Lumby’s Jagger Williamson has signed on with the Knoxville (TN) Ice Bears of the Southern Professional Hockey League. (Facebook)

Lumby’s Jagger Williamson has signed on with the Knoxville (TN) Ice Bears of the Southern Professional Hockey League. (Facebook)

Okanagan BCHL hockey alum off to Tennessee

Former Vernon Viper Jagger Williamson signs with Knoxville Ice Bears of Southern pro league

Family, friends and fans can call him Jagger Knoxville.

His new coach, meanwhile, calls him – affectionately – a rodent.

Lumby hockey star Jagger Williamson is advancing his professional hockey career, signing as a free agent with the Knoxville (TN) Ice Bears of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

The former Vernon Vipers captain spent last season with the Columbus (GA) River Dragons of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, amassing 33 points in 31 games.

Williamson helped the River Dragons reach the playoff Commissioner’s Cup championship series, losing the final game in overtime to the Watertown (NY) Wolves.

“Things with Knoxville got rolling a couple of weeks ago,” said Williamson on Monday, Aug. 29, after completing a round of golf. “Jeff Carr was the head coach there, he called me up and told me my name kept landing on his desk, so he ‘had to call and talk to this kid.’”

Hockey life can be funny.

Carr has since taken a coaching position with the East Coast Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals, a league up from the SPHL. Taking his place in Knoxville is another hockey person looking to advance their pro career, Brent Clarke. Clarke’s last gig was coaching Watertown to the Commissioner’s Cup title over Williamson’s River Dragons.

“He called me and he knows that I play on the edge. He called me a little rat,” laughed Williamson. “He knows I’m not afraid to go into the corners, do the greasy stuff. He told me to bring that with me to Knoxville.”

The Ice Bears will open their 21st season with a home game in Knoxville on Friday night, Oct. 21, at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. The 56-game regular season will be the SPHL’s 19th. Knoxville spent its first season in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League before moving to the South East Hockey League the following year.

Williamson is looking forward to joining the Ice Bears.

“My captain in Columbus (Josh Pietrantonio) used to play there and he has nothing but good things to say about the town and the league,” said Williamson, thrilled to be playing hockey again, and eternally grateful to the River Dragons for that opportunity.

In his first game with Columbus in November 2019, he shattered his leg in an on-ice collision. Between rehab and COVID, Williamson didn’t return to game action until four weeks into the 2021-22 FPHL year.

“I was there for the first two-to-three weeks, skating and shooting by myself. In the third week, I tried to play but it was a little too early. The competitive nature in me took over,” said Williamson. “Close to Christmas, I thought it was under control, I was playing very well, and all of a sudden my leg blew up.

“I’d wake up at three or four in the morning, literally crawling to my kitchen to get some ice.”

It turns out a screw inserted into Williamson’s leg to repair the break had shifted, causing him the grief. Once that was resolved, he went on to have an outstanding season with the River Dragons.

He has spent the summer working at Predator Ridge and took time to record the second hole-in-one of his golf days playing The Rise on a day off. Williamson aced the par-3, 161-yard 13th hole with an 8-iron, capping off a remarkable five-hole stretch.

“I birdied nine, 10, 11, and 12, and aced 13,” said Williamson, who recorded his first hole-in-one in 2021 at Predator Ridge’s Predator course, hole No. 17. “I couldn’t believe it. My group couldn’t believe it. I told them, ‘this isn’t normal for me.’ It was crazy.”

In their 20th season, the Knoxville Ice Bears set an SPHL-record with 42 regular season wins and became the first team in league history to win the William B. Coffey Trophy as regular season champions five times. The 2022-23 opening night festivities will include Knoxville raising a banner to commemorate the organization’s regular season title.

The Ice Bears are four-time SPHL champions. The league was formed in 2004.

There are 10 other teams in the league based in Illinois, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina. They include the Birmingham Bulls, Evansville Thunderbolts, Fayetteville Marksmen, Huntsville Havoc, Macon Mayhem, Pensacola Ice Flyers, Peoria Rivermen, Quad City Story (Moline, IL), Roanoke Rail Yard Dogs and Vermilion County Bobcats (Danville, IL).

This story was updated at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, with comments from Williamson

READ MORE: Former Vernon Vipers captain explodes for five-goal game

READ MORE: Jagger sweeps Vipers awards



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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@Vernon Vipershockeylocal sportsNorth Okanagan Regional District

 

A busy summer for Lumby hockey star Jagger Williamson included signing with the Knoxville (TN) Ice Bears of the Southern Provincial Hockey League, and recording his second career hole-in-one, this ace coming on No. 13 at The Rise in Vernon. (Contributed)

A busy summer for Lumby hockey star Jagger Williamson included signing with the Knoxville (TN) Ice Bears of the Southern Provincial Hockey League, and recording his second career hole-in-one, this ace coming on No. 13 at The Rise in Vernon. (Contributed)

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