New Tucson Pro Hockey Team on More Solid Ice Than Past Versions

By Gassen, Timothy | AZ Daily Star, April 22, 2016 | Go to article overview

New Tucson Pro Hockey Team on More Solid Ice Than Past Versions


Gassen, Timothy, AZ Daily Star


The challenge for people like me -- those whose lives have been changed forever by ice hockey -- is always the same: explain exactly why hockey is important to our community.

And now that Tucson has its greatest on-ice opportunity ever with the placement of an American Hockey League professional team downtown at the Tucson Convention Center, that challenge must finally be fully met.

Professional hockey has not yet succeeded in Tucson, so naysayers might flippantly assume that this new franchise will automatically meet the same oblivion of the 1970s CHL Tucson Mavericks and SWHL Icemen, the 1990s WCHL Gila Monsters, and 2000 WPHL Scorch.

But Tucson and Arizona today, and the circumstances surrounding this new team, are critically different than those past attempts.

The previous failures were in lower-level minor leagues, poorly led by owners who never held the complete combination of local roots, deep pockets and marketing acumen.

This new AHL team will compete in the highest minor circuit -- just below the major National Hockey League level -- in a league whose history is almost as long as the NHL's and just as important to hockey. The AHL estimates that 90 percent of all NHL players have played with an AHL team.

The team is owned by the NHL Arizona Coyotes, just up the road in Glendale, and is an obvious trumpet to the hockey world that professional hockey will stay -- and thrive -- in Arizona.

Players on their way up to the majors, and Coyotes rehabbing or re-developing, will grace the Tucson roster.

Hockey in the West has also evolved since the earlier attempts in Tucson. Nearby San Diego has its own checkered history with professional hockey, but the new San Diego Gulls are just completing their first AHL season as a wild success, boasting more than 8,000 fans a game at an older arena that hosted failing teams all the way back to the 1970s.

The Arizona State University club hockey team this year made an amazing jump up to the NCAA Division I level, an accomplishment thought absolutely impossible during the past two decades -- and success on the ice has been possible in Tucson, too. …

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New Tucson Pro Hockey Team on More Solid Ice Than Past Versions
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