May 19, 2016

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Hockey is returning to Tucson and the Arizona Coyotes could not be happier about it.

The Coyotes closed their deal to buy the American Hockey League's Springfield Falcons on Wednesday, a day after the Tucson City Council approved a 10-year arena lease agreement between the team and the Tucson Convention Center.

''This is nothing short of a game-changer for our organization,'' Coyotes general manager John Chayka said from Tucson.

The team will be named via a contest held by the organization and will open play in Tucson in October.

Since 2011, the Coyotes had affiliate teams in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine, creating logistical problems when the team wanted to call up a player on short notice.

Now the Coyotes will have an affiliate club just a couple hours down the road, allowing them to shuttle players much easier and quicker.

''We are beyond thrilled to be here,'' Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said.

The AHL's board of governors approved the sale of the Springfield to the Coyotes on May 10 and the Tucson team will play in the AHL's Pacific Division. In 2015-16, the Pacific Division featured the AHL affiliates of the Anaheim Ducks (San Diego Gulls), Calgary Flames (Stockton Heat), Colorado Avalanche (San Antonio Rampage), Dallas Stars (Texas Stars), Edmonton Oilers (Bakersfield Condors), Los Angeles Kings (Ontario Reign) and San Jose Sharks (San Jose Barracuda).

Tucson has had several minor league franchises including the Mavericks of the Central Hockey League (1975-76), the Icemen of the Southwest Hockey League (1976-77), the Rustlers of the Professional Hockey League (1978-79) and the Gila Monsters of the West Coast Hockey League (1997-99).

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