In the cartoon, Wile E. Coyote is always trying to catch the Road Runner, to no avail.
Saturday, there was no cartoon character, but this time, Coyotes and Roadrunners came together.
In an announcement at the Tucson Convention Center, the new local American Hockey League franchise, and affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes, revealed its name to be the Tucson Roadrunners. The organization held a “name the team” contest and Roadrunners was the “overwhelming favorite,” said Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc.
“We were just so overwhelmed with the support we saw and the names that were submitted,” LeBlanc said. “We knew that was the right name.”
The newly named Roadrunners will kick off their season at TCC on Oct. 28.
In the cartoon, the characters certainly never had this type of fanfare. At an unveiling event at TCC on Saturday, more than 1,000 locals gathered — many fully clad in Coyotes regalia — to learn of Tucson’s newest sports franchise. Season ticket packages were sold, and games were available — including a virtual slap shot on an NHL goalie — for a couple hours before the announcement even happened.
With the Old Pueblo’s recent exodus of professional sports — the Tucson Padres left in 2014, as did the Accenture Match Play golf championship — it appears the city of Tucson is excited for some ice hockey.
“The turnout was incredible. Quite frankly it exceeded my expectations,” said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “There has been excitement. It’s a community that wants good things to happen and it’s a sports community. So you have this level of sports activity it just makes people feel better about it and it creates a good buzz.”
The season won’t start until the end of October, but on Oct. 9 the team will host a red-and-white intrasquad game in which all of the Coyotes’ NHL players will play along with the AHL roster from the Roadrunners. Admission is free, but the Coyotes are asking fans for a $5 donation upon entry, with all proceeds going toward the University of Arizona hockey program.
“That will go straight back into the U of A program,” LeBlanc said. “If you get to share an arena with a professional hockey team and a bunch of kids who have been drafted into the NHL, it’s the osmosis of being around those types of individuals. If you’re a member of the University of Arizona hockey program, you’re going to be excited.”
Roadrunners had surfaced as the likely name for the team in recent weeks, and the excitement upon the reveal — confetti rained down as LeBlanc announced the name — was palpable.
LeBlanc said there were 50 or 60 name submissions, but Roadrunners was the favorite by a wide margin.
Andrew Barroway, the Coyotes’ majority owner, wasn’t in attendance at Saturday afternoon’s event, but LeBlanc said he was happy with the decision. He was “heavily involved in the process” and “was very happy with it because it’s the one he wanted to see.”
The next step in the process for the Roadrunners — outside of the completion of renovations for the team at TCC — will be another naming contest for the name of the team’s mascot, along with a decision on the look of the team’s jerseys. Another part of the agenda — building a practice facility nearby, which Rio Nuevo’s Fletcher McCusker said could be done in the next year or two.
“We’re looking for the best space,” he said.
The Roadrunners logo features a bird in a hockey uniform, skates and carrying a hockey stick. The jersey on the roadrunner including a flag of Arizona (in Coyotes colors). The roadrunner’s head, tail, gloves and striping on his jersey, pants and socks are all copper, in reference to one of Arizona’s nicknames — “the Copper State.”
“I really like the roadrunners particularly in relationship to the Coyotes,” Rothschild said. “I love the idea of having the Roadrunners being the fast, witty quick ones always running around, the Coyotes chasing them down.
“But remember, in this case, every Roadrunner wants to be a Coyote.”