It may come as a surprise to you to learn that Phoenix is a hockey town. After all, we’re in the desert. Yes, we’re the home of the NHL Coyotes, but as far back as 1967 we’ve had hockey. Real Hockey. Minor League Hockey.
There is something special about minor league hockey. Those young players aren’t making much money. They are out there for the dream of being picked up by an NHL team, but mostly they are out there for the love of the game. More than one minor league player has told me, “I can’t NOT play hockey”.
We had a great old hockey arena in Phoenix: The Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Some say it was designed specifically for hockey. At any rate there was not a bad seat in the house. And sometimes every one of those 13,730 seats was full. It quickly became known as “The Ice House On McDowell.”
The Phoenix Roadrunners – The Original Phoenix Hockey Team
Originally the Victoria Maple Leafs, the team was purchased in 1967 and moved to Phoenix, Arizona where they became the Phoenix Roadrunners and started their 42 year legacy. I was coming of age in the early 1970’s and remember the raucous crowds. Phoenix loved the Roadrunners.
The Roadrunners survived through a series of leagues, starting with the Western Hockey League (WHL) and ending with the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). No matter the league, San Diego was our arch rival.
The Phoenix Mustangs
After the Roadrunners ceased operation in 1967, a group of investors decided they didn’t want minor league hockey in Phoenix to die. Unable to obtain the rights to the Roadrunners name, they christened the team the Phoenix Mustangs.
The Mustangs opened for the 1997-1998 season, and lived through the 2000-2001 season. the mustangs ceased operation when they were no longer able to lease the Coliseum.
My entire family had season tickets. Were were there for almost every game. I knew my wife was hooked on Hockey when she asked me for a Mustangs Jersey for Mother’s Day.
I still get emotional when I remember that sudden-death goal by Tony Iob (aka ’10-B’) that clinched the WCHL Taylor Cup championship in 2000.
Arizona Sundogs – Prescott Valley
The Arizona Sundogs were a minor league professional ice hockey team based in Prescott Valley, Arizona. They played in the Central Hockey League from 2006 to 2014 with their home games at Tim’s Toyota Center.
Sundogs players were informed on August 20, 2014 that the team has suspended operations and elected dormancy. The next day, an official press release was posted and stated they hope to return for the 2015-16 CHL season. The team has announced with the merging of the CHL and the ECHL in 2014 that they are looking into options to join the ECHL in 2015. It is now the end of 2018 and that has not happened.
Tucson Roadrunners – Alive and Well
The Roadrunners returned in 2016 when the Coyotes purchased an American Hockey League affiliate from Springfield, Illinois, and moved the team to Tucson. So now when the Coyotes call up a fresh player, he need only hop on Interstate 10 to make the commute. A naming contest for fans changed the team’s moniker from Falcons to Roadrunners.