CDP program a vital cog in Jr. Coyotes’ development path
Even the best of the best have to start at the beginning.
That much is true with the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA).
The Coyotes Development Program (CDP) is a house-level initiative that features multi-faceted programming including a full 44-session fall/winter season, 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 sessions in the spring and summer, and the important entry point, the Initiation Program (IP).
The CDP fall/winter house hockey league is offered for Mini-Mite through Bantam/Midget age divisions. It focuses on basic skill development with an introduction to team play concepts, in a fun environment for learning. Players are given an equal opportunity to participate and are encouraged to play all positions.
Registered players participate in evaluations before the season starts for team assignment. Games are played at either the Ice Den Scottsdale or Ice Den Chandler. At the helm of the CDP are two individuals passionate about growing the game of hockey – Scott Gruber and Gary Ihling.
Gruber is one of the Ice Den’s inaugural staff members and is based at the Ice Den Scottsdale. A gifted player in his own right, Gruber hails from the hockey-mad state of Minnesota, where he was a key member of the famed Shattuck-St. Mary’s hockey program. Upon graduation, Gruber served as a lead hockey instructor at Shattuck for four years. Simultaneously, Gruber played hockey collegiately at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, where he compiled more than 100 wins in a four-year career. He was a member of back-to-back NJCAA national champions and is a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Ihling, based out of the Ice Den Chandler, began playing hockey at the age of seven growing up in Newark, N.J. In 2011, he started his coaching career with the CDP. Since then, he has coached at every level from Mini-Mite to Bantam and joined the CAHA staff earlier this year to grow the program in the southeast valley.
“The house league provides a solid foundation of basic hockey skills and techniques being taught throughout the entire program,” explained Gruber, CAHA’s director of youth hockey development. “The house league provides young players a positive environment to learn and make mistakes all while gaining confidence in their abilities. The house league’s role is to allow kids to achieve their goals, whether it is to play recreationally or competitively.
“Our house league in Scottsdale is very competitive and is a great avenue for skill development. House hockey is hard to define and I’m not sure there is an exact definition. House hockey is more of a culture. I feel it is a culture of what is put in to it. We take our program very seriously and so do our coaches. At the end of the day, a house league is only going to be as good as its coaches.”
Ihling, who serves as CAHA’s youth hockey development manager in Chandler, echoes Gruber’s assessment of the CDP.
“I like to take a more optimistic look at house league,” said Ihling. “I see it as a stepping stone to higher levels of competition, which is exactly why we have our development program structured the way we do. As the player becomes more confident, works hard and puts in the time, their skills will improve dramatically. If that player follows that ladder of development, he/she can reach higher and higher levels of success.”
Overall, optimism continues to grow, as do the numbers for the CDP.
“I truly believe that the future is bright,” Ihling said. “This summer, we have seen a record number of participants in our Little Howlers program, our Learn to Skate program is thriving and this summer, we currently have one of, if not the largest IP classes since we became part of the Ice Den family. Since these programs are the launching pad for all of our players, I would say that we are trending in the right direction.”
– Matt Mackinder