The Atlanta Knights was an IHL expansion team in 1992 as the top farm team of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. They won the Turner Cup in the 1993–94 season. The Knights featured the first professional black head coach in John Paris Jr.. The Knights were also one of the first professional teams to play a female goalie, Manon Rheaume, in a regular-season game.
Led by team captain & IHL legend Jock Callander and a 40-goal explosion from right winger Keith Osborne (each in their only season with the club), head coach Gene Ubriaco's Knights would prove to be among the league's most formidable sides, amassing franchise single-season records in wins (52), points (111) & goals scored (333) en route to claiming the Atlantic Division championship.
The initial Knights roster featured many players that would go on to cement themselves into the folklore of the club, among them centers Brent Gretzky & Colin Miller; wingers Christian Campeau, Stan Drulia & Jason Ruff; defencemen Jeff Buchanan, Eric Dubois, Chris LiPuma & Shawn Rivers; and goalkeepers Jean-Claude Bergeron & Mike Greenlay.
The inaugural Knights campaign also featured the North American professional hockey debuts of both Manon Rheaume (2 GP, 0-1-0, 6.36 GAA) and the 1992 NHL Entry Draft's #1 overall pick, Roman Hamrlik (2 GP 1 G,1 A, 2 Pts, 2 PIM), a future 3-time NHL All-Star.
In 1993-94, the Knights became the first Atlanta-based sports franchise since the 1968 Atlanta Chiefs of the North American Soccer League to win a professional championship, capturing the Turner Cup in a best-of-seven Finals victory over the Fort Wayne Komets, 4 games to 2.
The season-long excellence of goalkeepers J.C. Bergeron (27-11-7, 3.07) and Mike Greenlay (16-10-4, 3.58) resulted in the duo being awarded the James Norris Memorial Trophy (IHL). This masterful netminding combined with outstanding play from off-season acquisitions Steve Larouche and Jeff Madill as well as the blueline brilliance of Jeff Buchanan, Eric Charron, Cory Cross & Eric Dubois contributed greatly to the Knights' second-consecutive division championship, this time the Midwest.
The 1993–94 season also saw Knights' legend Stan Drulia establish single-season club records for goals (54), assists (60), and points (114). The captain's extraordinary play carried over into the post season, culminating in his being awarded the Norman R. "Bud" Poile Trophy (IHL) as MVP of the Turner Cup Playoffs with a 13-goal, 25 point performance over the tournament's 14-game span.
4-0 series sweeps in each of the Turner Cup Playoff's first two rounds (vs. the Milwaukee Admirals and San Diego Gulls (1990-95) respectively) earned the Knights their first Finals appearance. Greenlay's brilliant play continued throughout the tournament with the netminder posting an eye-popping 11-1 record, a microscopic 2.32 GAA & an outstanding .910 save percentage in 13 playoff appearances.
For the 1996–97 season, the Knights relocated due to the Omni's impending demolition to make way for Philips Arena, a facility that would become home to Atlanta's second NHL expansion team, the Atlanta Thrashers. During their years in Atlanta, Rick Morgan was their full-time national anthem singer and encouraged the crowd to shout "KNIGHTS!" during the line, "Gave proof through the "KNIGHTS" that our flag was still there." It was customary to hear an emphasized, shouted "KNIGHTS!" during the national anthem at Atlanta Thrashers games at Philips Arena by spectators in honor of the team.
Games Played: Eric Dubois, Steve Larouche, Jeff Madill, Colin Miller (80, 1993–94)
Goals: Stan Drulia (54, 1993–94)
Assists: Stan Drulia (60, 1993–94)
Jamie Sargent (60, 1997–98)
Points: Stan Drulia (114, 1993–94)
Penalties in Minutes: Chris LiPuma (379, 1992–93)
Wins: J.C. Bergeron (27, 1993–94)
Goals Against Average: Derek Wilkinson (3.01, 1994–95)
Goals: Raymond Kevin DeMarco
Games Played: Christian Campeau (282)
Goals: Stan Drulia (161)
Assists: Stan Drulia (191)
Points: Stan Drulia (352)
Penalties in Minutes: Chris LiPuma (970)
Wins: J.C. Bergeron (60)
Goals Against Average: David Littman (3.36)
Playoff (Season, Career)
Goals: Steve Larouche (1993-94: 16), Stan Drulia & Steve Larouche (16)
Assists: Jason Ruff (1993-94: 17), Stan Drulia (22)
Points: Steve Larouche (1993-94: 26), Stan Drulia (38)
Penalties in Minutes:
Wins: Mike Greenlay (1993-94 & Career: 11)
Goals Against Average: Mike Greenlay (1993-94 & Career: 2.32)
AffiliatesTampa Bay Lightning (1992–1996)
The Knights became the Quebec Rafales (French for "gust of wind"), after relocating to Quebec City, and took residence at the Quebec Coliseum. The team drew well in 1996–97 one year after the NHL Quebec Nordiques departed Quebec City for Denver, Colorado. The next year, after trading some of their best players, such as goaltender Stephane Beauregard, the team didn't reach the postseason. The owners did not realize the expected profit and folded the team after only two seasons in Quebec.