IHAAZ continuing to be ‘truly a family organization’
Another Inline Hockey Association of Arizona (IHAAZ) season is on the horizon and history is expected to be made with the Knighthawks in the 12U division.
“I think what really will be great is this season the Knighthawks will most likely feature an all-girls team,” Knighthawks head coach Brent Proud said. “We have enough interest from girls and families to most likely make this happen.”
Proud said the possibility of a girls team speaks to the growth of IHAAZ in recent memory.
“It’s really an awesome testament to how far the IHAZZ has come over the last few years,” Proud said. “The sport is really taking off again, much like it did in the late 90s. Some of these girls are from other places around the state, but the girls all know each other and have built friendships with each other because of IHAAZ.”
Proud can’t wait to see the girls team up and running. It will be one of five teams the Knighthawks program will feature this festival season. The others are 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U teams.
The AZ Royals are also gearing up for another season and plan to feature one 12U team, two 14U teams and three 18U teams. The 14U teams took first and second, respectively, in the state finals last year and many of those players are headed to the 18U division. The 18U team played for a championship at the state finals last May and the majority of the players are back for another run.
“The Royals as a program is excited for the earlier start and the more spread out season,” Royals coach Nick Boyarsky said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to see what this year’s season will be like.”
The Jr. Wildcats are also looking forward to the season ahead after holding tryouts in late August.
The Wildcats plan to feature teams in the 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U divisions. Wildcats president Erik Dahl can’t wait for the action to get underway.
“We’re just excited to get back into the IHAAZ season and spend those weekends away playing hockey,” Dahl said. “We enjoy the competition and the camaraderie that develops both within our club and with the players and families from other clubs. This is truly a family organization.”
And the family focus is what makes the league such a hit.
“It’s a big part of the success and growth of the league,” Dahl said. “People come and try it and fall in love with the level of competition and fun, and it’s not like many other sports where the teams are rivals on and off the rink. In this league, we’re rivals during the game and then we cheer for many of the same kids we just played in their next game.”
Because of the popularity of the league, tournament director Dean Koressel said there are changes on the horizon.
He noted teams that wish to participate in the IHAAZ festival series this year will be required to submit an application for participation due to the number of new teams wanting to play.
Koressel also said that for the first time since 2008, the league has scheduled its first festival before the new year arrives. The first festival is slated for December at the Peoria Sportsplex.
Proud can’t wait for the festival season to start.
“What is fantastic about the IHAAZ is everyone is great friends and they all look forward to these festivals so they can see the people they don’t necessarily see on a weekly basis,” Proud said.
– Brian Lester