There was an early-morning celebration in Biloxi that Coast residents still reminisce about 19 years later.
In front of 9,150 fans at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, the Mississippi Sea Wolves made the Gulf Coast proud of its hockey team — however fleeting it may have been.
Having already rallied to force a Game 7 in the East Coast Hockey League's championship series, the Coast's hockey team had to make one last rally late into the night. Trailing 3-1 to the visiting Richmond Renegades, the Sea Wolves tied the game late in regulation and eventually won the Kelly Cup 4-3 in double overtime on a Kevin Hilton goal at 12:16 a.m.
Despite odds being stacked against them, the Sea Wolves never doubted themselves.
"We had a strong team mentally," defenseman Patrick Rochon told the Sun Herald in 1999. "We knew we were about to do something special.
The team's biggest star never scored a goal or earned an assist in the series against the Renegades. The always quotable Bruce Boudreau called the shots from the bench. After leaving the club, Boudreau quickly climbed through the minor leagues and is now a seasoned NHL coach after having led the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and now Minnesota Wild.
Although he has made a name for himself in the NHL, Boudreau has never forgot about 1999 or Biloxi.
"It was such a great time there,” Boudreau told the Sun Herald prior to last year's team reunion, which celebrated the Kelly Cup title. “I think I’ll be going back to Mississippi until the day I die.
"One of my favorite things is when the plane is coming in to land and you can see the Coliseum and see everything. It brings back such a wave of memories."
Bob Woods, who was a player assistant on the team, scored the equalizer with just 2:23 remaining in regulation. He later took over the Sea Wolves and in the years since has followed Boudreau through the NHL.
"I saw Woody in front and I just dove and shoved it to him in front," defenseman Karl Infanger told the Sun Herald of assisting on the late equalizer. "I didn't even know he put it in because I was on the ice. The next thing I know, the crowd is going nuts."
Ten years later, just after the team announced it was suspending operations the organization announced it would carry on as the Mississippi Surge in the SPHL. The very next year the Surge made it to the finals, and won it all in 2010-11, but the magic the Sea Wolves had captured in 1999 never really returned. After three more seasons on the Coast, the franchise moved to Virginia and became the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs.
The Mississippi Coast Coliseum has been hockey-less for a while, with the exception of public skating sessions during the winter.
Clipped newspaper articles from the Kelly Cup title have started to fade, some memories along with them; but at least we'll always have that early morning in 1999 when the Mississippi Coast was "something special."