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Roadrunners Start Roster Build with Burlon

by Alex Kinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

TUCSON - Build it, and hockey’s to come.

For the Roadrunners, construction of their inaugural American Hockey League roster began Wednesday afternoon, the team locking up veteran defenseman Brandon Burlon to a contract for the 2016-17 campaign.

In a season that’s going to be full of firsts and transition for the Coyotes’ farm club, it’ll be just the same for Burlon, a native of Nobleton, Ontario, who has spent his entire professional career with the New Jersey Devils’ organization. While this may serve as a major change for Burlon, who’s coming off his fifth AHL season with the Albany Devils, he’s eager to get going in Southern Arizona.

Brandon Burlon. Photo by Getty Images.

“I’m definitely excited,” he said. I think most of all, I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to make another first impression on a new group of players, group of coaches, and organization.”

Professional hockey returns to Tucson for the first time since 1999, when the Gila Monsters played at the Convention Center as a member of the Western Hockey League.

A new, non-traditional market will always present its challenges, but at the same time, provide a wonderful shot to expand the game throughout Arizona. For Burlon, who was raised and played in areas where hockey was oft second nature, he’s excited to be part of the story.

“It’s a clean slate for everyone involved, be it the players and the organization as well,” he said. “It’ll provide a chance to promote the game, the team, and everything in-between down in Tucson and Phoenix, I think it’s going to be fun for everyone.”

Can hockey trend in Tucson? If it’s new, it can captivate.

“(We’ll) be a new attraction for those who haven’t been privy to watching hockey down (in Tucson), and it’s something new,” Burlon said. “Every time there’s something new on the block, people tend to gravitate toward it and want to check it out, so I think it will be a great time for everybody.”

During his time with Albany, Burlon was accustomed to playing against the Springfield Falcons, the team purchased by the Coyotes in April to relocate to Tucson, the former home to Arizona’s young prospects. Although the team’s relocation will include a new coaching staff and a myriad of fresh faces, the opposition impressed Burlon.

Brandon Burlon. Photo by Getty Images.

“Every time we played (Springfield) we knew we were getting a good team, they had a good balance of veterans and young guys”, he said. “They played a sound game, there wasn’t anything crazy, but it was efficient, and that’s what made it difficult to play them at times.”

Even though the 26 year-old defenseman is embarking on a new adventure in an anomalous area, there will be a certain degree of familiarity nearby for Burlon with Rich Rodriguez’ University of Arizona football program just two miles down the road.

Having played three seasons in the CCHA with Michigan from 2008-11, Burlon’s time as a Wolverine overlapped with Rodriguez’ tenure as head football coach at the University. “It’s good to know that there’s at least one more Michigan guy down there,” he said, chuckling. “Maybe I’ll have to reach out to him, wear some of my stuff out there.”

As the Roadrunners’ new defenseman enjoys the rest of his summer in Ontario, there’s one transition he won’t have to prepare for – the weather. “I know there’s a lot of sunshine, it’s pretty warm,” he said of Tucson. “I’m excited to not have to wear my parka, shovel the snow off my car, or worry about a snow-storm warning getting to the rink every day.”

Monsoon season? That’s nothing.

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