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AHL 04/27 01:00 7 [7] ΚΑΛ Ράνγκλερς v TUC Ρόουντρανερς [2] L 4-3
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AHL 04/07 01:00 - [8] TUC Ρόουντρανερς v ΣΝ Γκαλς [28] W 4-1
AHL 04/04 01:30 1 [2] TUC Ρόουντρανερς v ΜΠΑΚ Κόντορς [7] L 1-4
AHL 03/31 02:00 1 [9] ΣΝ Γκαλς v TUC Ρόουντρανερς [2] W 3-7
AHL 03/30 02:00 1 [9] ΣΝ Γκαλς v TUC Ρόουντρανερς [2] L 4-0

Wikipedia - Tucson Roadrunners

The Tucson Roadrunners are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League (AHL) that began play for the 2016–17 season. Based in Tucson, Arizona, and affiliated with the National Hockey League's unnamed Utah team, the Roadrunners play their home games at the Tucson Convention Center Arena.

On April 18, 2024, the Arizona Coyotes, the Roadrunners' previous NHL affiliate, was inactivated by the NHL Board of Governors. The team's hockey operations were transferred to form a new, standalone, expansion team in Utah, with the owner of the Coyotes (Alex Meruelo) being granted a five-year window to potentially reactivate the Coyotes. Announcements have confirmed that the Roadrunners will be the AHL affiliate for the Utah team for the 2024–25 season, while Meruelo – who also owns the Roadrunners – has not yet finalized plans as to whether the AHL club will change its location or name.

History

Arizona Coyotes affiliation

On April 19, 2016, the Arizona Coyotes announced that they had reached an agreement to purchase their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, and would relocate the team to Tucson for the 2016–17 season. Said purchase and relocation was contingent on three approvals; the first from Rio Nuevo (Tucson's downtown revitalization authority) to invest $3.2 million in arena upgrades to bring the Convention Center to professional-quality standards was approved on April 26, the second from the AHL Board of Governors to conditionally approve the purchase and relocation by the Coyotes was approved on May 10, and the third from the Tucson City Council for a 10-year lease with the Convention Center was approved on May 17.

A name-the-team contest was held between May 17 and May 31. The hockey club's new name and logo were revealed on June 18 during the Tucson Convention Center's open house event. The chosen name, Roadrunners, pays homage to the Phoenix Roadrunners, a team name that was used for various Phoenix professional hockey teams from 1967 to 2009, and creates a play on words with its parent club the Coyotes (a reference to the classic cartoon duo of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner). Its logo, as well, is a close match for the traditional logo used for Phoenix Roadrunners' teams of the past. On October 27, the day before their home opener, the Roadrunners unveiled their mascot, Dusty the Roadrunner. Dusty wears number 16 on his jersey, representing the year the Springfield Falcons relocated to Tucson in 2016.

On June 21, 2016, Mark Lamb was hired as the team's first head coach after holding the same position with the Western Hockey League's Swift Current Broncos since 2009. Mark Hardy was hired as an assistant coach. The team named its first president Brian Sandy, along with three other key staff members, on July 18. On July 20, the Roadrunners announced their first general manager, Doug Soetaert, promoted from his former position as a scout for the Coyotes.

The Roadrunners played their first-ever game on October 14, 2016, against the San Diego Gulls at Pechanga Arena, losing 5–3. Roadrunners' inaugural captain Craig Cunningham scored the team's first two goals in franchise history. The Roadrunners played their first home game two weeks later on October 28, winning by a score of 6–5 in front of 6,521 fans.

During a home game against the Manitoba Moose on November 19, 2016, Roadrunners player Craig Cunningham collapsed on the ice just before the opening faceoff. He was promptly transported to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with an acute cardiac arrest resulting from ventricular fibrillation, a condition that caused his heart to stop beating. The arena's medical team, in addition to the staff at St. Mary's Hospital and Banner-University Medical Center, worked continuously for 85 minutes to administer CPR and ultimately succeeded in saving his life. On October 27, 2017, the Roadrunners retired Cunningham's No. 14 jersey during a pregame ceremony.

After one season, Lamb was released and replaced by Mike Van Ryn, the player development coach with the Coyotes. Under Van Ryn, the Roadrunners finished in first place in the Pacific Division but were eliminated by the Texas Stars in the division finals of the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs. Van Ryn then left to pursue other coaching opportunities and was hired by the St. Louis Blues. The Coyotes then hired Jay Varady as head coach of the Roadrunners for the 2018–19 season after a successful season as coach of the Kingston Frontenacs.

On May 12, 2020, the AHL announced the cancelation for the remainder of the 2019–20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Roadrunners were awarded the Pacific division title for having the best record in the division when play was suspended and later canceled. Prior to the postponed start of the 2020–21 season, head coach Varady joined the Coyotes' staff as an assistant coach and assistant Steve Potvin was promoted to head coach of the Roadrunners. Varady returned to the Roadrunners as head coach before the 2021–22 season. Following the season, Varady departed for the Detroit Red Wings as an assistant coach, with Potvin being renamed as head coach for the 2022–23 season.

In the 2022–23 season, Roadrunners forward Michael Carcone led the AHL in total scoring with 31 goals, 54 assists, and 85 total points in 65 games played, winning the John B. Sollenberger Trophy. Carcone also set franchise records in goals, assists, points, power-play goals (14), and shots on goal (273), while earning his first career AHL All-Star selection and being named to the AHL First All-Star Team at the end of the season. The Roadrunners also saw the professional debut of forward Josh Doan, joining the team in March 2023 following his sophomore season with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Doan debuted with Tucson on March 17 and scored his first pro goal two games later on March 21. The Roadrunners qualified for the 2023 Calder Cup playoffs, marking their first appearance since 2018. In the first round, they faced the Coachella Valley Firebirds, where they lost in a win-or-go-home game 3.

In the 2023–24 season, the Roadrunners had rookie Josh Doan and goalie Matthew Villalta represent them for the 2024 AHL All-Star Game. Doan finished the regular season with 26 goals and 20 assists for 46 points in 62 games, as his 26 goals ranked first on the Roadrunners along with all rookies in the AHL, while Villalta led the AHL with 31 wins. The Roadrunners finished the regular season with a 43–23–4–2 record and finished second in the AHL’s Pacific Division, with their 43 wins marking the most in a single season for the Roadrunners; which helped them clinch home-ice advantage for the first round of the 2024 Calder Cup playoffs and bring home playoff games to Tucson for the first time since 2018. However, Tucson was upset by the Calgary Wranglers in the first round, losing the first two games in a best-of-three series.

Utah affiliation and potential relocation

Following concerns about an indefinite timeframe on a new arena and the effects of continued play at the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena in Tempe, the NHL facilitated the sale of the Coyotes franchise to Utah-based billionaire Ryan Smith on April 18, 2024, after the NHL Board of Governors voted to establish a team in Utah using the Coyotes' hockey assets; however, rather than formally relocate, the Coyotes franchise was instead marked "inactive", with Utah considered a hybrid (due to transfer of assets) expansion team. Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo retained his rights to the Roadrunners, confirming that they would continue as the AHL affiliate for the Utah NHL team, and initially announced his intention to move the Roadrunners from Tucson to Mullett Arena (either part-time or full-time) before rescinding those comments the next day, stating that he "spoke too soon". The lease agreement with Mullett Arena is specifically for an NHL team, and any adjustments to the lease agreement with the ASU-owned arena would need to be approved by the Arizona Board of Regents. Furthermore, Tucson city officials received no communication from Meruelo on this intended move, nor has the Roadrunners franchise.