Ice Bears name John Gurskis as new head coach, reveal new home and away jerseys

By Griffin Hadley

John Gurskis has been named the newest head coach of the Knoxville Ice Bears.
Photo Credit: Wichita Thunder

The Ice Bears have announced John Gurskis as the ninth head coach in franchise history.

Gurskis comes to Knoxville from the Wichita Thunder where he spent five years as an assistant coach. Boasting coaching experience at every level, Gurski has coached in just about every league over the past 15 years.

A native of Brockton, Massachusetts, Gurskis grew up just south of Boston and knows what it is like to be around winning franchises.

The new head coach of the Ice Bears explained how excited he was to be in Knoxville, a city that appreciates sports and that has been packing the colosseum for hockey games over the course of multiple decades.

“Any coach wants to be challenged,” Gurskis said. “I think the standard that is here, that exists in this city, at all levels, in all sports, is great.”

Michael Murray, president, co-owner, and general manager of the Ice Bears revealed the news this afternoon during a press conference at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Several dozen dedicated fans and season ticket holders were in attendance for the announcement.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Gurskis said to the fans. “I’m honored to be the head coach of the Knoxville Ice Bears.”

The new coaching hire comes after interim head coach Andrew Harrison resigned at the end of April. Harrison was promoted last November after the Ice Bears parted ways with previous head coach Brent Clarke.

The Ice Bears have four SPHL championships to their name but have struggled since their last title in 2014. After three straight first round exits from 2020-2022 the Ice Bears missed the playoffs in 2023-24.

After going 16-36 in 2023-24, the Ice Bears are going a different direction bringing in Gurskis to try and revitalize the historically successful franchise.

“Pressure is a privilege,” Gurskis said. “I think there’s a certain amount of pressure when you coach the Knoxville Ice Bears because the standard has been set.”

Murray detailed that Gurskis was the best candidate for the job after going through a tedious interview process that lasted multiple months. The Ice Bears selected Gurskis after a competitive application process, sifting through over sixty potential candidates for the position.

Murray spoke very highly of his new hire, giving fans the confidence that after a rough 2023-24 season, the goal is to be back on track in the fall. The Ice Bears president explained that some of the games last season were a “tough watch,” however he believes that they will be better with Gurskis at the helm.

In addition to the coaching announcement the Ice Bears revealed their new home and away jerseys that will be debuted during the 2024-25 season.

The home jerseys brought back the Ice Bears’ signature purple, featuring the Knoxville skyline on the sleeves. The white away jerseys feature the same skyline on the sleeve, bringing an ‘icy’ look to the team for their road contests.

Ice Bears director of broadcasting Joel Silverberg explained that the jerseys reflect the pride the organization has in their city. The new uniforms include shadows of the Smoky Mountains and memorable Knoxville buildings in the design.

The Ice Bears’ 23rd season in franchise history starts in October with the home opener scheduled for Friday, October 25.