By RJ Ciancio
With the New York Streets on their way to join the National Arena League (NAL) for the 2019 Season, Arena Football Talk has decided to review the history of arena football in New York City.
The Arena Football League (AFL) first arrived in the Big Apple in 1988 with the New York Knights. The Knights were owned by Russell Berry and were coached by Jim Valek. New York played their home games in the iconic Madison Square Garden. Although the team went 2-10 before folding after the 1988 season, the Knights had planted the seed of arena football in America’s largest media market.
In 1997 the AFL had New York City’s second arena team take the field as the CityHawks. The CityHawks were owned by Rogers Communications and were coached by Lary Kuharich. Once again, the New York City team played in Madison Square Garden. In their first season, the CityHawks went 2-12. In the offseason the CityHawks fired Kuharich and hired veteran NCAA head coach Chuck Shelton. Sadly, Shelton’s unfamiliarity with the arena game showed as th CityHawks went 3-11 in the 1998 season. Prior to the 1999 AFL season, the CityHawks moved to New England to become the Sea-Wolves.
In the 2000 offseason the Iowa Barnstormers relocated to New York City and became the Dragons. The Dragons were owned by Steven and Shanna Silvia. The Dragons became the first team in AFL history to call New York City home and not play in Madison Square Garden, instead opting to play in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The team’s first coach in New York was John Gregory, who was at the helm from 2001-2002 making the playoffs in 2000 and 2001. Todd Shell was brought in to replace John Gregory as head coach. With the help of star quarterback Aaron Garcia, Shell led the team to the playoffs in 2003, and after missing the 2004 playoffs Weylan Harding became the Dragons new head coach. New York made the playoffs in 2005, 2006 and 2008 before folding after the AFL canceled their 2009 campaign.
With eleven seasons of arena football history under New York City’s belt, the Big Apple is at long last getting an arena football team back with the New York Streets in the NAL.