Roadrunners hockey history continues in Tucson: NHL’s top minor league affiliate for the Arizona Coyotes


Michael Russell

Tucson Roadrunners defeat the San Antonio Rampage in home opener.

Michael Russell, Reporter

The Tucson Roadrunners, the top minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes opened their home hockey season with a pair of games against the San Antonio Rampage.

The Phoenix Roadrunners are familiar to many hockey fans as they were located in the Valley for many years. In their first run, they were members of the minor league WHL, (World Hockey League) from 1967-1974.

The Roadrunners then joined the major league World Hockey Association in 1974—a rival league of the NHL that existed from 1972-1979 when the league merged several teams into the NHL, including the three-time WHA champion, Winnipeg Jets, that later became the Arizona Coyotes.

The Phoenix Roadrunners next emerged from 1989-1997 when they were the top minor league team of Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings. Playing in the “Madhouse on McDowell”, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, they had three playoff appearances in the International Hockey League (IHL), and sent many players to the NHL including Yanic Perreault, who scored the all-time Roadrunner record of 51 goals in 1994, and had a 15- year NHL career. 

They appeared in Phoenix from 2005-2009 and were purchased by Suns owner Robert Sarver. The team shared the US Airways Center with the Suns who were in the Steve Nash heyday.

During Roadrunner games, the Phoenix Sun’s floor was stored in dozens of “puzzle pieces”, and then re-assembled over the ice before every game of the then high flying Suns. A Roadrunner ticket was often paired with a Suns ticket in a “Hot & Cool” package deal.

Roadrunner fans have enjoyed close-up hockey action and family affordable prices for many years.

Today, the Tucson Roadrunners have re-emerged and play in an intimate 8,000 seat arena with plenty of the same up-close action and affordable prices.

“Chuck-A-Puck” is a fan favorite between-period competition where a small hat is placed at center ice. Fans can purchase soft pucks with serial numbers which they toss onto the ice— any puck landing in the hat wins a cash jackpot. Several team sponsor mats are also placed nearby and fan pucks landing on those mats win sponsor items as well. A list of Tucson Roadrunner promotions can be found here.

Tucson’s opening night home game on Oct.18 went into overtime against San Antonio.

Tucson rallied and won 4-3 and went on to sweep the two-game series with a 4-2 win on Oct. 19.

The Tucson Roadrunner’s second-year head coach, Jay Varady, begins the season with a 4-1 record.

Roadrunners are lead in scoring by center Lane Pederson, who was also last season’s leading scorer.

Walt Ruff, the Tucson Roadrunners Media Relations Manager, likes the direction the Roadrunners are going, both in putting a winning and fan-friendly product on the ice as well as serving the Arizona Coyotes needs as the season progresses.

“The Coyotes and Roadrunners have a tremendous partnership,” Ruff said.

The Roadrunners are in constant contact with Coyotes General Manager, John Chayka, the youngest GM in NHL history. 

Antti Raanta started in goal for the Tucson Roadrunners season opener and shutout Texas 2-0.

Raanta was recalled by the Coyotes and forms a solid one-two punch in goal with Darcy Kuemper.

Other former Roadrunners currently playing for the Coyotes include Conor Garland, who is currently leading the Coyotes in goals, Christian Fischer and Lawson Crouse.  

Ruff also has a weekly Roadrunners podcast on I-Heart Radio.

Play-by-play announcer Adrian Denny calls all Tucson games on Fox Sports radio, 1450-AM.