Arizona Rubber

Arizona’s and New Mexico’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Coyotes continue to make commitment to Arizona community

 

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First, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a commitment to the community and now, the Arizona Coyotes have stepped forward.

While both organizations are highly visible in the community, the Diamondbacks reached out to softball and baseball players in the area of physical enhancement. That includes building playing fields throughout Arizona and supplying players with equipment.

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To date, the Diamondbacks financed 39 fields across the state, and the latest one, the Paul Goldschmidt Field, opened to coincide with the Diamondbacks’ opening day game against the San Francisco Giants in early April.

Acting on the same level, but as separate supporters of community and youth programs, the Coyotes have set out to build facilities with equal enthusiasm, energy and purpose.

Last October, the Coyotes announced a partnership with Luke Air Force Base, about a 10-minute drive down Glendale Avenue from Gila River Arena. At that time, the Coyotes committed $200,000 to construct an outdoor dek hockey rink and put a large footprint in the community.

The response was overwhelming.

Personnel on the base embraced the project and waited anxiously for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Though the target date was Jan. 1, the dek was not competed until early April. Still, the project came at a time where hockey is flourishing in the desert and personnel at Luke, from all over the country, remain passionate about hockey.

“We had an opportunity to bring the Stanley Cup on base,” said Randy Kwiatkowski, the command chief for the 56th Fighter Wing out of Luke. “I thought just a few people would show up, but we had over 200 families come out. Many had their hockey shirts and logos from their home teams. It was the biggest audience I could ever imagine.”

To help in the ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 14 were several Coyotes players, including defensemen Connor Murphy, Anthony DeAngelo and Alex Goligoski and forward Jordan Martinook. Personnel from the base as well as their families and the Coyotes became immediately engaged and filled the rink with gloves, sticks, goalie pads and flying rubber balls.

For now, the rink is for enjoyment of those on the base. At the same time, the facility represents the Coyotes’ incentive into the community. Whether an ambitious plan for dek rinks is planned throughout the state, as is the case with the Diamondbacks incentive, is to be determined, but the motivation has begun. For now, the players warmly embrace the concept and look forward to additional outdoor rinks.

“This is a great partnership,” said Murphy, who captained Team USA in the World Championships in Cologne, Germany, last month. “Plus, this is natural, because Luke is so close to our building. And the best part? You don’t have worry about ice. This is really great, and I know we’re all happy to help in any way we can.”

Incentive for the project germinated from the Coyotes’ desire to expand and market their brand. While Anthony LeBlanc, the Coyotes’ president and CEO, promised to add additional dek facilities throughout Arizona, the thrust of the motivation comes from the desire to put as many sticks in the hands of younger players as possible.

“There are many ways to grow the game, and we believe this is one important way,” LeBlanc said. “The first step for us to move forward and get as many young people involved. We’re proud of what we have here at Luke, and plan to have this one as the first of many.”

While no additional sites have been finalized, LeBlanc pointed out that facilities in Tucson and Flagstaff would be ideal. After all, the way to expand interest and reach as many as possible is to reach into the community. For that reason, the franchise dropped the name “Phoenix Coyotes” and broadened its appeal to “Arizona Coyotes.”

That’s a statewide attempt to gain a greater identity factor, and utilization of dek hockey facilities only helps to broaden its base and scope.

Photo – Luke Air Force Base family members team up with Arizona Coyotes players prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 13 for the new dek hockey rink located on the base. Photo/Senior Airman James Hensley/U.S. Air Force

— Mark Brown