Tucson’s new AHL team coined ‘Roadrunners’ in fan vote
Even though the Tucson Roadrunners will be new to the American Hockey League (AHL) and to the city this fall, the team’s nickname comes with a near 50-year tradition in the state.
The Roadrunners will play at the Tucson Convention Center, the site where the name and logo were revealed by Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc on June 18. The Coyotes are the parent club of the Roadrunners, who will be their top affiliate.
“We are very proud to name our AHL affiliate the Tucson Roadrunners,” said LeBlanc. “The Tucson Roadrunners will build on the great traditions of hockey in Arizona dating back to 1967. Roadrunners was the overwhelming fan favorite during our ‘Name the Team’ contest, and we thank the thousands of fans who helped us select a great name that creates a strong connection to the city of Tucson, reflects our state pride, and extends the reach of the Coyotes brand.”
Nearly 5,000 fans participated in the naming campaign. Paul Sheldon was randomly chosen as the winner of the contest and has won two Roadrunners season tickets for the 2016-17 AHL regular season, a Roadrunners team jersey and a 12-person suite to a 2016-17 Coyotes regular-season home game at the Gila River Arena.
In 1967, the Phoenix Roadrunners of the Western Hockey League (WHL) became Arizona’s first professional sports team, playing out of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The Roadrunners were WHL champions in both 1973 and 1974. When the WHL disbanded in 1974, the Roadrunners became a part of the World Hockey Association (WHA) and subsequently, the Pacific Hockey League (PHL) until 1979. Ten years later, the Roadrunners were back as part of the International Hockey League (IHL) and remained in the Valley until 1997. The Roadrunners returned to Phoenix in 2005 as a member of the ECHL until 2009.
The Roadrunners logo features a bird that is ready for game action, wearing a hockey uniform, skates and carrying a hockey stick. The hockey sweater on the roadrunner includes the flag of Arizona (in Coyotes colors) which is also used by the Coyotes as a shoulder patch on the team’s jerseys. The roadrunner’s head, tail, gloves and striping on his jersey, pants and socks are all copper in reference to Arizona’s nickname of the “Copper State,” which pays homage to the mineral wealth in Tucson and Arizona.
And while the players on the ice in Tucson are yet to be determined, Mark Lamb will serve as head coach and Mark Hardy has been tabbed as the assistant coach.
“We are very pleased to add Mark Lamb as our head coach for the Tucson Roadrunners,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka. “Mark is an experienced NHL coach who did an excellent job developing young players in Swift Current (with the WHL’s Broncos) for many years. He previously worked with (Coyotes head coach) Dave Tippett in Dallas and we are confident that this will be a great fit for our organization.”
Prior to joining the Coyotes organization, Lamb was the coach-GM of the Broncos for seven seasons. He was the longest tenured coach in the WHL after taking over the role in July 2009.
Lamb previously spent seven years as an assistant coach in the NHL, including six seasons with the Dallas Stars and one with the Edmonton Oilers. He served on Tippett’s staff with the Stars from 2002-09.
Hardy joins the Coyotes with 10 years of NHL coaching experience after working on the staffs of the Los Angeles Kings (1999-2006, 2008-10) and the Chicago Blackhawks (2006-08). He most recently served on the Chicago Wolves’ (AHL) coaching staff since 2014 after spending three seasons as an assistant coach with the Ontario Reign (ECHL). A Kings draft pick in 1979, Hardy also spent time as an assistant coach with the IHL’s Long Beach Ice Dogs from 1995-99.
– Matt Mackinder