Rio Rancho is on the verge of getting another hockey team.
The team, which will be named the Raptors, is expected to be part of the ECHL, a 27-team league in 20 states and two provinces in Canada. Play will start in October 2023 on the Raptors’ home ice — the Rio Rancho Events Center.
The team is owned by RJ Sports LLC out of Atlanta, Ga., said Joe Cordova, general manager and former Rio Rancho city councilor.
“RJ Sports LLC has plans to bring an ECHL team to the Rio Rancho Events Center,” Cordova confirmed in an email Wednesday.
Jerry James, the president and CEO of RJ Sports “is excited to bring a professional hockey team to New Mexico and Rio Rancho,” Cordova said.
James credited Rio Rancho Mayor Greggory Hull and the Rio Rancho Events Center staff for help in getting expected approval from the ECHL.
“The ECHL has yet to formally approve the team, but is extremely close to approving the team and Commissioner Ryan Crelin is excited about hockey returning to Rio Rancho in October of 2023,” Cordova said.
Said Hull: “The Rio Rancho Events Center is a tremendous venue in which to play and watch hockey. We welcome the ECHL to the community, and I want to encourage everyone to support this expansion and team by attending games. I look forward to the puck dropping.”
A formal press conference will be scheduled at the events center in the next few weeks.
The ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states. It has since grown into a coast-to-coast league with 27 teams in 20 states and two Canadian provinces for its 34th season in 2021-22, according to its web site.
“There have been 727 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, including 29 who have made their NHL debuts in the 2021-22 season,” the web site said.
The ECHL was affiliated with 27 of the 32 NHL teams during the 2021-22 season, marking the 25th consecutive season that the league has affiliations with at least 20 NHL teams. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.
It’s not clear yet which NHL team the Raptors will be affiliated with.
The league has some notable corporate sponsors, including GEICO, Honigs and Warrior Sports.
For more, including the history of hockey in Rio Rancho, please pick up a copy of this Sunday’s edition of The Rio Rancho Observer. We will also update this story as we get more information on our web site: rrobserver.com
For FAQ on the ECHL