A new season brings with it a new coach for the Knoxville Ice Bears.

It is now Jeff Carr's team for the 2017-2018 season.

Carr, a Wisconsin native, is excited to lead the franchise towards - hopefully - its fifth conference championship.

The one thing that drives Coach Carr is the burning desire to help others reach their potential.

"I played multiple sports growing up and I was given a platform by a lot of good coaches," Carr said. "But I never took that platform and used my full capabilities. And I see a lot of these guys that sometimes need a good coach or mentor or something. But at this level it's more of hockey.

"They need to be in a professional setting, and pushed in that setting," Carr, who oversaw renovations to the locker room and training facilities, said. "I'm the type of coach that, I love my team, I love hockey, and very little else in life."

The Ice Bears announced Carr as the franchise's sixth head coach in June. Previously, he was an assistant coach with the Utah Grizzlies, the ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. He's made several other stops in his coaching career since graduating from the University of Minnesota-Crookston.

Carr brings with him a new system that relies on speed. This Ice Bears team will play at a faster pace than years prior.

"You're used to playing one way for so many years," third-year center Danny Cesarz said. "Then he comes and throws things that are the complete opposite at you, and you got to learn them really quick, that's the hardest part. But I think the change in systems will help us put some points up."

The rookies have been impressed with Carr's style so far, as well.

"He's a pretty good coach, it seems," goalie Pat Spano said. "There's a lot of coaches who do a lot of stuff on the board, a lot of talk about 'this system' or 'that system'. He just wants us to show up and work hard, just go out and play hockey. It's not too complicated. He tries to keep it simple and he wants to keep it fun."


Coach Carr likes the small-town feel of Knoxville. He took in the Tennessee football team's game against Indiana State in September.

"It's Tennessee, us, the Smokies, and it feels like if you don't win, you're not well-liked," Carr said with a smile. "So I like the challenge."

Carr said despite having 11 rookies on this roster, 2017 is by no means a rebuilding year. The expectation is always championships.

"With him comes a whole new culture," Ice Bears president and general manager Mike Murray said. "He's everything that everybody said about him during the hiring process. He's a consummate professional, first-class guy, works 24/7. Basically, he's a hockey nerd. If he doesn't like something, he's on the phone ready to change it."

The Ice Bears will host the Evansville Thunderbolts Friday at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum for their home opener. Puck drop is at 7:35 p.m.

"We're taking it up a notch...both on and off the ice," Murray said. "Just the caliber of players that Jeff has recruited, you'll see Friday night."