AHSHA growth spurt welcomes new girls Premier, Tucson teams
As the Arizona High School Hockey Association (AHSHA) gears up for the 2018-19 season, the league will have a new look this year – and that’s a good thing.
AHSHA welcomes the Tucson High School Roadrunners program, in addition to a new girls team that will play within the Premier program this season.
Marc Fritsche, who serves as AHSHA’s president, noted that the league is now at 36 teams and more than 600 players.
“The divisions are very competitive,” said Fritsche. “Our continued support from the Arizona Coyotes shows we are growing hockey in the Valley at the high school level, and that is very exciting.”
For the Tucson entry, coach Ryan DeJoe said having a high school program has been building over the last couple years.
“Originally, we only had a couple of players in this age group but over the last five seasons, our Tucson players who started with us as young kids have grown with the program and our numbers finally allowed us to form a high school team,” said DeJoe. “A lot of our Tucson players have not been on a travel team and have not played many games in their hockey careers. They were players that stuck with the program and continued to improve. That, combined with some of our players who were on our first AZYHL 14U team last season and some great kids who live in Casa Grande and are willing to make the drive, allowed us to put this team together.”
DeJoe added that it is “a huge deal” to be a part of AHSHA.
“I’m expecting our players to have a great experience in the league and other teams to enjoy coming down to Tucson for games for the first time,” DeJoe said. “We’ve had some contacts with AHSHA teams in the past and it has been overwhelmingly positive. I expect us to have a competitive team in Division 3. I know that the preseason games made our team eager to get on the ice in Tucson, which we finally did last month, and get to work on their game.”
Tait Green heads up the new girls Premier team and is elated with the recent boom in girls hockey, especially at the high school level.
“I do not know the registration numbers from the past but there are 27 girls playing AHSHA this year and 18 of those are involved with the Premier program,” said Green. “Based on observation, I would guess girls playing high school hockey has probably doubled in the last five years. The AHSHA Premier program has proven to be successful in developing players for hockey after high school. By adding this team, we are now able to provide girls the same experience and opportunity.
“We will expect the same thing from our girls that we do the boys. Work hard, play the game the right way, be a good teammate and have fun. Our success is based on kids learning and growing, not wins and losses.”
Both DeJoe and Green are in agreement that having the Coyotes on board is a benefit to all involved.
“I don’t think it can be overstated the impact the Coyotes have had,” DeJoe said. “Their monetary contributions alone provide a competitive and extremely well-ran league at a reasonable rate for parents. And the players get the perks of their own jerseys with the Coyotes logo as well as free Coyotes tickets and the feeling that their league is backed by the Coyotes and the NHL. It helps further ingratiate the team to kids growing up in Arizona playing hockey.”
“The Coyotes continue to be an incredible organization when it comes to growing the game of hockey in Arizona,” added Green. “What they are doing for girls is amazing. By supporting AHSHA, they are now reaching out to girls of all ages. They have people like (Coyotes director of amateur hockey development) Matt Shott working for them that are fully committed to growing girls hockey. I think with all the ‘Yotes are doing, combined with having teams at ASU and GCU, girls and women’s hockey will be a large and prominent figure in Arizona amateur hockey.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Oct. 29, 2018)