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DYHA enter new chapter as ‘Jr. Sun Devils’

 

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Those associated with the Desert Youth Hockey Association (DYHA) might want to hang onto their Phoenix Firebirds jerseys and gear; it’ll all soon be considered “retro.”

DYHA is moving into the future with a new look and new identity as the “Jr. Sun Devils.”

Starting this spring, DYHA will begin the transformation from Firebirds to Jr. Sun Devils as part of a new licensing agreement with Arizona State University. DYHA will be licensed to use the Sun Devils name, colors – maroon, gold and black – and Sparky logo.

“We’re entering into a new era,” said DYHA director of hockey operations Sean Whyte of the organization celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.  “We look forward to a renewal of our dedication to youth hockey and a continuation of our longstanding commitment to the development of this exceptional sport in Arizona.”

“For youth hockey players in Arizona to be able to identify with college players and to be able to see them play and practice is another step in the right direction for hockey in Arizona,” said Jim Livanavage, head coach DYHA’s Squirt Major team.

“I think it’s a two-way street,” Livanavage added. “It’s also good for the college players to see these young kids.  To be around the rink and set an example for the younger kids is a great opportunity for those ASU players.”

Part of DYHA’s transformation will be an overhaul of Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe – the place they’ve called home since their inception in 1975. The venue’s facelift will include additional seats, new benches and penalty boxes, spectator heating, upgraded exterior lighting, as well as a full rebranding in Sun Devils colors.

Those improvements are in addition to the recently added college locker room and installment of professional-grade boards and glass.

The organization’s Web site – DYHockey.org – will also undergo an overhaul to accommodate the rebranding. DYHA plans on completing the transition through the summer and have it completely and ready for the start of the 2015-16 season.

While the team name changes and the arena takes on a new look, DYHA leadership affirms that the Jr. Sun Devils will still practice the same principles that have enabled them to be one of the most successful youth hockey organizations in the state.

“You have to have solid coaching in place and be a complete program that continues to develop all players year after year,” said Whyte, a former right wing who played for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, of his coaching staff; the DYHA coaching tree currently includes four former professional players.

Whyte added that the first look at the Jr. Sun Devils’ new black, maroon and gold color palate will come during most during the program’s pre-tryout camps (following the conclusion of the 2014-15 season), as well as the selection of DYHA’s summer tournament team rosters.

A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, DYHA saw its membership jump from 100 players in 2008 to roughly 250 the following year due to the diligence of Whyte and a dedicated leadership group that believed in the unique treasure that enters its fifth decade of serving the Valley hockey community this calendar year.

Currently, DYHA maintains a membership of 250 players that range in age from 4-18, with 14 teams rostered this season from Squirt to Midget.

This year, DYHA also introduced its “Second Stride” beginner hockey program – an offering that will also transition into the moniker of “Lil’ Devils” in the coming months.

In its first year, Whyte said the Second Stride initiative has been a great success for DYHA, with approximately 25-30 kids at each session and a high-return rate of players coming back week after week to keep learning how to play their new favorite game, to boot.

“The legacy of excellence will continue for all the players who bear the pride of ownership in the future of Jr. Sun Devils hockey,” Whyte added.

– Christopher C. Wuensch