The Topeka Pilots not only have a new home, but a new name as well.
After announcing in late February the team – which plays in the North American Hockey League, a Tier 2 junior league – would be leaving Topeka and moving to the greater Kansas City area for the 2020-21 season, the franchise fully severed its ties with Topeka by announcing a name change on Monday.
The Pilots now will be known as the Kansas City Scouts. It’s the second incarnation of the team name with the original Kansas City Scouts a franchise in the National Hockey League from 1974-76. The team then relocated to Denver as the Colorado Rockies from 1976-1982, eventually becoming the New Jersey Devils after leaving Colorado following the 1981-82 season.
The announcement of the franchise name change came a day before the North American Hockey League’s supplemental draft on May 12. An official logo will be revealed the first week of June.
“We are pleased to announce that we will be making our first pick as the Kansas City Scouts,” team owner Lamar Hunt Jr., who also owns the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks, said in a news release. “We are excited to be a part of the NAHL, the league of opportunity, (and) for our players to pursue their dreams of playing collegiate hockey. We look forward to seeing you in September for a new era of junior hockey in Kansas City.”
The Scouts will play their home games in the upcoming season at the Kansas City Ice Center in Shawnee, Kansas.
The Pilots spent just two seasons in Topeka after Hunt purchased the Topeka RoadRunners from Don Stone in 2018.
Hoping to attract an average between 2,000 and 3,000 fans per game, the Pilots instead averaged less than 1,000 fans per game this past season, ranking 14th out of 26 teams in the league.
In his letter announcing the move from Topeka to Kansas City in late February, Hunt said the move was necessary for the “long-term viability and success of the team.”
The Pilots finished last season with a 33-14-3-2 record, third in the NAHL South Division. The team had secured a playoff berth when the season was ended prematurely in mid-March due to COVID-19 concerns.
In two years, the Pilots went a combined 56-43-6-7.