Sports Immigration: Phoenix RoadRunners (WHA)

Since the late-19th century, sportspeople shared a common experience with migrant laborers, especially in the United States. Out of all sports, baseball shares the greatest link with immigration. In the early-20th century, immigrant fans saved baseball from extinction. Since then, baseball imported so many players that there is a cap. Yet, America would not have (modern) hockey if there was no immigration. From this American’s point of view, hockey is an immigrant’s game. Like many of the migrant laborers, the United States absorbed hockey into its fabric.

From Minnesota to Maine, hockey brought immigrants and immigrants brought hockey. Fishermen from Nova Scotia plying trade in Boston, like Mickey Roach’s family. Or, the frontier elite traveling to find personal success in New York City, like Tom Howard. Due to the cold northern climates, the migration of hockey and laborers make sense in the mid-Atlantic and mid-west states. However, hockey continued traveling south and so did the players and staff.

In the 1960s, Oklahoma business men brought hockey to the Sonoran Desert. They built the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum at the Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. While they expected bands and basketball, they wanted hockey.

Before receiving the franchise for the RoadRunners, the Oklahoma businessmen brought teams from Tulsa to play in 1966. In 1967, the league awarded a franchise license. The owners moved the Victoria Maple Leafs from British Columbia to play in the desert.

Prior to the Immigration Act of 1990, sportspeople competed for the same visas as laborers. Despite teams and agents eased their journey for H-1 or H-2 visas, they are immigrants. As immigrants, they supported and added diversity to their communities. Many studied the relationship between baseball, immigration, and the value. However, many have not looked into how hockey changed their community. Whereas most baseball players remain, hockey players mainly return. Similar to early-20th Century European migrant laborers, they brought their American trunk home.

Immigrant Players Steal Bases And Basketballs, Not Jobs (forbes.com)
Extraordinary Ability and the English Premier League: The Immigration, Adjudication, and Place of Alien Athletes in American and English Society (valpo.edu) (Pages 545-549 or 6-10 of 67)
Round-Trip to America: the Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880-1930 Mark Wyman

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