Action & Community with the Tucson Adult Hockey League

Matthew G

The cold ice and the cool crisp air, sticks cracking, the puck booming off the boards, the crowd chanting; This is hockey. 

If you did not make that illustrious dream of making the NHL, play hockey at the college level or even the high school level, or even if you moved to a state like Arizona with little to no hockey. Do you want to re-lace those skates?  Then I found something that might pique your interest. My challenge is to find quality hockey in the city of Tucson. In a state like Arizona you wouldn’t find great hockey, that be a national team, or just a semi-competitive league that you can sign up for with your friends. Coming from New York, that has cold weather and a more involved hockey community, and me having little actual hockey experience other than watching the game and understanding the rules. I was wondering where in the town of Tucson I can experience that same joyous experience of watching hockey? I have found that answer and it is not that well known among the sturdy Tucson community — that being the Tucson Adult Hockey League or the TAHL for short. 

In Arizona it is so difficult to play hockey in the first place. It’s a desert with a hot and dry climate, plus there is no demand for communal style hockey. Hockey attracts others who share similar interests since it thrives on being as exciting and action-packed as ever. If not for three friends who founded the league in 2007 or unfortunate circumstances like the closure of a local arena for people like Danny Plattner, one of the three founders of the league, who decided to rekindle the old flame of competitive pickup hockey, who knows how different life might have been without local hockey in the city of Tucson. 


It was a cold and dark Tuesday night, as I was hopping off the sunlink at the Broadway and Grenada stop I saw the place I was looking for the Tucson Convention Center, the home of the Tucson Roadrunners, the University of Arizona Hockey team, and the TAHL

Nervously awaiting to watch some long awaited Hockey, I was locked out of the center and couldn’t find a way in, funny enough that I was at the rear entrance. The Convention center was grand yet small, as I was heading down the museum escalators I was greeted with the best view: a nice arena with tons of empty seats. I couldn’t believe my eyes as there were so little fans in a very big arena. So I chose my seat behind the net. As the horn sounds, the previous game that I barely missed to watch started its final frame. I saw  two teams were suiting up for the next game, VA Title loans and the Altitude Home loans tier 2; my goal was to find one of the league owners Danny Plattner. 

Danny is not only one of the league owners he also plays in the league for the Altitude Home Loans Tier 2. We both shared some quick comments about our love for hockey and I handed him our personal business cards. As his team was suiting up, I was quickly introduced to one of their top players Forward and big man from Singapore Jacob Diermayer. I asked him a few questions regarding his own personal experience with the sport and the league. He said that when he came to Arizona from his time in Singapore, he was looking for any rec-hockey leagues in the area, and found this one. Which he then signed up for, rather than trying out for the school’s club hockey team. He then said that before he came to the States, He played in some non-contact hockey leagues, however that was cut short due to him having to do military service.

After hearing what he had to say, he had to get back to his team and get ready to hit the ice. The other game that was happening whilst the Title Loans were getting ready to play their next game, I toured the arena a little bit. With this arena housing the likes of the University of Arizona and the Tucson Roadrunners it is quite spacious and modern, the at least two tiers, that can house a little over 9,000 fans; although when there is no big league hockey, or other events the arena is quiet, and filled with surprises you cannot find anywhere else. Those being the endless amount of room to roam and seats to sit in so you can find your optimal viewing experience. As I found my first seat which was honestly a beauty, right in the middle, I could see everything from both ends. The first game of the night ended 6-3, and it was time for the next game between the Title Loans and the Home Loans.  

Although the arena was quiet having little to no fans in. You heard every skate digging into the ice, every player calling out their position or calling for the puck and you heard every little thing that frankly the professional level doesn’t offer. With the arena being so empty and the freedom to move around you can think of the numerous places to sit or to stand.

During the game a lot was happening, really good level hockey. However that all changed as within the first two minutes of the game the first goal was scored, all you heard was a big CLAP!, and a short few seconds after cheers from the bench of the VA Title Loans ensued. Then again in quick succession the Title loans scored again to make the score 2-0, after what felt like two seconds had gone by the score ramped up to  3-0. By the time it reached 5 minutes in the first period the score was 5-0. Although not a fun game I got up from my seat to see what type of access I can get, so I went behind the Altitude goal to see what type of view I would get; turns out that it was the perfect place to get ice level and watch the game. Although there are not seats it works out perfectly if you enjoy being close to the action and players. Not to sugar coat this game, the Home loans ended up losing the game 14-0. 


This league is the perfect way to watch amateur hockey, although it’s not the American Hockey Leagues Tucson Roadrunners or even the University of Arizona hockey team. This league has its own sense of value, that being a tight knit community that is only found within the amateur sports community. One of the players who played in this league since the beginning stated “Coming from Michigan, it’s hard to find hockey, when you’ve been playing it since you were a kid… However, this league is great because it provides the opportunity for people who play hockey, or people who want the exercise to play in a pretty competitive league.” 

Why this league should get all of the attention

This League should have more attention, although it might not be professional or even at the college level, it might also not have the same atmosphere as that level. However, if you are in the mood to just watch hockey and have the most surreal experience that you can have here and cannot have at professional games. Those being that unrestricted access throughout the arena and have pretty good hockey to watch. What people do not know about this league is that it was back in 2007 and had originally 4 teams, to now where it’s up to 20 teams in three divisions. That means you have more teams to watch which also increases the amount of teams and players in this league has grown exponentially. With this uproar and success in this league there has been many other teams/players that would love to join this amazing league and community. However they are currently being waitlisted, due to the current amount of players that are allowed per roster and the need of ice time. 

The difficulties of running a hockey league

Although this league is great – and I mean great – having so many people turn out to play hockey so casually, but something is off with this league that is it’s hard to “promote” or get more people involved. The league, although having 20 teams and quite large, there are still people and teams waiting to be put on teams or to be put in the league. Sadly for this, they have a waitlist, and truly the only time someone can be out of the waitlist is if a team needs a player/players. For those teams it’s quite hard to be put in this league. 

A common response for this would be to make the league bigger; however,  that poses a greater risk to the league. That is because sadly in Tucson there is only one place they can play, and that is at the convention center, which is host to other events such as the Arizona Coyotes AHL team the Tucson Road Runners, the University of Arizona club hockey team, and other events. For the league being a close knit community it’s hard to see much playing time, and because of that sometimes the league will go on a break. This is all done because of the shared ice time of the Convention Center; due to this reason that is why you would see some games being played from 8:40 and onwards. However, due to these harsh difficulties the players in this league are still excited whenever they get the chance to play, and exemplifies the nature of having a communal aspect to a new organization. 

Why should people come out to watch this league

Hockey to me is very special to me, it was a sport that I never played but know so much about. Watching hockey was a big part of my childhood and coming from a place where hockey was both accessible and inaccessible it made it difficult for me to enjoy a sport that I love. However, now that I know that this league exists I would love to extend my gratitude and praise to all three league owners for making this league and to provide these experiences day in and day out. Since the league may contain much more older guys and experienced guys playing hockey, you can find a lot of different people, like one of the teams that Jacob played were created by a college fraternity. This is what is great about hockey and especially in a state that isn’t known for its hockey, you can meet different people with the same interests and share a common bond with a huge community. 

It’s great to see all of these players playing hockey, the experience is one to remember, especially when it comes to yet again the unbeaten access you can get for this practically unknown aspect of the greater Tucson community. Hearing the unfightable sounds of hockey, sticks cracking, skates churning in the ice, the players calling for the puck, benches full of players, a sense of teamwork and unbreakable bonds set on playing hockey. I hope that hockey, even if you do not know anything about the sport or even seen a game before, can have the same experience and love for this sport as I do. 

Matthew Gabriellini is a freshman at the University of Arizona majoring in History. He enjoys watching hockey, especially the New York Rangers