AHSHA growth continuing to blossom with support of NHL’s Coyotes
As the 2019-20 Arizona High School Hockey Association (AHSHA) season approaches, it’s clearly obvious that the league has never been in better shape.
With 34 teams in the league again this year, there is a total of 243 new players, up from 189 players last year. The total number of registered players is 634.
The league opened registration on May 15 and had to go to a restricted registration by June 21, the earliest that AHSHA has ever had to move to that situation. The league usually goes to a restricted registration after team formation has been completed at the end of July. With a wait list of 128 players, the league was eventually able to place almost all of them on to team rosters.
“Enrollment in high school hockey has been growing exponentially every year for the past six years,” said AHSHA president pro-tem Ray Reed. “In fact, we are at a point where enrollment is far exceeding the number available positions. Along with the growth, we are attracting higher-level coaches and seeing a huge influx of higher-skilled players opting to play high school hockey. There is no doubt that high school hockey is close to becoming the premier league in the state of Arizona and we look forward to Arizona high school hockey dominating at the national level.”
The support of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes has also been a major point of appeal for all involved.
Matt Shott is the director of amateur hockey development and grassroots marketing for the Coyotes and sits on the Executive Committee for AHSHA as well as on the board as a non-voting member.
“Getting Tait Green more involved (as hockey director) has been a huge boost to the league and a lot of the more talented players in the state are coming to high school because they know the product is continuing to improve,” said Shott. “Just in the mere fact that there is a wait list for registration shows that this league’s popularity has skyrocketed. AZ Ice Gilbert has started to feature a Saturday Night High School Hockey Night weekly, the state playoffs and championships have seen huge numbers of fans, and the credibility for the league amongst the coaches in Arizona has greatly improved.”
This season, AHSHA will play games at Oceanside Ice Arena, AZ Ice Gilbert, Gila River Arena, AZ Ice Peoria, Jay Lively Arena, Tucson Arena and both Ice Den facilities in Scottsdale and Chandler.
“Just in my 4-5 years here, simply a noticeable increase in the number of AHSHA players seen wearing travel gear is a great indicator of the increased skill level and popularity,” said Coyotes supervisor of amateur hockey events and business development Jon Shivener. “If you go back 5-10 years, high school hockey was more of a next step after graduating from the various house leagues around town, and the sporadic travel player taking part was more of just a fun way to play hockey with their classmates and friends. Now, I think you’re seeing many kids at even the highest skill levels looking forward to joining AHSHA in addition to, or as a replacement to, travel hockey.”
Reed, a Michigan native who has been playing hockey for 50 years, wants to see AHSHA’s momentum continue to gain traction.
“As the new voice of AHSHA, managing our relationships with the Arizona hockey community will be key in the future growth of this league,” Reed said. “In addition, the future success of this league could not happen without the rock-solid board we currently have running AHSHA. As the board’s leader, I am very fortunate to have the support and dedication of my peers on this board. Without their dedication and countless hours spent, none of this growth and success would be occurring.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Oct. 31, 2019)