NA Now: Amarillo Wranglers
The NA Now series features a look at all teams in the NAHL for the 2021-22 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Harry Mahood (1st season)
2020-21 record: Did not play
2021-22 Division: South
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 15th vs. New Jersey Titans
Home opener: Friday, September 24th vs. El Paso Rhinos
A new era of hockey is underway in Amarillo, Texas, as the Amarillo Wranglers take to the ice in the NAHL for the 2021-22 season. While there has been an NAHL team in the Panhandle since the 2010-11 season in the form of the Amarillo Bulls, the off-season brought some change to the landscape. On March 5th, the Bulls announced that they were relocating their membership to Mason City, Iowa. That left the city of Amarillo without a team for the foreseeable future. Two months later enter Amarillo Ice Sports, LLC, that is headed up by Eric Anderson and Austin Sutter and the team was reborn as the Amarillo Wranglers.
A big piece of the puzzle to the success and stability of the new Wranglers team is the development of the Amarillo Ice Ranch. While the NAHL team will still play its home games out of the 4,900-seat Amarillo Civic Center, the Ice Ranch, which opened in June and is located across the street from the Civic Center, will provide the team a permanent home base and place to practice. “Hockey is thriving and better than ever in this region. The merging of the youth and adult programs, the Ice Ranch and the Wranglers will be instrumental in continuing to grow the great game of hockey in our community. We strongly feel that Amarillo is now the perfect market for an NAHL franchise to succeed and will continue to be a staple in the Panhandle for another 25 years and more,” said Sutter, who is serving as the President of the Wranglers.
The next step for the Wranglers was finding a Head Coach and General Manager. Enter longtime NAHL assistant coach Harry Mahood, who will get his first crack of being a head coach in the NAHL after several successful seasons as an assistant coach in the league, which included a stop in Amarillo with the Bulls. As an assistant coach, he worked with then head coach Dennis Williams to lead the Bulls to a Robertson Cup title in 2012-13 and during his two seasons as a Bulls assistant the team finished as the league leader or second in goals scored and earned back-to-back South Division titles. He served as assistant coach from 2009-11 and associate head coach in 2011-12 with the NAHL’s Topeka RoadRunners, helping the franchise capture a pair of South Division titles, a President’s Cup in 2011 and role as host of the Robertson Cup.
“All the way around, it has been very exciting for me to return to the NAHL. I have received a lot of positive comments and messages, including some from fellow NAHL coaches, which makes you feel really good that you have peers like that,” said Mahood. “For our family, Amarillo has been a special place. It is like another home to us. The people are very warm and receiving and have been very welcoming, so that has been great.”
“Teams are built on trust, relationships and establishing a professional culture, and there is no one better in hockey to do that than Coach Mahood. We are honored and humbled to be able to have him as the first ever Head Coach and GM in the Amarillo Wranglers franchise history,” said Sutter.
Mahood knows this time around, it will be a little different because he will be dealing with a brand-new set of players and only a couple of months to construct a team who will be competitive on the ice in the always tough South Division. “The South Division has a lot of physicality with a lot of great coaches. The game is played with a lot of pace, so we are going to have to have a team that can skate hard and battle. I think at this stage of the game, we are still identifying who will be that core group of players, but I know it is important to get some guys with experience and who are going to be able to make plays at both ends of the ice,” said Mahood.
“I like the project itself as a whole in Amarillo because it is 100% community based. There is a big tie-in with the youth organization and the new Ice Ranch, and then connecting it to the junior team is something that I am passionate about, so I look at it as an exciting challenge to be starting with something new,” said Mahood. “We have a couple of really important objectives this season. We want to be a big part of the community and make a difference. We want to allow our players to be directly integrated within the community and give back to them as much as they give back to us. I think that is going to help build a sustainable youth and junior program,” said Mahood. “The NAHL and junior hockey by nature is a service-oriented league so will work hard to make sure the players are doing everything they can to make a difference in and out of the arena to grow the sport.”
Next up: Anchorage Wolverines