Lamar Hunt Jr., the new owner of Topeka’s NAHL hockey team formerly known as the RoadRunners, announced June 5 that the team will now be known as the Pilots. The announcement came during during a gathering at the Kansas Expocentre. Hunt said they picked a name that he believes “reflects this community.”
Hunt said the new name reflects the history of aviation in Topeka, including the military. The Capital City is home to Topeka Regional Airport at Forbes Field, where the Kansas Air National Guard and the Combat Air Museum have a long history, as well as Philip Billard Municipal Airport.
In April, Loretto Sports Ventures announced it had purchased the team from Don Stone, who had owned the North American Hockey League team since 2009.
The company already owns the Kansas City Mavericks, which plays in the ECHL and Hunt said the purchase helps the company with its goal of expanding hockey at all levels.
The new General Manager/Head Coach for the Topeka team will be Simon Watson, who played Division I Hockey for St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York and played professionally in the Central Hockey League (CHL) for 5 seasons. He retired from the Missouri Mavericks in 2011 after being named CHL Man of the year. Simon has continued to be closely involved in youth hockey throughout the greater Kansas City area.
In 2015, The RoadRunners and Shawnee County agreed to extend the team’s lease with the Kansas Expocentre. The lease was to expire this summer.
During Tuesday’s media event Hunt also announced the team has a new one-year-deal with a one-year option for the building.
The new Topeka hockey team will still play in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The RoadRunners placed more than 200 players in NCAA Division 1 hockey programs since their inception in 2007. The RoadRunners won three division titles in their 11 years on the ice in Topeka.