I have been away from youth hockey for a few years now… Maybe the landscape has changed some or maybe not. Phoenix may never be a hot bed of talent that gets into the NHL. There have been some pretty amazing players! Over the many years that I have been involved with hockey in Arizona, I have seen lots of things.
- Phoenix (not Arizona) Coyotes come to town. Before that we have the Phoenix Roadrunners (one of the coolest logos in all of sports) play at the old Mad House on McDowell.
- When my son first got into hockey at age 4, we had 2 rinks. Oceanside and Tower Plaza (now Arcadia). Many new rinks have been added. Polar Ice came to town and 3 facilities. Ice Den was added when the Coyotes came to town.
- Interest has grown significantly. A high school league kicked off and grew pretty quickly. Many “new” club travel teams sprouted up.
With all of the increased interested and participation comes plenty of issues/concerns. With every rink, I witnessed challenges like never before. When we had 2 rinks and 2 associations, it was pretty easy to understand the landscape of who, what, when and where. Add 3 more associations (and later a high school league) to the mix, the landscape really changed. Not for the better. When you get a group of business owners, parents and staff together that are involved in youth sports (and making money). Well, I think you can get the picture. Each association wanted to do things their OWN way.
Here is the dream part… With the revamped Arizona Coyotes now in place. We need a true vision for youth hockey. We have some of the best (and not so good) facilities. We need to have one city program! Time to dissolve the different associations. Having a single shared vision will help to provide the best for the players. The different agendas, different approaches are in some cases a good thing, but it really led to a political landscape that most people hated to have to work within.
Time for: The best players, play on the best team with the best coaches. The next best players to the next team and so on down the line. I know this will be different for some parents – as they think their son or daughter is the next Gretsky or Crosby. I can hear it now, we should have been selected for that #1 team. My child is better than so and so. Playing time will become an issue. There are endless concerns… But I see some incredible positives. Players (and parents) if they want that top spot – will work harder to get there. Reward for hard work and talent. Exposure to the top players. Arizona becomes a powerhouse. We will see less and less of the best players having to leave home to play in Northern States. More hockey fans will come out to watch youth sports.
Having one vision, one mission and one agenda will help strengthen youth hockey. Right now we dilute it with 4 or 5 visions and missions. Maybe as part of strengthening the Coyotes to the community, they can help with assisting in the youth area. All things start with a dream…