus Anson Carter. After 20 years of operation, the Atlanta Gladiators still play at the same arena they first called home in Duluth, GA and continue to grow a presence and community in Georgia around the great game of hockey.