The Tucson Roadrunners’ opening weekend at home may not have had the numbers in the seats to mimic prior years, but the end result again sent fans home happy.
While Friday’s announced crowd of 5,593 was the club’s smallest for a home opener to date, the Roadrunners didn’t miss a beat on the ice. Dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season — the Roadrunners’ first in Southern Arizona — Tucson is 5-1 on the first weekend of play at home.
“There’s great energy in the building.” Tucson coach Jay Varady said of the Tucson Arena crowds Friday and Saturday — the latter which brought 3,716 through the Tucson Arena turnstiles. “It was good to be at home, practice at home this week … being able to relax a little bit, move into our places — our apartments, our houses — get our families settled. All of that’s important.”
It’s not just the high of getting home, though. Tucson’s overall October success continues, with the club now an all-time 18-5-1-1 — home and road combined — in the month.
That mark will be put to the test again this coming weekend, when the Iowa Wild — still unbeaten in regulation this season at 5-0-0-1 — visit Tucson Arena for a pair of 7:05 p.m. starts Friday and Saturday.
In all, Tucson’s collective October schedule this year has been anything but easy. Not their games played against Tucson, the Roadrunners’ five opponents this month — they’ve already played Texas, San Antonio and Ontario a combined five times, with two games apiece to come against Iowa and Chicago – sat midweek with a combined record of 16-5-2-2.
“That’s our challenge this weekend. Yeah, we’ve played some good teams, but, really, we’ve got another coming in here ready to go,” Varady said. “We’ve got to be ready.”
Still early, but Tucson among AHL’s best in multiple areas
Varady admits it’s hard for him to get caught up in the numbers surrounding his team, no matter how good they look through his team’s first five outings and a 4-1-0-0 start.
Among 31 American Hockey League teams, the Roadrunners currently check in at:
- Third in goal differential (+1.6)
- Tied for third in goals per game (4)
- Sixth in goals against per game (2.4)
- Sixth in winning percentage
At 4-1-0-0, it’s hard to believe five teams have better records than Tucson at this point, but that’s mostly in part because four clubs still have yet to lose in regulation, including the aforementioned Wild team on its way to Tucson this week.
“That stuff’s all good, but we have to do more than look at the numbers,” Varady said. “Our focus is on each night, and if you have a lot of good nights, the numbers over the course of time start to mean something.”
Roadrunners shut out from NHL Network, but there’s a catch
The American Hockey League will be featured prominently to a wide North American audience once again this season on NHL Network — 18 regular-season AHL games in all — but the Roadrunners won’t be one of the teams included.
In all, 17 of the AHL’s 31 teams will make an appearance on the network, including the Toronto Marlies eight times, Chicago Wolves five times and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms four times. Fourteen other clubs will appear either once or twice. Just one game featuring team’s from the Pacific Division — a March 29 matchup between San Diego and Stockton — made the list.
Is the pesky East Coast bias rearing its head? Not exactly.
To be featured, at least one of the teams involved must have a local television contract. While the Gulls have 10 games broadcast this season on San Diego’s Fox 5, Tucson hasn’t had an agreement to television games locally in any of its four years in Arizona.
On the other side, the teams with the most scheduled NHL network appearances come from three of the top TV markets in North America — Toronto, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
A local broadcast TV deal is “something we’re always interested in exploring and we have,” said Adrian Denny, the Roadrunners director of communications and broadcasting. “At this moment, we’ve got some other areas of focus where we putting some of those resources.”
In the meantime, fans can hear Denny’s call of Roadrunners games live on radio (and streaming) via the local Fox Sports Radio affiliate, 1450-AM. All Roadrunners games are broadcast on the league’s “AHLtv” internet streaming package, with Denny’s call is paired with video from the arena for home and road games. AHLtv offers packages, for a fee, that include “all teams, all games,” “one team, all games,” and “one team, home or away.”