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Arizona Coyotes to purchase Springfield Falcons, relocate team to Tucson

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Rumored for many years, it appears the Arizona Coyotes' AHL affiliate will be moving closer to home.

An interior look at the Tucson Convention Center
An interior look at the Tucson Convention Center
Sergio E. Mendez

This may be the first time we're okay with using "Arizona Coyotes" and "relocation" in the same sentence.

The Coyotes announced earlier this morning that they will execute a purchase agreement with the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League to buy the minor league hockey franchise. If the agreement receives AHL Board of Governors approval, the Coyotes will relocate the team to Tucson for the 2016-17 season. The team is working with the City of Tucson and Rio Nuevo to get them moved to the Tucson Convention Center.

A move of the team's primary minor league affiliate has been rumored almost since IceArizona acquired the Coyotes in 2013. But a report last week by Arizona Sports' Craig Morgan suggested the effort gained significant traction in recent months.

Arizona's affiliate in Tucson (whose name may end up changing to reflect its new home in the desert) would play at a TCC in need of upgrades. However, the site has long been the home for the University of Arizona's ACHA hockey club. Bringing the facility up to AHL standards should not be immensely difficult.

The purchase and move reflects both the Coyotes on-ice and off-ice priorities. Tucson is just two hours by car from Phoenix, which would make emergency call-ups considerably easier. It also has a major airport that more easily connects to other Western Conference cities should the team need a quick call-up while on the road. Both of Arizona's previous AHL cities - Portland, Maine and Springfield, Massachusetts - were not.

Additionally, the move expands professional hockey's footprint in Arizona. Tucson is Arizona's second largest city, and the greater Tucson metropolitan area is home to just under one million residents. It's a market that IceArizona would like to make major inroads in, and bringing professional hockey to Tucson will ideally spur further interest in youth hockey, as well as create opportunities to build more rinks and increase connections to a city that hasn't had ties to professional sports in Arizona since the Arizona Diamondbacks removed their AAA and Spring Training affiliations from Tucson.

The sale still has to be approved by the AHL Board of Governors, and bringing the TCC up to standards will take time and resources. But the move is a major indication of the team's continuing commitment to the state of Arizona.