After nearly 45 years, DYHA still providing top-notch youth program
Truth be told, there have been many more ups than downs, and with a slew of positive individuals working with the program as administrators and coaches, it’s easy to see why the organization continues to prosper and forge ahead.
This season also saw the club bring in Hiroki Wakabayashi as a full-time goalie instructor, see their second girls NCAA Division I commitment in Kenadie Cooper (to St. Anselm College, following in the footsteps of Makenna Newkirk, now at Boston College), and see discussions start for the Jr. Sun Devils to potentially apply for Tier I status.
To see how far the program has come over the years, it’s imperative to see things through those that have been there.
Sherri Koshiol has been with DYHA for 10 years as a board member, including serving as vice president, treasurer and secretary, has been the events and fundraising coordinator, a delegate to the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association and most importantly, a hockey mom.
What keeps her with DYHA year after year?
“Hockey encompasses more than just what happens on the ice during practices and games,” said Koshiol. “With a season that goes more than eight months, what hockey and DYHA mean to me are relationships. Relationships between players, families, coaches and opportunities to experience the ups and downs with people who have become more than friends or acquaintances – they have become family.
“That sense of community is what drew us to DYHA Firebirds in 2009 and why we are still involved today.”
When asked what her fondest memories are of the organization, Koshiol said it was impossible to give an exact number or narrow it down.
“There are literally too many to count,” she said. “As a parent, a couple things that come to mind – I have enjoyed seeing my kids experience state championships and the Fargo Squirt International championship, but aside from the victories and successes, some of the greatest memories have been watching my boys and their teammates mature and grow through adversity as well as bonding with other families on numerous road trips over the years.”
Looking ahead, Koshiol is excited for what the future holds in Tempe.
“DYHA has been around for nearly 45 years and with that longevity comes the ongoing opportunity for reinvention and adaptation,” Koshiol said. “I am proud of the ability of DYHA and Oceanside Ice Arena over the past decade to adapt to the changing youth hockey landscape and remain a leader in providing a quality hockey experience for hundreds of hockey players.
“Adapting to the hockey community and customer needs are essential to ensuring a continual positive experience for our players and families. With the growth of Arizona hockey, DYHA is poised to continue delivering a high-quality program that will provide our players with experience, knowledge and memories to last a lifetime.”
Brad McCaughey, DYHA’s current coach-in-chief and director of hockey operations, entered his role just prior to the 2017-18 season.
It’s a role with an organization he has become enamored with in these past two years.
“I am here because of the environment and the opportunity to leave a mark on a program that has already developed a good reputation,” said McCaughey, who played NCAA D-I hockey at the University of Michigan and pro hockey in the AHL, ECHL and IHL, ending his playing career in 1993 with the IHL’s Phoenix Roadrunners. “Our goal is to teach life lessons through the game of hockey. I am also passionate about teaching the game of hockey, the little things that are required, how to play away from the puck, etcetera. The game is very complex, and these kids need to learn a lot at a young age. I think the Valley has made tremendous strides in this department over the last several years.”
In reflecting on the 2017-18 season, McCaughey noted seeing the Jr. Sun Devils’ 14U, 16U and 18U teams sweep the Tier II state championships was a very rewarding experience.
“Not because it was great for us or even that I thought I had a lot to do with it, but as I have mentioned before, I inherited a good situation here with DYHA,” McCaughey said. “I just know how hard it is to win a championship and the amount of things that have to go your way and how easy it is for things to fall another team’s way, that to win all three was truly special and I felt incredible for our kids.
“I appreciate how hard that was to do and that is not something that I am expecting from this organization year after year. There are just too many good organizations in town and the competition level is quite even.”
McCaughey has also added talented, knowledgeable staff to DYHA to keep growing the program and allowing more opportunities for players and families.
“It is hard to say how the program has improved since I have only been here two seasons and the program was in great shape when I got here,” said McCaughey. “One of the changes I made this season was to bring in Hiroki as our dedicated goalie instructor and, in my opinion, he did a fantastic job. He really took ownership of the goalies and we even configured our ‘Skills Night’ so that the goalies would get a 45-minute private session with him as well as the 45-minute session with their team. That idea was actually his and it was a good one. He also spent one-on-one time during weekly practices and so far, I am getting really good feedback from our goalie parents. I also brought in Brad Perry and Jason Wright to run my Skills Nights and I believe that they positively affected the program.”
Now firmly immersed in his role after two seasons, McCaughey can’t see himself anywhere else other than the desert.
“I am excited about the future and the direction DYHA is heading,” said McCaughey. “There are a lot of exciting things happening behind the scenes that give us great reasons for optimism. We see ourselves as a possible Tier I program down the road and we will just have to wait and see how all that shakes out. The bottom line is that this is youth hockey and it is all about the kids and their families. It is about teaching and creating memories, and it is about fun, above all else.
“Once the kids stop having fun, you can lose your program. In my opinion, we are having lots of fun at DYHA and the future looks bright.”
Then there is Adam Mims.
Having been with DYHA and Oceanside Ice Arena since 1998, Mims was hired by Kurt Goar to work in the pro shop and over the past 21 years, has worked as pro shop clerk, operations tech, pro shop manager, operations manager, adult league director, pro shop and adult league owner, general manager, executive director, and the goalie coach for DYHA and the adult hockey skills program.
Needless to say, Mims has been around the block a time or two.
“What’s kept me here over the years has evolved, but the over-arching reason I’ve stayed here is because I believe in the non-profit DYHA mission that provides affordable hockey opportunities to the hockey community through its subsidiary, Oceanside Ice Arena,” Mims said. “For the first few years, it was really the ability to play hockey almost every day that was most interesting to me. Then it evolved into learning operations, programming, budgeting, and management of all aspects of an ice arena. More recently, since 2015, the challenge of creating a suitable first home for the new NCAA D-I ASU Sun Devils hockey program has been my primary focus.”
As for memories over the past handful of years, Mims said it comes down to the players.
“What sticks out to me is all the young hockey players who have learned to play here at DYHA and progressed into adulthood and played college hockey here and eventually landed in the adult leagues,” said Mims. “It’s amazing how many players have been playing hockey here regularly the entire time I’ve been here. I have several former DYHA players who work at Oceanside now and it’s rewarding to see these young men and women grow up in the DYHA community and be great adults.
“In my time here, there have been lots of changes at DYHA and Oceanside, but we’ve never lost sight of our mission, though, and that’s all that matters. More changes are on the way in the coming years and I’m confident that we’ll be true to our mission.”
Sean Whyte, the former longtime director of hockey operations and current president of DYHA, helped boost the program to where it is now before stepping aside as director to take a role with the NHL in developing youth hockey in Southwest U.S. non-traditional markets, including Arizona.
Whyte, another former Phoenix Roadrunners player who also skated for the Phoenix Mustangs in the old WCHL and played 21 games with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings (with Wayne Gretzky), has also coached numerous DYHA teams at all levels, including this year’s 18U squad.
“The culture that we have grown here at DYHA is based on family, team, sportsmanship and community,” said Whyte. “My fondest memories of the organization are watching the program grow from 2008 to now, as well as taking my Pee Wee team to the Quebec tournament and having every player billeted with a family.”
“Back in 2008, the program had just over 100 members. We have since grown to over 200 and focusing on not only skill development but the development of the player as a whole. DYHA is centrally located and pulls players from all over the Valley. As we continue building the best coaching staff and focusing on grassroots as well as high-tier hockey, the future of the DYHA program is looking extremely promising.”
Top photo/Gil Gabo
— Matt Mackinder
(April 10, 2019)