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Op-Ed: Keep the Roadrunners in Tucson

Credit: Kate Dibildox || Tucson Roadrunners

The Tucson Roadrunners season ended earlier than many of us anticipated. After falling to the Calgary Wranglers in a best-of-three first-round series in the Calder Cup Playoffs, much of the teams’ future remains shrouded in mystery.

Back when reports were first emerging about the Arizona Coyotes’ pending move to Salt Lake City, additional reports were coming out about the future of the club’s AHL franchise. Then, a source reached out to me and said the plan, internally, was indeed to move the Tucson Roadrunners up the I-10 to play at Mullett Arena beginning next year, confirming many previous theories.

In theory, the reasoning behind moving the Roadrunners to Phoenix/Tempe makes sense: fill the void left by the departing Coyotes and give the metro area of nearly five million a hockey team again. However, in practice, it can cause much more harm than advertised.

The Roadrunners have called the Tucson Convention Center home for 8 years. They have seen all the ups and downs that go with new minor-league franchises, but over time they have captured the heart of the city in many special ways

For example, the Tucson Roadrunners have adapted to the culture that embodies its home city. The creation of “El Lazo del Tucson” is all the proof you need. The connection with The Old Pueblo’s roots and its Latinx culture speaks louder than I’ve seen elsewhere. Imagine taking all that away… just to fill a void in a city from the departed NHL franchise.

Take it from somebody who spent the first nearly six years of their professional career in the Tucson Convention Center. Longtime followers of Five for Howling know I started covering the team in its second season — yes that season: the one that had Dylan Strome, Nick Merkley, and Lawson Crouse as your top line. The season that saw Conor Garland’s rise to prominence… and favorites Laurent Dauphin, Dysin Mayo, Kyle Capobianco… The team that brought Tucson its first Whiteout. All that was just one year, and, since then, this team has seen so much more.

I live in the Phoenix metro area now. I have so many reasons to be selfish on the rumored move to The Valley. Mullett Arena is only a 10-minute drive from my home, I can easily return to covering this Roadrunners team full-time, and I certainly will if they do. But the Roadrunners are Tucson’s team. They always will be, in my mind.

Mr. Meurelo, If you are reading this, you must make the right decision. Don’t try to fix the problem in Phoenix by creating a whole new problem in Tucson. Many fans are already disappointed in the current situation, I know you know that. And alienating the growing fan base in Tucson will only make things worse. Please, do not erase eight-plus years of progress growing hockey in Southern Arizona. Keep the Tucson Roadrunners in Tucson.

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