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AHU, AZ Ice Gilbert Mite Jamboree set to create memories

 

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Hockey players eight years old and under from all across the greater Phoenix area will get to enjoy one of their first tournament experiences on Jan. 29 when the Arizona Hockey Union (AHU) and the AZ Ice facility in Gilbert host their third annual Mite Jamboree.

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The all-day tournament is expected to include 16 travel teams and 12 house teams competing in cross-ice games. It’s set up to provide a fun and family-friendly environment that gives youngsters an introduction to tournament hockey while helping them develop their skills.

The tournament is free of charge for all teams.

“We wanted to give back and promote the game of hockey at the Mite level,” AHU president Stacy Shupe said. “The state has helped us financially to make this happen. We donate our time and other resources to grow the game of hockey.”

The teams are separated into a travel division and an in-house division, and each team will play a minimum of three games. While there won’t be any champions crowned or banners to be taken home, the event provides an opportunity to get Mite players on the ice and experiencing a tournament atmosphere, said Bob Platt, the hockey director at AZ Ice Gilbert.

“It’s a good way of gathering everybody involved in the Mite hockey world in Arizona, and putting on an event that showcases the entry-level kids up to the more skilled players is a great thing to do,” Platt said.

“It’s a little more family-oriented than maybe some tournaments for older kids are, and it needs to be based on the ages of the players involved. There’s a lot of stuff going on off the ice with raffles, and the Arizona Coyotes will have a presence at our event.”

Platt said that alongside Shupe and a number of other people who have helped plan the Mite Jamboree, Carly Accardo has been kept busy in keeping all the details together. Accardo is the team manager for Arizona Hockey Union’s 8U Black team and is in charge of making sure the tournament runs smoothly.

“Carly has been instrumental in putting this entire event together, working with the committee and organizing everything from the schedule to the rules and beyond,” Platt said.

The Mite Jamboree is made possible by the generosity of some key people in the local hockey community. A committee from the AHU works throughout the fall to plan the tournament. The Arizona Amateur Hockey Association provides financial and organizational support as well, in the spirit of helping develop the players who will make up the travel players of the future in the local area and continuing to grow the game.

In addition to a competitive environment, the committee has taken significant steps to ensure that the tournament offers a fun atmosphere as well. The event logo features the slogan “Hustle and Flow” in a 1970’s-style font, complete with a silhouette of a player with old-school hockey hair, and T-shirts featuring the logo will be available for purchase at the rink. They’re also expecting an appearance from the Coyotes mascot, Howler, and every kid goes home with a goodie bag from the tournament.

“It’s really a grassroots effort to expand the game, which helps with the travel programs throughout the area,” Shupe said. “This is a way to give back to the community and keep kids interested in hockey.”

— Greg Ball