The CLEVELAND MONSTERS, formerly known as the Lake Erie Monsters, are a member of the American Hockey League and the top affiliate of the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets. They played the 2007-08 season, their first in Cleveland, at the QUICKEN LOANS ARENA. Despite their sub-500 record during their first season, the team drew a respectable number of fans for their home matches.
When the CLEVELAND BARONS left the city for Worcester, Massachusetts, in 2006, the CLEVELAND CAVALIERS' principle owner Dan Gilbert led a group of investors in purchasing the dormant Utah Grizzlies franchise. The Monsters share a partnership with the Cavaliers to share personnel on the business end of the teams, as well as television broadcasting on Fox Sports Net Ohio. The team pays the Columbus Blue Jackets an undisclosed affiliation fee, while the Blue Jackets handle all hockey-related decisions.
The Lake Erie Monsters drew about 15,000 fans to their opening game in Cleveland, and drew 238,965 over the course of their 40 home matches. Their final home game of the season drew 15,408 which was the largest attendance total among the 29 teams of the AHL for the season. Throughout their first season the Monsters averaged 5,974 fans per game, which ranked eleventh in the AHL. They drew bigger crowds on the weekends, where they averaged 7,302 fans.
Under first year coach Joe Sacco the Monsters finished sixth out of seven teams in the North Division of the Western Conference with a 26 and 41 record.
In the 2015-2016 season, the Monsters entered their "New Affliate Era," changing their association with the Colorado Avalanche to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of a larger restructuring of the AHL affiliations to pair NHL and AHL teams who were geographically closer to one another.
On June 12, 2016, the Monsters won the Calder Cup Championship, the first in the franchise's history, and the tenth for the city of Cleveland. Led by head coach Jared Bednar, and team captain Ryan Craig, the team went 35-29-8-5 in the regular season, and 15-2 through the playoffs - the most dominant postseason run in AHL history. The final game was won in overtime against the Hershey Bears, with a final score of 1-0. The game winning goal was scored by Oliver Bjorkstrand, the winner of the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the AHL's playoff MVP. Attendance was 19,665 people; the second largest crowd in Calder Cup playoff history.
At the start of the 2016-2017 season, the team was renamed the Cleveland Monsters, the new name and emphasis on the colors wine and gold tying them more closely to the Cleveland Cavaliers, with whom they share the Quicken Loans Arena. In addition, a new head coach was appointed, with John Madden taking over for Bednar. The Monsters finished fifth in the Central Division, but ranked second in attendance for the entirety of the AHL, with an average of 9,055 fans per game.
With the 2017-2018 expansion of the NHL came an expansion and restructuring of the AHL for the following season. These changes led to the Cleveland Monsters moving from the Central Division in the Western Conference to the North Division in the Eastern.
See also: Hockey (Ice)