AZ Ice Arcadia continues adult hockey initiatives for beginners
As hockey in Arizona has continued to grow, much of the focus has remained on youth hockey.
When Justin Rogers took over as the adult hockey director at AZ Ice Arcadia nearly four years ago, he became passionate about encouraging the growth of adult hockey specifically.
He found himself coaching the Adult Beginner Skills class at Arcadia and has been doing it ever since.
“More often than not, adults, at least at the beginner level, were being overlooked in hockey,” said Rogers. “That was something I wanted to change because there was this whole untapped market of potential future hockey players.
“Since Arcadia opened, we’ve always tried to offer an Adult Learn to Play class of some form. The program itself has changed and evolved over time, but it’s always been something we wanted adults to have the opportunity to try.”
The current Adult Skills program at Arcadia runs on Sunday nights from 7:55-8:55 p.m. It is structured to run a 30-minute skills session followed by a 30-minute scrimmage. Rogers is the lead coach for the program, often accompanied by some of the Arizona Titans coaches like Steve Majercak.
“It’s been great to get coaches from the Titans organization out to Adult Skills,” Rogers said. “It pushes them to adapt their coaching style but also gives these parents, many of them with kids in hockey, a glimpse into the coaching staff at the Titans.”
The program is open to everyone over the age of 18. There is always a mix of skill levels from players who’ve never even skated to players who just haven’t played in many years.
“I think that’s part of what makes this program so great,” Rogers said. “It’s this mix of players, many of them at different levels, but they’re all there to learn or freshen up on the fundamentals of the game.”
In the last couple years, USA Hockey ran the First Goal initiative for adult hockey, which was a boost to Arcadia’s adult program. Instead of relying on gear donations for adult gear rentals, Arcadia was able to get brand new full sets of gear to loan to adults looking to participate.
“The First Goal initiative was a huge step in the right direction for us,” said Rogers. “We’ve always offered gear rentals so that anyone can try the program, even without their own gear. But this new gear gave us a better chance to get people into gear they’ll feel more comfortable in and that affects how they feel about the program as well.”
Arcadia has hopes to continue to expand this program as the interest level grows.
“Our goal is to take this class and be able to develop a true beginner league for the participants in Adult Skills to be a part of,” Rogers said. “I want to be able to create a beginner league that has games with officials but also coaching on the bench.
“It’s important that as these players learn the game, they are also given the opportunity to play it and learn from their mistakes as well as their successes, but they need the right environment to do that.”
The Arizona Coyotes just announced Growlers, a new adult Learn to Play program that will run out of AZ Ice Arcadia in Jan. 2020. For $250, participants will receive a full set of equipment (excluding skates), 10 on-ice sessions, jersey and socks, two tickets to Coyotes games and a custom Coyotes growler.
“We were really excited when (Coyotes director of amateur hockey development) Matt Shott reached out to ask us to host the first-ever Growlers program,” said Rogers. “We’re even more excited to hear that spots have already sold out, which means that the demand for these adult programs is growing. We are happy to be a part of growing hockey across at all levels.”
— Moriah Hernandez
(Jan. 2, 2020)