Wednesday, October 12, 2005

REMEMBERING THE ROADRUNNERS

Tonight was a big night in Toronto for the AHL, as the Marlies had their home opener at the Ricoh Coliseum, winning 5-2 over the Syracuse Crunch.

There will be people who forget that this is not the debut season for the AHL in Toronto. We had a team before, the Roadrunners. They played in the same building for one season but were driven out of town by financial troubles, ending up in Edmonton. I saw them play in Toronto against the Rochester Americans and it was a really bizarre experience. It felt like I was watching a game in another city, that's the only way to describe it. They had Rocky the team mascot here and the whole time I wanted to say to Rocky: why don't you go back to Arizona, where you belong, you goofy bird.

Of course, before the Roadrunners came to Toronto they had a long, storied history in the city of Phoenix, Arizona. They've kicked around several minor/rebel leagues; the old Western Hockey League, the World Hockey Association (three years), the Pacific Hockey League, then after a decade in mothballs they joined the International Hockey League in the 1990s. Then the Coyotes moved in and robbed the Roadrunners of all its fans. After fighting a losing battle at the gate against the Coyotes for a while, the team was mothballed again and sold to Toronto interests. By the time the dormant franchise was reactivated the IHL was absorbed by the American Hockey League- it's fifth league, if you're counting.

Unfortunately, the Roadrunners were the farmhands of the Edmonton Oilers, and Toronto had no interest in watching future Oilers. So they became the Edmonton Road Runners. They went there, basically, as the replacement for the Oilers during the NHL lockout. By the time the lockout ended, the Roadrunners had been mothballed again.

Well, guess what, I found out what happened to the RoadRunners. They are back in Phoenix! Seems that they are playing at AmericaWest Arena, where the Phoenix Coyotes used to play until they moved to their own arena in the suburbs. The 'Runners are in the East Coast Hockey League now, which strangely enough had merged with the West Coast Hockey League so there are actually a number of teams in the league from the West.

The Phoenix RoadRunners are back in business, against all odds. League number six for these jokers.

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