The Tucson Roadrunners formally introduced a new head coach and general manager on Wednesday, officially signaling a change in direction for the second-year American Hockey League club.
Coach Mike Van Ryn spent last season as the player development coach for the Arizona Coyotes, the Roadrunners’ parent club. Steve Sullivan, the team’s new GM, formerly served as the Coyotes’ director of player development.
Both Van Ryn and Sullivan played in the NHL and have experience both coaching at playing at the highest level.
Van Ryn, a former first-round pick in the 1998 NHL draft, played 10 seasons for the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Sullivan played 1,011 NHL games for six different teams, including playing for the then Phoenix Coyotes, the organization he now works for.
The hirings of Van Ryn and Sullivan signal a new direction the two organizations are aiming for, one filled with buzzwords like synergy and continuity as keys to success.
Coyotes general manager John Chayka appointed — and then fired — Roadrunners coach Mark Lamb and general manager Doug Soetaert within a one-year period. The Roadrunners went 29-31-8 on the season and finished with 66 points under Lamb and Soetaert.
Despite the successful attendance numbers and an overall positive inaugural season, Chayka opted for a fresh start in hopes of improving continuity between the two groups.
Van Ryn said his staff will take every possible step to ensure the two organizations maintain strong lines of communication and even employ the same system on the ice, leading to potentially seamless transitions from the AHL to the NHL.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Coyotes President and CEO Steve Patterson said “alignment between the Coyotes and the Roadrunners” is a significant factor in player development and will be the primary focus going forward.
“My staff and the NHL staff just got done meeting for a couple days and what they play up top is what we’re going to play down here,” Van Ryn said. “The systems are going to align, the verbiage that’s used will be the same … so when our guys go up, it’s not like you’re speaking a different language. It’s going to set them up for success.”
Roadrunners President Bob Hoffman also announced several community outreach programs the organization will implement for the upcoming season. Chief among those is the Roadrunners Give Back initiative.
Roadrunners Give Back will function as part of the Arizona Coyotes Foundation to provide support for local charities and youth organizations. The first step for the initiative was partnering with the American Heart Association to sponsor the AHA’s Hoops for Heart and Jump Rope for Heart challenges.
Hoffman said the charitable work will aid community growth and provide financial support for those involved, all of which will be put back into the Tucson community.