The American Arena League (AAL) is a minor professional indoor football league that began playing in 2018. The league was initiated by a merger between Arena Pro Football (APF) and the Can-Am Indoor Football League (Can-Am), although it claimed only the APF history after the former Can-Am founder left the league. Teams from both leagues, new teams, and later teams from Supreme Indoor Football and National Arena League constituted the new league for its inaugural season.
|American Arena League|
|Current season, competition or edition:|
2019 American Arena League season
|Founder||Tony Zefiretto, Jack Bowman, Tim Viens|
|No. of teams||13|
|Headquarters||Raleigh, North Carolina|
|Atlanta Havoc (2018)|
|Arena Football League|
National Arena League
Arena Pro Football (APF) was originally announced as the National Arena Football League in 2016 following the dissolution of American Indoor Football (AIF). The league announced their first three teams as the Birmingham Outlawz, Myrtle Beach Sharks, and Savannah Coastal Outlaws. The league changed its name to Arena Pro Football (APF) in September 2016 after the Birmingham Outlawz accidentally posted the NAFL logo of the North American Football League as their league logo. They added expansion teams in the Cape Fear Wildcats and Richmond Roughriders. The league also added the Florida Tarpons and River City Raiders from the recently defunct AIF. The Central Florida Jaguars and Palm Beach Phantoms were also listed as members until both moved to the Jaguars' self-created league, Elite Indoor Football Conference. The Cape Fear Wildcats were later postponed to a presumed 2018 season. The Birmingham Outlawz later changed their name back to Alabama Outlawz after they failed to secure an arena in Birmingham. The Myrtle Beach Sharks announced they had joined the outdoor Gridiron Developmental Football League on March 7 and had left the APF.
The Can-Am Indoor Football League (Can-Am) was also formed from the remnants of the AIF when Tim Viens, the owner of the announced 2017 AIF expansion team Vermont Bucks, started his own league. With Viens serving as league president, the league added the Buffalo Blitz and Ontario-Niagara Spartans (both run by owners of established semi-professional teams, the Buffalo Gladiators and Steel City Patriots, respectively), as well as the Connecticut Chiefs (travel-only), Glens Falls Gladiators (travel-only), Niagara Falls Thunder (also operated by the Blitz ownership), New Hampshire Brigade, Rochester Kings and Vermont Bucks. During the Can-Am's first few months, it added and removed the Baltimore Lightning, Cleveland Saints, an unnamed team in Erie, Pennsylvania, Lockport Lightning, and Reading Raptors as league members without playing a game.
Prior to its first season, the APF formed several agreements with other upstart leagues. The first affiliation was with United States Indoor Football, a summer league that was to play all its games in Savannah, Georgia, and operated by the Coastal Outlaws (the organization that also runs the Savannah Coastal Outlaws). On November 3, 2016, the league announced inter-league play with the Central Florida Jaguars' Elite Indoor Football Conference. However, all references to the EIFC were removed in January 2017 even after the Jaguars and Phantoms had attended the December 2016 league meetings as APF affiliates. None of these inter-league games were ever played and the EIFC played one weekend outdoors before ceasing operations.
On November 14, 2016, both the APF and Can-Am announced an alliance with each other where the playoff champions of each league meet for an inter-league championship game. During the two league's first seasons, the Can-Am's founder Tim Viens announced on April 14, 2017, that for the 2018 season the APF and Can-Am leagues would officially merge and create the American Arena League, which the APF would later confirm. The championship between the two leagues was never played or referenced by either league again.
The APF played its first game on March 10, 2017, between the Alabama Outlawz and Florida Tarpons, which Florida won, 42–18. After playing three away games, all losses, the Alabama Outlawz canceled its first home game. On April 26, they then announced that they had canceled the rest of their season, which had originally been scheduled as all home games. The Myrtle Beach Sharks appeared to have to rejoined the APF mid-season, however, it was for away games only and the team called the Sharks were wearing the defunct Myrtle Beach Freedom uniforms. After playing all five home games to open the season, the River City Raiders declined to travel to play the Richmond Roughriders for their scheduled May 20 game. The Roughriders were able to secure an opponent in the Atlanta Furious, a team that primarily played in the Southern Steam's Elite Indoor Football (although many of those league's games were played outdoors). The only other away games the Raiders had originally been scheduled for was one of the canceled Alabama home games and against the Myrtle Beach Sharks. By the end of the season, the only remaining teams operating were the Richmond Roughriders and Florida Tarpons. The Roughriders would defeat the Tarpons 74–61 in the championship game on June 10, 2017, after the Roughriders finished the season undefeated.
The Can-Am also had significant inconsistencies in team members and scheduling. By the end of the season, there were only five teams remaining: the Buffalo Blitz, Glens Falls Gladiators (as a travel-only team, had a short winless season and were disqualified from playoff participation), Rochester Kings, Vermont Bucks, and the Tim Viens-owned Boston Blaze, a travel-only team that only played the second half of the season. The Rochester Kings finished their season undefeated with the Vermont Bucks and Boston Blaze each losing one game (Vermont lost to Boston, and Boston to Rochester). The Kings announced they were to host the Buffalo Blitz in the Western Division championship on June 3. The Bucks were to host the Boston Blaze in the Eastern Division championship. However, the Bucks later announced they were facing the semi-professional Central Penn Chargers, a team that primarily played in the Mid-Atlantic Indoor Football League, in their postseason game. The Kings defeated the Blitz 64–12 and the Bucks defeated the Chargers 46–6. The Bucks defeated the Kings in Rochester for the league championship on June 12 by a score of 61–41.
In June 2017, the now-merged league announced its inaugural members over its social media page. From the Can-Am, the league added the Boston Blaze, Buffalo Blitz, Connecticut Chiefs, Glens Falls Gladiators, Rochester Kings, Vermont Bucks, and the Central Penn Chargers (the team that played in Can-Am playoff game against the Bucks). From the APF, the league added the Florida Tarpons, Richmond Roughriders, and the announced expansion team Hampton Roads Riptides. The Roughriders had previously stated that they were looking to join to the Indoor Football League (IFL) or the National Arena League (NAL) and that they had not committed to joining the AAL yet. The AAL then deleted all references of the Roughriders from their social media posts within two days and the Roughriders later announced they had joined the National Arena League (NAL). By early July, the only teams that had not been deleted from their social media posts were the Bucks, Gladiators, Kings, and Tarpons. On July 13, the league added the Georgia Doom of Macon, Georgia. The Doom organization had played a few games as a travel team fill-in for the Dayton Wolfpack of the NAL the previous season. The league also added the Triangle Torch and Upstate Dragons after they previously played in Supreme Indoor Football (SIF), with the SIF's Cape Fear Heroes (the ownership group that operates the SIF) joining the AAL shortly thereafter. By September 13, the Roughriders returned to the AAL when the NAL had increased its criteria for new teams. On September 20, the High Country Grizzlies, formerly of the NAL, also joined the AAL.
By fall 2017, the teams began releasing their inaugural schedules and expansion teams, the Atlanta Havoc (owned by league president Viens) and the Carolina Energy, were added to the league. The AAL also added three affiliated teams that would fill in for home games of the league members and count for league games: the Austin Wild (formerly the Cap City Bulls of Austin, Texas, and played as a travel team in the SIF during 2017), the New England Cavalry (operated by the outdoor semi-professional organization out of Concord, New Hampshire), and the Savannah Coastal Outlaws (originally announced as an AAL member from the APF merger). In December 2017, another previously announced NAL expansion team, the Jersey Flight of Trenton, New Jersey, was added to the league. In January 2018, Tim Viens sold his first team, the Vermont Bucks, to solely operate the Atlanta Havoc. The new Bucks' owners then folded the team a month later and another new team, called the Peach State Cats (originally announced in the semi-professional Elite Indoor Football), was added but were only scheduled for away games. The Glens Falls Gladiators ceased operations just prior to the season, while the Coastal Outlaws would also never play an AAL game with many of their games replaced with the Carolina Cowboyz, also originally of Elite Indoor Football, to bring the league to twelve members and three affiliates to start the 2018 season.
Partway through the first AAL season, co-founder Tim Viens resigned from his positions within the league on April 14, 2018, and would also no longer be involved with his team, the Atlanta Havoc. The league then moved their website and retroactively claimed to have been founded as Arena Pro Football and changed its name when the Can-Am teams joined. The league continued to have scheduling issues and canceled games, leading to the Florida Tarpons, East Carolina Torch (formerly the Triangle Torch until they were forced to relocate), and Upstate Dragons choosing to end their seasons early. The last Can-Am team, the Rochester Kings, also appeared to have ceased playing league games altogether during the season. The Georgia Doom defeated both the league-leading teams, the Atlanta Havoc and Richmond Roughriders, but then chose not to participate in the playoffs. The Havoc went on to win the championship over the top-seeded Roughriders 58–50.
Shortly after the 2018 season ended, the Atlanta Havoc announced their relocation to Florence, South Carolina, as the Carolina Havoc and that they would host the All-Star Game at their new arena. The AAL then announced the game would be broadcast on ESPN3 with Mick Moninghoff as play-by-play commentator on August 25. The game was held and the Stripes defeated the Stars by a score of 34–29, but the game was broadcast on Facebook instead and all references to their ESPN3 announcement were taken down on game day.
On August 15, 2018, Richmond Roughriders' owner Gregg Fornario announced his intentions of creating a new league called Northern Arena Football (NAF). His Roughriders team, despite the possibility of losing its home arena in Richmond for 2019, was not initially planning on leaving the AAL with the NAF only having teams north of the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. The AAL affiliate team, the New England Cavalry, were the first team added to the NAF. However, by August 28, Fornario had rebranded the new league as Professional Arena Football (PAF) with multiple divisions, Northern Arena Football and Southern Arena Football, and the Roughriders were announced as part of Professional Arena Football on August 30, leaving the AAL.
By September 2018, the AAL confirmed five teams were returning for a 2019 season: the Cape Fear Heroes, Carolina Energy, Georgia Doom, High Country Grizzlies, and Peach State Cats (with the Cats relocating to Athens, Georgia, and no longer a travel-only team). The Florida Tarpons left the league and formed a new Florida-based league while rebranding as the Lakeland Tarpons. The defending champion Carolina Havoc later announced they would remain in the league. The Roughriders returned to AAL, now the West Virginia Roughriders, after Fornario's plans for the PAF fell through. On December 12, 2018, the league announced its 2019 alignment split into a four-team Northern Division and an eight-team Southern Division. The league also announced the return of the Jersey Flight, as well as the additions of the Carolina Cowboyz (now full-time members with a home arena in Pendleton, South Carolina), the travelling team Carolina Predators, the New England Bobcats (formerly of Elite Indoor Football), and the Burgh Defenders (Pittsburgh). The AAL then split the Southern Division into a Southern and Mid Atlantic Division prior to the schedule release. In January 2019, the league then added a Central Division composed of three teams that had been in the developmental Midwest Professional Indoor Football (MPIF): the Chicago Aztecs, Indianapolis Enforcers, and West Michigan Ironmen. Less than a month prior to the start of the 2019 season, the High Country Grizzlies ceased operations and the Chicago Aztecs withdrew for the season reducing the league to 13 teams.
As of April 2018:
As of March 31, 2019. Italics represent travel-only teams.
|Indianapolis Enforcers||Carmel, Indiana||Off The Wall Sports||2010||2019||KC Carter|
|West Michigan Ironmen||Muskegon, Michigan||L. C. Walker Arena||4,000||2016||2019||Nate Smith|
|Mid Atlantic Division|
|Cape Fear Heroes||Fayetteville, North Carolina||Crown Coliseum||8,500||2011||2018||Chris McKinney|
|Carolina Havoc||Florence, South Carolina||Florence Center||10,000||2017||2018||Anson Yarbourough|
|Carolina Predators||Greenville, South Carolina||Travel-only team||2018||2019||Andy Slagle|
|Burgh Defenders||Canonsburg, Pennsylvania||Printscape Arena at Southpointe||2018||2019||Tjuan Washington|
|Jersey Flight||Trenton, New Jersey||CURE Insurance Arena||10,000||2017||2018||Nick Coppola|
|New England Bobcats||Fall River, Massachusetts||Driscoll Arena||2017||2019||Julien Robinson|
|West Virginia Roughriders||Wheeling, West Virginia||WesBanco Arena||5,406||2016||2018||Mook Zimmerman|
|Carolina Cowboyz||Pendleton, South Carolina||T. Ed Garrison Arena||4,500||2017||2018[a]||Dennis Holt|
|Carolina Energy||Charlotte, North Carolina||Bojangles' Coliseum||8,600||2017||2018||Ervin Bryson|
|Georgia Doom||Macon, Georgia||Macon Coliseum||9,252||2017||2018||James Lal|
|Peach State Cats||Athens, Georgia||Classic Center||2,000||2017||2018||Mareno Philyaw|
The Cape Fear Heroes are a professional indoor football team based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and a member of the American Arena League (AAL). The Heroes are owned by Barbara Spigner.
They began play in 2012 as an expansion member of American Indoor Football (AIF). The Heroes fared very well in their first three seasons of play, going to back-to-back-to-back AIF Championship Games, going undefeated in 2012. They Heroes finished as runner-up in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, it was announced that the Heroes would be leaving the AIF, and joining the X-League Indoor Football (X-League). In June 2015, the team's season was abruptly ended when they were suspended by the league.They have won one conference title, in their only season playing in a conference, while finishing with the best regular season record in the AIF for 3 consecutive seasons. The Heroes play their home games at the Crown Coliseum.Carolina Energy
The Carolina Energy are a professional indoor American football team based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. They are members of the American Arena League (AAL) and play their home games at the Bojangles' Coliseum beginning in the 2018 season. They are the fourth team to play in Charlotte behind the Charlotte Rage and Carolina Cobras, both formerly of the Arena Football League, and the Carolina Speed of the American Indoor Football Association.Carolina Havoc
The Carolina Havoc are a professional indoor football team based out of Florence, South Carolina. They are members of the American Arena League and will play their home games at the Florence Center. In the 2018 season, the team was known as the Atlanta Havoc.Chris Wallace (American football)
Christopher Wallace (born November 4, 1975) is an American football quarterback for the Atlanta Havoc of the American Arena League (AAL). He played as a quarterback for the University of Toledo. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Orlando Predators in 2001.Ellis Lankster
Ellis Lankster (born June 3, 1987) is an American football cornerback for the Atlanta Havoc of the American Arena League (AAL). He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He played college football at West Virginia. He has also been a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and New York Jets.Georgia Doom
The Georgia Doom are a professional indoor football team based out of Macon, Georgia. They play their home games at Macon Coliseum. They started as a midseason road team filling in for the folded Dayton Wolfpack in the National Arena League in 2017 before becoming a charter member of the American Arena League in 2018.
They are the third indoor team to play in Macon after the Macon Knights in af2 (2001–2006) and the Macon Steel of American Indoor Football (2012).Greg Hardy
Gregory McKarl Hardy (born July 28, 1988) is an American mixed martial artist and former American football defensive end. He played college football at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Hardy was named to the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro following the 2013 NFL season in which he recorded a career high 15 sacks. Hardy's 15 sacks in 2013 is currently the Carolina Panthers single season franchise record. Hardy also played for the Dallas Cowboys.
On July 15, 2014, Hardy was found guilty of assaulting an ex-girlfriend, and sentenced to 18 months probation as well as being suspended for 10 games by the NFL (the suspension was reduced to 4 games after arbitration). Hardy appealed his conviction, and the case was dismissed after the victim failed to appear in court to testify, but Hardy's arrest and trial were the focus of considerable controversy.Jersey Flight
The Jersey Flight are a professional indoor football team based in Trenton, New Jersey, as a member of the American Arena League (AAL). They are owned by Jersey Flight Football, Inc., and play at the CURE Insurance Arena as their home arena.LaRoche Jackson
LaRoche J. Jackson (born June 21, 1984) is an American football defensive back for the Atlantic City Blackjacks of the Arena Football League (AFL). He played as a defensive back for Clark Atlanta University. He was signed as a free agent by the Jacksonville Sharks in 2010, played for the championship Sharks team in 2011, and played for the Sharks throughout 2012. He signed with the Lakeland Raiders in 2013. On March 30, 2013, it was announced that he had signed with the Cleveland Gladiators. On April 22, 2015, Jackson returned to the Sharks. On April 27, 2017, Jackson was released by the Sharks. On May 16, 2017, Jackson was assigned to the Tampa Bay Storm. He signed with the Atlanta Havoc in December 2017. On March 5, 2019, Jackson returned to the AFL as he was assigned to the expansion Atlantic City Blackjacks.Lakeland Tarpons
The Lakeland Tarpons are a professional indoor football team based in Lakeland, Florida, out of the RP Funding Center. Originally established in Estero, Florida, and playing out of Germain Arena, they began play in 2012 as the Florida Tarpons, an expansion team of the Ultimate Indoor Football League (UIFL). The Tarpons joined the X-League Indoor Football (X-League) during the 2015 season when the UIFL merged with the X-League. They played in the Arena Pro Football (APF) league in 2017 before the league became the American Arena League (AAL) for 2018. For 2019, they formed their own Florida-based league, called the A-League.The Tarpons were Estero's second indoor football team; their first since arenafootball2's Florida Firecats which played from 2001 until the af2's demise in 2009. In addition, they are the fourth indoor football team in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area, with them and the Firecats joining the unrelated Fort Myers Tarpons which played in the National Indoor Football League's final season of 2007 and the Florida Stingrays which played the 2008 American Indoor Football Association season. (Both teams played at the Lee County Civic Center). The founders of the Tarpons are Andrew and Leah Haines and Michael & Anna Taylor. The Tarpons moved to Lakeland prior to the 2018 season.Micheaux Robinson
Micheaux Robinson (born April 3, 1983) is a arena football defensive back for the Atlanta Havoc of the American Arena League (AAL). He attended training camp with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. He played college football at Otterbein College.
In 2005 and 2006, Robinson played for the Wyoming Cavalry of the National Indoor Football League (NIFL).He was signed as a free agent by the Jacksonville Sharks in 2009.
On September 7, 2011, he was signed by the Montreal Alouettes.On May 11, 2012, Robinson was traded back the Jacksonville Sharks for Defensive Lineman T. J. Langley. On May 30, 2012, Robinson returned to the Alouettes and was released on June 10, 2012.On December 11, 2015, Robinson was assigned to the Sharks for the 2015 season.He signed with the Atlanta Havoc in December 2017.Peach State Cats
The Peach State Cats are a professional indoor football team based in Athens, Georgia. They are current members of the American Arena League. They originally announced to play home games at Dalton Convention Center in Dalton, Georgia, for the 2018 season but were eventually made a travel-only team. They moved to Athens the following season. Their owner is Tim Freeman and they are coached by Mareno Philyaw.Rakeem Cato
Rakeem Cato (born March 28, 1992) is an American football quarterback who is a free agent. He played college football at Marshall and was the Thundering Herd's starting quarterback from 2011 to 2014. He played for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL) from 2015 to 2016.Robert Meachem
Robert Emery Meachem (born September 28, 1984) is an American football wide receiver for the Richmond Roughriders of the American Arena League. He played college football at Tennessee and was drafted by the New Orleans Saints 27th overall in the 2007 NFL draft. Meachem also played one season with the San Diego Chargers.Ryan McDaniel
Ryan McDaniel (born September 8, 1988) is an American football wide receiver for the Atlanta Havoc of the American Arena League (AAL). He played collegiatly at Samford University.Triangle Torch
The Triangle Torch (also known as the East Carolina Torch) was a professional indoor football team playing in North Carolina. The team first played as the Triangle Torch in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was named after the larger Research Triangle region. The Torch started in 2016 as an expansion franchise of American Indoor Football (AIF). The AIF ceased operations and the Torch joined Supreme Indoor Football for the 2017 season. For the 2018 season, the team relocated to Kenansville, North Carolina, as the East Carolina Torch, and joined the American Arena League for its inaugural season.
The Torch was the third indoor football team to play in Raleigh, after the Carolina Cobras of the Arena Football League (2000–2002) and the Raleigh Rebels of the Atlantic Indoor Football League (2005–2006).Vermont Bucks
The Vermont Bucks are a professional indoor football team. They played their home games at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington. They started as a charter member of the Can-Am Indoor Football League in 2017 and then were announced as an inaugural member of the American Arena League. As of January 31, 2018, the Vermont Bucks folded after an ownership change.West Michigan Ironmen
The West Michigan Ironmen are a professional indoor football team based in Muskegon, Michigan (and representing the larger region which also includes Grand Rapids and Holland), the Ironmen play their home games at L.C. Walker Arena. The team joined American Indoor Football (AIF) in 2016. The AIF ceased operations following the 2016 season, leaving the Ironmen without a league. They joined Champions Indoor Football for the 2017 season. For the 2018 season, the team was originally announced to have joined the Indoor Football League, however, the team was forced to sit out the 2018 Indoor Football League season. The team was then sold and played in the regional Midwest Professional Indoor Football for the 2018 season until they could rejoin the CIF in 2019. However, they were not among the list of members for the 2019 CIF season and instead joined the American Arena League.
The Ironmen are the second indoor football team to play in Muskegon, after the Muskegon Thunder which played in the Continental Indoor Football League for the 2007 and 2008 seasons and later the Indoor Football League for its inaugural 2009 season before moving to Grand Rapids and becoming the West Michigan ThunderHawks the next year.West Virginia Roughriders
The West Virginia Roughriders are a professional indoor football team based in Wheeling, West Virginia. They were founded in 2016 as the Richmond Roughriders and played at the Richmond Coliseum in 2017 and 2018. They were members the Arena Pro Football (APF) league in 2017. The Roughriders initially announced they were joining the National Arena League (NAL) for the 2018 season but then later joined the American Arena League (AAL). After the one season in the AAL, the owner announced he was creating his own league, Professional Arena Football, and left the AAL but the new league never gained traction and the team returned to the AAL. Concurrently, the Roughriders also moved to Wheeling due to arena issues in Richmond.
Professional gridiron football leagues in North America