The Knoxville Ice Bears Professional Hockey Organization was founded in 2002 as a charter member of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. After finishing runner-up to the Orlando Seals in the 2002–2003 season, the Ice Bears moved to the new South Eastern Hockey League. Again, Knoxville finished the playoffs runner-up to the Huntsville Channel Cats in 2003–2004. The team then moved hockey leagues and joined the new Southern Professional Hockey League in 2004. In the SPHL's inaugural season, the Ice Bears won the regular season championship Commissioner's Cup. However, after a first round bye, the Bears lost in the second round to the 2004-2005 SPHL Champions: the Columbus Cottonmouths.
The 2006–2007 season ended with elimination from the league semifinal series with 2 straight losses to the Fayetteville FireAntz.
During the next season, the Ice Bears once again secured the Commissioner’s Cup, and in the 2008 President’s Cup playoffs, Knoxville faced the Columbus Cottonmouths in a 5-game series. The Ice Bears secured their spot in the championship round after winning Game 5 in Knoxville, 6-3.
In the championship round, Knoxville played another 5-game series against the Jacksonville Barracudas. Winning 3 straight games, Rookie goalie Kirk Irving took home playoff MVP honors, and the team brought the President’s Cup back to Knoxville.
In 2008–2009, the Ice Bears again won the Commissioner’s Cup. They headed to the first round where they faced the Huntsville Havoc, winning Games 1 and 2 at home. The Ice Bears then dropped games 3 and 4, on the road, tying the series at 2. In the deciding game of the series, the Ice Bears went up 2-0 early. The Havoc came back and tied it at 2-2, where the score stayed for the rest of regulation. In overtime, Tim Vitek buried the game winner, sending the Ice Bears to the SPHL Finals to face the Fayetteville FireAntz, in a best of 7 series. After a back and forth series, the Ice Bears won Game 6, forcing a game 7, The Ice Bears, lead by Norrie and Rebernik, won their third President’s Cup and became the first back-to-back SPHL Champions.
On May 29, 2009, Head Coach Scott Hillman announced that he had resigned his position as bench boss for the Ice Bears to be the first coach of the Central Hockey League's expansion team in Independence, Missouri. Marc Rodgers took over as the Ice Bears’ head coach in June 2009.
During the 2009–2010 regular season, the Ice Bears finished 4th out of 7 teams and went to the playoffs to face the FireAntz in the first round. The Ice Bears lost Game 1, but bounced back to take Game 2. On Easter Sunday, the Ice Bears won Game 3, taking the series and advancing to round , to take on the Huntsville Havoc. Unfortunately, Knoxville lost Games 1 and 2, ending a 3-year reign as regular season and league champions.
After the 2009-2010 season, Head Coach Marc Rodgers and the Ice Bears parted ways on June 29, 2010. A month later in July, Ice Bears star and All-time SPHL leading scorer Kevin Swider retired. During his career, Swider had won every scoring title from 2004-2010, all 6 years of the SPHL's existence at that point. On July 12, 2010, Swider was named Ice Bears Director of Hockey Operations and Youth Hockey School Director. He came out of retirement in the summer of 2011 and was on the roster for the Ice Bears' 2011-2012 season, where he resumed his position as leading scorer in the league.
On August 2, 2010, the Ice Bears introduced Mike Craigen as the new head coach. Craigen, a Buckhorn, Ontario native was a forward for the Ice Bears and a 2-time President’s Cup Champion.
The 2010–2011 season saw the Ice Bears finish 6th of 8 teams. Having clinched the final playoff spot the weekend before, the Ice Bears went into the playoffs as the low seeded team, drawing the Mississippi Surge in round 1. The Ice Bears were able to win Game 1, while Game 2 was dominated by the Surge in an 8-1 routing. In Game 3, Knoxville was the first to score, but fell 3-2 in overtime. The Ice Bears faced elimination going into Game 4, and fell behind early. Knoxville came back with shorthanded and penalty shot goals, never letting off the throttle. The Bears won the game, taking Mississippi into Game 5 where they gained an early lead, but didn’t score again, falling 3-1 to end the season.
The 2011–2012 regular season was a successful time for the Ice Bears. A 9-game winning streak began on December 1st with a 5-3 win at Augusta, and ended with a loss to the Huntsville Havoc on December 28th. The streak lasted 27 days - one of the longest winning streaks in team history.
The Ice Bears began the following season with another fantastic winning streak. On opening night 2011, the Ice Bears won 5-3 against the Mississippi Surge to kick-off a 13-game home winning streak. The string of home wins ended on January 5, 2012 when the Bears lost 6-5 to the same Mississippi Surge team.
Despite the success the team was having, Ice Bears goalie Bryan Hince’s move to the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL caused some disruption to the team dynamic. Hince had started the Ice Bears’ season 16-1, with his only loss being against the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Losing the talent that Hince had in the net, the Ice Bears struggled, dropping 6 straight games from January 20th to February 9th. Still, the Ice Bears never lost their standing as one of the top 3 teams in the league, finishing 3rd of 9 teams at the end of the regular season. In round 1 of the playoffs, they were matched up with the 6th seed Mississippi RiverKings for the best of 3 games. The Ice Bears lost game one, 6-3 and with their season on the line, Knoxville managed to pull off a 4-2 victory in Game 2 to force a 3rd. The Ice Bears won 6-3, taking the series 2-1; however, Knoxville struggled in the second round. Stellar goaltending by the Pensacola IceFlyers allowed them to take the series in 2 games, ending Knoxville’s season.
In October 9, 2012, the team announced that they had partnered with the NHL Nashville Predators to host a preseason game against the Huntsville Havoc at Bridgestone Arena, the Predators’ home ice, on October 20th. The 2012-2013 regular season landed the Ice Bears in 4th place – only 3 points behind the top ranked FireAntz and Ice Gators. Lead by Emery Olausen and Eric Satim, the Ice Bears looked to improve on the previous year’s finish. Round 1 of the President’s Cup Playoffs was an easy sweep of the Columbus Cottonmouths, but round 2 found the Ice Bears in a state of déjà vu. Just as the year before, Knoxville was eliminated by the Pensacola Ice Flyers in just 2 games.
Plagued by injuries and ECHL call-ups, the 2013-2014 regular season found Knoxville just 7 points from missing the playoffs - something that has never happened to the Ice Bears. The 2014 playoffs was more of the same as the Bears defeated the Ice Gators in 2 games, leading Knoxville to a second round matchup with Pensacola. The eventual champions took down the Ice bears 2-1 in the series, but only outscored Knoxville 5-4 over those 3 games.
The 2014-2015 regular season wasn’t quite the same as the season prior; the mood of the entire organization was different. With the additions of goalie Braely Torris and forwards Driscoll, Scott, and Sicard, the Ice Bears had become a force to be reckoned with. Seeded as the number 5 team, Knoxville drew the Cottonmouths and squeaked out a first round victory. Bottom seeded Louisiana defeated the top ranked Rivermen, opening the door for the Ice Bears to cruise past the Ice Gators and into the SPHL Finals. Due to a circus in Mississippi (yes, a literal circus), the Rivermen were forced to play all 3 President’s Cup games in Knoxville. Bryan Hince’s .938 save percentage in the playoffs, and double digit points from Power, Satim, and Drolet led the Ice Bears to a 2-0 series win and their 4th franchise championship, ending a 6-year drought.
Riding high as “SPHL Champs”, the 2015-2016 season was geared-up to be nothing but a repeat for Knoxville. With the addition of Boston College goalie Brian Billett and a slew of rookie talent, the Ice Bears looked very strong headed into the final stretch of games. The defending champs finished the regular season in the middle of the field and drew long-time rival Fayetteville in the first round. The FireAntz, leaning on the Game 3 scoring of Joseph Manno, defeated the Ice Bears in 3 games. This was the first time since the 2011 playoffs, and only the 2nd time in franchises history, that Knoxville failed to reach the second round of the playoffs.