The Rail Yard Dawgs home ice is the Berglund Center Coliseum, owned and managed by Roanoke City government. The Coliseum has a capacity of 8,672 for hockey. Practices are primarily held at Berglund Center, as well as all regular season home games.
The franchise is comprised of six ownership groups. The principle owners of the team are the McGinn family out of Ontario, Canada—Parents, Bob & Cori, and their sons Jamie, Tye, and Brock. Also sharing ownership are Roanoke locals—Robin & Christi Bennett, Chip & Bonnie Grubb, Stephen & Dana Esworthy, Mason McLeod, and Matt & Terri Skelton. The team was announced in November of 2015 and began play in October of 2016.
The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) is comprised of ten teams, including the Rail Yard Dawgs. Other teams include Birmingham Bulls (Alabama), Evansville Thunderbolts (Indiana), Fayetteville Marksmen (North Carolina), Huntsville Havoc (Alabama), Knoxville Icebears (Tennessee), Macon Mayhem (Georgia), Pensacola Ice Flyers (Florida), Peoria Rivermen (Illinois), and Quad City Storm (Illinois). There are no affiliations with the NHL, AHL, ECHL, etc. SPHL players may be temporarily loaned to teams in the aforementioned leagues, most commonly the ECHL.
In the first season in franchise history, the Rail Yard Dawgs went 17-30-9 and finished in 9th place in the SPHL with 43 points. The team was coached by ECHL Hall of Famer Sam Ftorek and veteran defenseman Nick Schneider was named the first captain of the Rail Yard Dawgs at the conclusion of training camp. Schneider was also named Second Team All-SPHL after the season. On October 21, 2016, the Dawgs hosted the first professional hockey game in Roanoke in over 10 years and were defeated by the Knoxville Ice Bears, 2-0, in front of a crowd of 6,188 at Berglund Center. The team averaged 3,136 fans per game, the fifth-highest average attendance in the league.
The Rail Yard Dawgs finished the regular season 26-26-4 and in 8th place in the SPHL with 56 points, good for the first playoff appearance in franchise history. The team was selected by the top-seed Peoria Rivermen through the SPHL’s Challenge Round playoff format and lost the best-of-three series, 2-0. Sam Ftorek opened as the team’s head coach and was replaced in December of 2017 by Dan Bremner, a veteran of six SPHL seasons as a player. Under Bremner, the team went 21-15-2 and set a franchise record with an eight-game winning streak from February 3-23 of 2018. Nick Schneider returned for his second season as the team’s captain and Steve Mele set franchise records in points (59), goals (22), assists (37), and was named Second Team All-SPHL after the season. Goaltender Brad Barone was named the SPHL’s Goaltender of the Year after going 15-15-2 with a league-leading .917 save percentage and 2.93 goals against average. The team averaged 3,360 fans per game, the fifth-highest average attendance in the league.
The Rail Yard Dawgs went 28-24-4 during the regular season, good for 60 points and 5th place in the SPHL. Roanoke was again selected by the top-seed Peoria Rivermen through the SPHL’s Challenge Round playoff format and went on to sweep the regular season champions, 2-0, in the best-of-three series. The Rail Yard Dawgs eventually fell to the Birmingham Bulls, 2-1, in the best-of-three semifinal series. Roanoke was coached by Dan Bremner and assistant coach Michael Harris and Steve Mele was named team captain in his third season with the Rail Yard Dawgs. Colin Murray and Jeff Jones each matched Mele’s single-season goal record with 22. The team averaged 3,498 fans per game, the fifth-highest average attendance in the league.
The Rail Yard Dawgs went 16-22-9 and their 41 points had them in 7th place when the COVID-19 Pandemic cut the season short by nine games in March. Dan Bremner was the team’s head coach and former Rail Yard Dawgs player Cal Miska joined the team as his assistant coach in December of 2019. Travis Armstrong, the only player to appear for the Rail Yard Dawgs in each of their four seasons, was named the team’s captain in October and following the conclusion of the season earned Second Team All-SPHL honors as a defenseman. The team averaged 3,522 fans per game, the fourth-highest average attendance in the league.