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West Knox couple in business with sun and ice

Kendra Bernard and Robert Dyer’s lives just got a whole lot busier.

The couple own and operate Bahia Tans in Farragut and are two of the five owners of the Knoxville Ice Bears, which just won the first two games of the team’s fourth season.

Bernard and Dyer, both longtime hockey fans, remember going to Knoxville Speed games together. Bernard, a 15-year employee at Scripps Productions (then Bagwell Communications) and founding member of the Employee Activities Committee, rallied fellow employees to attend Knoxville’s hockey match-ups.

“We would always pick out one guy from the roster and we would yell for him all night,” she said.

Bernard and Dyer, who both graduated from West High School and married seven years ago, decided to invest in Knoxville Speed.

“We were silent investors in the Speed and then the opportunity came up with a new team and a new league,” Bernard said. “We had met everyone who had invested in the Speed and the more we talked, the more we thought this new plan sounds like it could make it. We felt like with the mix of people, we would be able to manage a company of that magnitude.”

The couple joined financial forces with local businessmen and hockey aficionados John Axford, John Langley and Doug Yoakley and got to work.

“We had to buy office furniture, hockey equipment, we had to buy everything,” Bernard said. “We designed the logo, everything.”

Bernard and Dyer are pleased with the team’s progress. The Ice Bears finished last season as Southern Professional Hockey League champions and turned a profit.

“Most businesses are on a three-to-five-year plan. We made money in three,” Bernard said, adding that the team’s leadership is also intent on developing a team the community can be proud of.

“We tell the guys that when they’re out in public, they’re representing the five of us. And we want them to be respectable and responsible,” Bernard said. “We’ve never had a problem.”

Ice Bears players visit East Tennessee Children’s Hospital once a week as part of the team’s community service commitments.

“They want to be good role models for young children,” Bernard said.

Bernard and Dyer purchased their tanning salon in Kohl’s shopping center in October 1999.

“The main reason we’re here is because of Kohl’s shopping center. They have a long-term commitment,” Dyer said.

“We get along with everybody here. We help each other’s businesses,” Bernard added.

Besides helping manage Bahia, Dyer, who retired from the U.S. Air Force, is a Red Cross disaster volunteer returning recently from areas struck by Hurricane Katrina.

“I wanted to get into a business that I could work in and enjoy,” Dyer said about Bahia Tans and his investment in the Ice Bears.

The couple said they hope the team continues to prosper.

“Hockey is not a traditional sport in the South, but it’s just because people haven’t had the opportunity. But you go to one game and you get hooked. … It’s non-stop. The minute you come in the door, there’s something going on,” Bernard said.

That “something” will appeal to children as much as it does to adults.

“We really push for a family-oriented atmosphere. I always tell the kids ‘sometimes there’s fighting in the game, but when players fight, they get in trouble. They have to go sit down,’” she said about the sparring that often breaks out in a game fueling the fans as much as the players.

“Our games are the best entertainment value for your dollar,” Bernard added. “If you’ve got kids, you won’t be sitting there telling them to be quiet. They’re gonna be involved in the game.”

The Knoxville Ice Bears play about 30 home games at Knoxville Coliseum this season. Ticket prices range from $6 to $26/each for luxury box seats. For information about the Ice Bears, call 865-525-PUCK.


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