Growing up as a kid in Sparks, Andrew Peterson used to attend Reno Renegade minor-league hockey games at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
That franchise was short-lived, folding after three seasons in 1998, but it left an imprint on Peterson, who grew up the son of Minnesota natives with a desire to play pro hockey.
"I went to the games with my brothers and our dad and I skated during the intermission at a bunch of the games for the Renegades at the Convention Center by the Atlantis," Peterson said. "And it's crazy because there's even some old Renegades players still in town. So they played for them and then kind of retired but stayed in town and they're still here and go to Reno Ice. It's cool to kind of reconnect with them 20, 25 years later."
Peterson is a big reason why professional hockey returned to Reno this fall. He is a player-owner for the Reno Ice Raiders, which relocated from Vacaville, Calif., to Northern Nevada during the summer. Peterson and his brother, Jess, along with Simon LeBlue and Weston Nash co-own the semi-pro team that has played three exhibition games at Jennifer M. O'Neal Community Ice Arena and will kick off its 25-game regular season Oct. 22, which includes 19 games at home.
The team's three exhibitions have been sellouts at the new Reno Ice facility, which holds up to 800 fans.
"It's kind of crazy," Peterson said of the early support. "I'm flabbergasted. I think we knew the team would do pretty OK. But then once the tickets went live and we kind of released the schedule the other day, it's crazy the response that we've got. And so being born and raised in Reno, it's a really cool feeling for me."
Peterson is one of the top hockey players to come out of Reno, which has had its share of elite athletes over the decades but rarely in hockey. The lack of a local ice rink was an issue for more than a decade until Reno Ice opened in January. Peterson, a Spanish Springs High graduate, played college hockey at Gustavus Adolphus College, a Division III school in Minnesota, before playing juniors in Canada and in the pros in Sweden for five years. He's happy to bring high-level hockey back to Reno.
"A lot of people think that we should have had a hockey team all along," Peterson said. "And so it's kind of cool that we have one now and the community's really rallied behind it."
The Reno Ice Raiders include players from Nevada, California and Utah and is a mix of guys who love hockey. A defenseman, Peterson is one of the most accomplished players on a team comprised of players who largely have previous pro experience. For road games, players will typically take separate flights into the location of that night's contest.
"Most of them have day jobs and that sort of thing," Peterson said. "You know, kind of living the dream still. But they still love to play. And all of them played at a pretty high level, at least in college or some type of minor pro league. So it's a good level to see live and locally for sure."
Peterson said it can difficult to serve as a player and make sure the team is being run from an organizational standpoint as one of four co-owners. His brother, Jess, serves as the Ice Raiders' general manager.
"It's pretty hectic," Peterson said. "Thankfully it's myself, my brother, Jess, and the other owner, Simon, and then also our Buddy Weston in Utah. So we're all kind of co-owners, and we all kind of do different things to accomplish what we want within the club. But on gamedays it's very difficult for me personally to take care of everything."
Peterson said watching hockey in person is a far different and far better experience than doing so on television. He's hopeful Reno is an untapped market for pro hockey.
"A lot of times people say that when they watch it on TV it's hard to see the puck because it's this little black disc kind of floating around," Peterson said. "But in person, it's completely different because it's so much quicker in the arena. It's not a massive facility, but we can hold probably 600 to 800 fans, and so the speed if you're sitting right on the glass is fast. It goes quick. Super exciting live. A local club with local owners. it's a pretty good deal for Reno. I think it's something the city has kind of been missing over the years. Obviously baseball with the Aces and UNR sports are pretty cool, but no one's really experienced that hockey live and in their own city."
You can watch Andrew Peterson's full NSN Daily interview below.