Tag: NHL

Meep Meep! Tucson Secures Pro Hockey Team

roadrunners

There’s a new team in town and this one seems to be here for the long haul.

Tucson has had it’s flirtations with pro baseball with the Sidewinders, Toros, Padres as well as the spring training home for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. Eventually each of the following left the Old Pueblo and with it a gaping hole longing for something to root for other than the University of Arizona.

When it was announced earlier this year that the Arizona Coyotes were thinking of moving their top-level affiliate team from Springfield, Mass. the city was abuzz with the opportunity that it would actually move to Tucson. There were the typical nay-sayers and detractors commenting that Tucson couldn’t support a pro franchise even on the AAA-level or there was not enough of a fan base for ice hockey in the desert.

Boy, were they wrong.

LeBlanc. Chayka & Tippett

LeBlanc. Chayka & Tippett

In an announcement at the Tucson Convention Center on Saturday, the new local American Hockey League franchise, and affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes, revealed its name to be the Tucson Roadrunners. The organization held a “name the team” contest and Roadrunners was the “overwhelming favorite,” said Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc.

“We were just so overwhelmed with the support we saw and the names that were submitted,” LeBlanc said. “We knew that was the right name.”

The owners, coaches and prominent representatives were all on hand for the announcement.

“The turnout was incredible. Quite frankly it exceeded my expectations,” said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “There has been excitement. It’s a community that wants good things to happen and it’s a sports community. So you have this level of sports activity it just makes people feel better about it and it creates a good buzz.”

New head coach Mark Lamb is eager to develop new players for the big boys in Glendale. Lamb’s coaching resume includes six seasons as an assistant to Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett when Tippett was behind the bench in Dallas from 2002-09.

Also in the mix are are Mark Hardy as the primary assistant coach and Corey Schwab who will coach the goaltenders. Hardy also coached with Tippett; both were assistants with the Los Angeles Kings under Andy Murray from 1999-2002.

New Head Coach Mark Lamb

New Head Coach Mark Lamb

Now on to the big business of getting the home of the Roadrunners renovated. While the Tucson IceCats have played at the Convention Center for years, there will a litany of improvements made to the location in preparation of the new minor league team. The Rio Nuevo Board approved $3.7 million in upgrades to the arena.

The project will include locker room renovations, a new Zamboni, new dasher boards, an additional video system, renovation of the ice making equipment, and a new retail store.

The season won’t start until the end of October, but on Oct. 9 the team will host a red-and-white intrasquad game in which all of the Coyotes’ NHL players will play along with the AHL roster from the Roadrunners. Admission is free, but the Coyotes are asking fans for a $5 donation upon entry, with all proceeds going toward the University of Arizona hockey program.

The Roadrunners will play in the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division. In 2015-16, the Pacific Division featured the AHL affiliates of the Anaheim Ducks (San Diego Gulls), Calgary Flames (Stockton Heat), Colorado Avalanche (San Antonio Rampage), Dallas Stars (Texas Stars), Edmonton Oilers (Bakersfield Condors), Los Angeles Kings (Ontario Reign) and San Jose Sharks (San Jose Barracuda).

The season will begin in earnest on October 28 and ticket prices will range from $10 to $40 per game with discounts for season ticket packages. Visit arizonacoyotes.com/ahl or call 866-415-4695. Fans can also email ticket representatives at ahlhockey@arizonacoyotes.com.

Why the Coyotes Are the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL

dangerfield

The Phoenix Coyotes are coming off their best season ever, including their first Pacific Division Championship and Western Conference Finals appearance. Why is it that the good people at NBC Sports and the NHL Network selected so few of their games to be televised?

The answer is clear—no respect.

Of the 48 games this season, only five will be nationally televised. Additionally, three of the five games feature two of the “Original Six” teams in the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

It is no secret that hockey fans in those cities are more passionate about their teams than most people are about their own children, but that is not the fault of your typical hockey fan in Phoenix or the state of Arizona for that matter.

The metropolitan Phoenix area or “The Valley of the Sun” as it is called by its four million-plus residents is a haven for those that eschew the snowstorms, the black ice and everything that comes with the foreign concept of winter.

The Past

 The story of the Phoenix Coyotes is tumultuous at best, with everything from bankruptcy to the “Great One” himself getting involved in an attempt to turn things around. Since the relocation of the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix in 1996, there has yet to be a devoted fan base akin to that of the “Original Six” despite reaching the playoffs in five of the their first six seasons in the desert.
With several ownership issues and seven straight seasons of missing the playoffs, the franchise looked doomed. In September, 2009, Dave Tippett became the new coach and they made the playoffs for two straight years, but like the five trips before, they never escaped the first round.

The following season saw the Coyotes go undefeated in February and they finished the 2011-12 season with three straight wins and their first Pacific Division Championship.

After losing two straight years to the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, the Coyotes faced another familiar foe, the Chicago Blackhawks. After beating the Blackhawks in six and the Nashville Predators in five games, they advanced to their first ever Western Conference Finals.

The Coyotes looked tired and lost in five games to eventual Stanley Cup Champions,Los Angeles Kings.

The Future

stars
The lockout is over, the team practiced in front of fans for the first time on Sunday and training camp began on Monday. There was a scrimmage on Wednesday night that was free to the public and the first game is Saturday in Dallas.

The home opener will be against their first round opponent from the 2012 playoffs, Chicago Blackhawks at 8pm. Their home schedule in January also includes Nashville and Los Angeles, whom the Coyotes met in their 2012 playoff run.

New additions to the Coyotes for the 2013 season will be Steve Sullivan, David Moos, Zbynek Michaelek and Nick Johnson. Sullivan is a journeyman winger that has played for six NHL teams and thrives on power play goals, an area where Phoenix suffers. Moos is coming off an injury and hasn’t played since last November when he was on the Calgary Flames.

Zbynek was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins via a trade in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and is a solid defenseman that played for five seasons with the Coyotes from 2004-2009. Johnson comes over from the Minnesota Wild and is hoping for a spot on the third or fourth line.

Also returning for another stint with the Coyotes is Center Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi was acquired on Wednesday from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a fourth-round pick.

“I’m super excited,” Lombardi said. “I never wanted to leave in the first place, so it’s a great opportunity.”

General Manager Don Maloney also recalled four players from the AHL affiliate, Portland Pirates. Defensemen Michael Stone and David Rundblad were re-signed as well as forwards Alexandre Bolduc and Andy Miele.

All four players had played at some point for the Coyotes last season and Stone gained valuable playoff time as well.

Who knows what the new season holds for the Phoenix Coyotes, but with Dave Tippett at the helm, it could only mean good things. Tippett has taken the team to new heights with three straight winning seasons and its highest three year stretch averaging 101 points.

The team’s leader in points and assists, Ray Whitney is gone to Dallas but Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and all your favorite Desert Dogs will return to Jobing.com arena—just not to your TV set.