Ice hockey in the desert

The Tucson Roadrunners provide a stepping stone to foreign players hoping to make their dreams become a reality with a stop in the desert.

The Tucson Roadrunners are new to Tucson, bringing in players from all across the world.

In only their second season in Tucson, the Roadrunners are having great success as a team, and their fanbase is growing as well making the playoffs in the AHL league where they won their first playoff game in franchise history.

Lane Pederson is from Canada where the current weather drops to around 29 degrees Fahrenheit. He talks about what it is like now living in Tucson.

“Yeah, it is actually pretty awesome. I tell all my friends back home how fun it is to show up to the rink in shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt every day. I’m used to throwing on a pair of sweats and winter coat,” said Pederson.

Although hockey is the national sport in Canada, many people dream of playing in the National Hockey League in the United States.

Kevin Ekman-Larsson reigns from Sweden, where there also are competitive hockey leagues. He talks about the significance of playing in the United States.

“Sweden has pretty good leagues too, but your dream is to come over here and play hockey. Of course you want to play in the NHL, but this is a good step,” said Ekman-Larsson.

Some players leave their home countries at the young age of 18 to come play in the United States.

Nineteen of 31 players on the Roadrunners are from foreign countries and all have the same goal of playing in the NHL, and if that involves a stop in the desert heat then so be it.

Players must first complete the primary step… which is to make the team… and that is not as easy as some players believe it to be.

Steve Potvin played 16 years of professional hockey before getting into coaching… and he is now an assistant coach for the Roadrunners. He talks about how players think they have an advantage coming from hockey-dominated regions.

“I think the biggest difference is that they do come with a little chip on their shoulder because they come from the East Coast, and they come from a real traditional hockey market. They come in expecting to literally put on the equipment and make the team. They say, ‘Hey, I am from Canada. I am here. I am going to play,’ They soon find out our business is pretty serious here in Scottsdale and Tucson, and it is not always that easy to make the team just because you are from Canada,” said Potvin.

Hockey players from around the world come to Tucson to keep their professional hockey hopes alive, but they also arrive in a town with a climate that few have ever experienced. There is not much ice in the desert.