The autumn of 1998 was an exciting time for sports fans in Topeka. The Topeka ScareCrows came to town. The expansion Central Hockey League team used a Kansas-related “Wizard of Oz” connection for their name, but the scarecrow they adopted had a menacing grin staring out from jerseys and souvenir pucks and was poised to hit you with the stick. Haywire, the mascot, was much friendlier with skating tricks and a t-shirt cannon. The Crows played 209 games in three seasons from 1998-2001. The league disbanded after the 2001 season.
I remember a number of ScareCrows games in that first season. Hockey was new to me and I learned a lot very quickly season. Initially, I didn’t know the pricing structure for tickets. I bought at the last minute and requested the most expensive seats (none of the tickets were very expensive compared to NFL or MLB games). Trying to find seats as the first game started, an usher led me to the front row right on the glass. That was fine, once, but I moved back to at least row 15 for every other hockey game I’ve seen since.
I had enough interest hockey to go over to Kemper Arena and watch a Kansas City Blades game. The Blades were in KC from 1990-2001 and folded because of league, ownership and financial issues. On vacation around the same time, I caught a St. Louis Blues game. I was surprised to learn that franchise has been in St. Louis since 1967.
Hockey returned to the Capital City in 2007 when the Santa Fe Roadrunners moved to Topeka. That North American Hockey League team played 652 games over 11 seasons from 2007-2018–nine of those were winning seasons.
After an ownership and name change in 2018, the NAHL’s Topeka Pilots are in their first season. Lamar Hunt, Jr. is the new owner. He also owns the Kansas City Mavericks in the East Coast Hockey League. The Hunt family is known for investments in sports over the years, particularly in the Kansas City area (Sporting KC, the Chiefs). I’ve unknowingly driven past the Mavericks’ home ice on I-70 many times—the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence.
Do you have memories of hockey in Topeka, especially something not mentioned in this post? Please comment below!