The ‘Rogue Valley Royals’ junior hockey team makes debut in Medford

MEDFORD, Ore.- After two-and-a-half years, hockey is returning to the Rogue Valley.

This time, a new team is hitting the ice.

The Rogue Valley Royals make their debut Friday, with two owners who are hoping to revive the sport in the Rogue Valley.

“Loud, exciting. The room vibrates, it is wild,” Rogue Valley Royals owners Ali and Bobby Ruddle said.

The “madhouse” as it’s often called, hasn’t seen a junior hockey team play at The Rrrink in two-and-a-half years.

Previously, the Southern Oregon Spartans called this Medford rink home.

But after 13 years, the team folded in 2020.

Now, the Royals will call Southern Oregon home, under owners Bobby and Ali Ruddle.

“This has kind of been a dream of mine for a long time,” Bobby said. “And it just happened to be that this year was the best timing.”

The Royals are part of the United States Premier Hockey League, a youth league that aims to carve a path for many to get to the collegiate level.

Ali will run the team’s day-to-day, while Bobby acts as GM and head coach.

Both played hockey in the Rogue Valley growing up, making the debut of their own team even more special. 

“It’s going to be emotional for us because he was once a player on the bench and I was the girl in the stands,” Ali said. “And now we’re the owners and the head coach. And it’s just a lot of hard work coming together for so many people.”

They hope to make hockey relevant in Southern Oregon again.

High schools across the valley used to have teams, but not anymore.

“That’s how we met,” Ali said. “He played for south, I played for crater. That’s just not a reality anymore. That amount of kids coming up through those age groups I mentioned is just fewer and fewer every year.”

This season, the Royals have seven local products on the roster.

The hope is others will be inspired to give the sport a try.

“If they see some of their local people out here, it gives them that vision that they can make it up here too,” Bobby said.

In the past, large crowds would show up to every game.

Even with a new team, the expectation is still the same.

“The people show up,” Ali said. “It really doesn’t matter too what the scoreboard looks like, they have this undying love.”

The Rrrink manager, Ellen Eggleston, said she is excited to see people come back after a couple years without a junior hockey team.

“It brings a lot of people to the rink,” she said. “A lot of things for the community to do and we’re very excited for Bobby and Ali.”

Tickets are still available on the team’s website for Friday and Saturday’s games.

The season wraps up in February.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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