Tucson's new hockey team to start playing in October

Tucson's new hockey team to start playing in October

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's "official, official" now.

Tucson has a pro hockey team again.

The Arizona Coyotes on Thursday officially announced they are moving their AHL team to the Old Pueblo for the 2016-17 season.

It has been quite a whirlwind since April 14, when KOLD News 13 first reported about the possibility of Tucson getting a hockey team.

Just five days later, the Coyotes signed an agreement to purchase an AHL franchise that was playing its games in Springfield, MA.

On April 26, the Rio Nuevo board voted unanimously to pay for upgrades to the TCC. The improvements were a required part of the deal to bring the facility up to standards of the pro hockey organizations.

Less than a month later -- May 17 -- the Tucson City Council approved a 10-year lease for the AHL team to play its home games in the Tucson Convention Center. Minutes after that vote, the Coyotes announced a contest for fans to name the new team.

Then on May 18, the Coyotes closed on the purchase of the franchise.

The yet-to-be-named squad, which will be the Coyotes' top farm team, will play in the AHL's Pacific Division. In 2015-16, the Pacific Division featured the AHL affiliates of the Anaheim Ducks (San Diego Gulls), Calgary Flames (Stockton Heat), Colorado Avalanche (San Antonio Rampage), Dallas Stars (Texas Stars), Edmonton Oilers (Bakersfield Condors), Los Angeles Kings (Ontario Reign) and San Jose Sharks (San Jose Barracuda).

"We are absolutely thrilled to relocate our AHL team to Tucson," said Coyotes' President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. "The Coyotes were part of the initial discussion to form a Pacific Division in the AHL but we were unable to secure a franchise prior to last season. We are extremely excited and proud to bring AHL hockey to a first class city like Tucson. This further proves that the Coyotes ownership group is committed to Arizona and to growing the Coyotes brand and the great game of hockey in our state."

Founded in 1936 and now with franchises in 30 cities across North America, the AHL serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 NHL teams. More than 88 percent of today's NHL players are AHL graduates.

"On behalf of our other 29 teams across North America, I would like to welcome the fans of Tucson to the American Hockey League family," said David Andrews, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer. "The Arizona Coyotes organization continues to show terrific commitment to growing and developing our sport throughout the state, and we are excited to now be a part of those efforts."

Tucson has had several minor league hockey franchises over the years: Tucson Mavericks of the CHL (1975-76), the Tucson Icemen of the SWHL (1976-77), the Tucson Rustlers of the PHL (1978-79) and the Tucson Gila Monsters of the WCHL (1997-99).

"The Coyotes are a good match for the TCC Arena," said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. "I know I join many Tucsonans in looking forward to their first home game."

Ticket information is available at arizonacoyotes.com/ahl, 866-415-4695 or ahlhockey@arizonacoyotes.com.

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