DYHA, ASU growing the game with flourishing relationship
Entering its second season as a full NCAA member, Arizona State hockey is becoming one of the fastest growing programs in the country.
Coach Greg Powers has been able to attract young talent from around the nation, helping to build a sturdy early foundation for his young program. And as his team develops, he hopes Arizona’s local youth hockey system does as well.
The first step in that process is getting involved in the community, something ASU’s players have begun doing by helping out at Desert Youth Hockey Association (DYHA) practices this fall.
“We are thrilled to get our players out in the community and give back to youth hockey,” Powers said. “Our goal is to make sure that every young player in this state grows up wanting to be Sun Devils and our guys being positive role models in the community is a great way to do that.”
By lending a hand to the Jr. Sun Devils program, ASU’s players have shown a commitment to get involved with youth hockey and help its young players get to where they are now, playing top-level college hockey.
“When you have players of that caliber that can come out and practice, just having them on the ice is a treat,” DYHA director of hockey Brad McCaughey said. “Just having that caliber on the ice helps the coaches; they can ask questions of players in front of the kids.”
Having an NCAA Division I program in the state has been a boon to youth hockey in the state, giving aspiring players an up-close look at the sport at the highest amateur level. With what ASU is doing now, kids in the state are getting to develop rare, personal connections with the players they look up to.
“It brings a level of realism to it,” McCaughey said. “A lot of these kids don’t get to meet pro players or D-I college players. Here, they get not only the chance to meet them, but get to know them over the course of the year.
“It makes it real. It makes that person real. Here is a guy that is playing D-I and said he had to work really hard, so that’s what we’ve got to do. It helps out in all regards.”
ASU is starting this process with just DYHA, but Powers hopes to soon see his players across the Valley helping cultivate the sport he and his team have centered their lives around.
“It’s only natural that we would start this with DYHA as we share a rink with them,” he said. “As we grow our outreach, we want to work with as many youth organizations as possible to strengthen our relationships in the community.”
The early returns on the involvement look good not just for kids playing the sport around town, but for the ASU players getting to experience the bond as well.
“It’s good for [the ASU players] in regards to giving back to the community,” McCaughey said. “For a lot of those players, D-I is where their career is going to stop. Hockey will always be part of them and they may decide that they really enjoy working with kids and showing kids what they’ve learned.
“No matter what you are doing, it is always good for college-aged kids and young adults to get out and work with the young kids and teach and give back a little bit. It’s a good growing experience.”
Even if only a handful of the kids the ASU players are working with make it to the next level, just being on the ice with the next generation is moving the Sun Devils program – and the Arizona hockey community – forward.
As McCaughey said: “It’s a win-win on both sides, and maybe we can get a few Sun Devils hockey fans out of it, too, and help fill the arena for years to come.”
It might help put a few future players on the ice for them to watch, too.
— Jack Harris
(Oct. 27, 2017)