The New Mexico Scorpions (in white jerseys) called Rio Rancho their home for three seasons, 2006-09. (Herron photo)
Hockey has had a hard time in Rio Rancho
The City of Vision had at least one hockey team to cheer on for 10 seasons, but each team folded or left town after determining there weren’t enough fans to support it.
First came the New Mexico Scorpions of the Central Hockey League, who played their first 10 seasons (1996-2005) at Tingley Coliseum on the New Mexico State Fairgrounds.
With a new arena being built in Rio Rancho, where the team expected large, appreciative crowds, the team opted to move across the Rio Grande and “went dark” in the 2005-06 season, playing again as the anchor tenant of the then-new Santa Ana Star Center on Oct. 27, 2006.
Crowds rarely, if ever, reached capacity over the next three seasons and, with declining revenues, the team was put up for sale. The average attendance, per the CHL website, was 3,217 for the Scorpions’ debut season at the Star Center; it dropped to 2,979 fans per game in 2007-08, and then to 2,791 in 2008-09.
No new owner was found, and the city was without hockey for a full season, until the New Mexico Mustangs, playing in the North American Hockey League, arrived on the scene in time for the 2011-11 season.
The Mustangs were a Junior A Tier II team, owned by hockey fan Ken Dennis of Southern California, who bankrolled the team more as a hobby for two seasons. The Mustangs also played on the Star Center ice, but to even smaller crowds.
The next hockey team here, a junior league team in the Western States Hockey League, began as the Cajun Catahoulas in Carencro, La., in 2005. After three seasons there, the team relocated to Fort Worth and became known as the Texas Renegades.
After the 2008-09 season, the team moved to Rio Rancho, skating at Blades Multiplex Arenas (now The MAC) and was called the New Mexico Renegades. The team was comprised of players ages 16-20 hoping to get college scholarships and keep their professional hockey dreams alive.
Former Scorpions standout and fan favorite Peter Ambroziak – his jersey once hung in the Star Center rafters — was the Renegades’ coach and director of operations for its first two seasons — until the NHL called – and he left Rio Rancho to be the head of player development for the Ottawa Senators in February 2011.
The Renegades packed up and headed to Springfield, Mo., after a dismal 2013-14 season. The Renegades averaged 101 fans to their home games, second-to-last in the WSHL.
There is still hockey to be seen these days, but it’s across the Rio Grande and played at Outpost Arenas, where the University of New Mexico’s hockey team plays, as do the New Mexico Ice Wolves, a Tier II junior team in the North American Hockey League.
Hockey in Rio Rancho
2006-07 New Mexico Scorpions 32-24-8 Central Hockey League
2007-08 New Mexico Scorpions 34-24-6
2008-09 New Mexico Scorpions 27-33-4
2010-11 New Mexico Mustangs 18-39-3 North American Hockey League
2011-12 New Mexico Mustangs 19-35-4
2009-10 New Mexico Renegades 8-43-1 Western States Hockey League
2010-11 New Mexico Renegades 9-36-2
2011-12 New Mexico Renegades 18-26-2
2012-13 New Mexico Renegades 19-26-1
2013-14 New Mexico Renegades 5-40