Lacrosse season getting set for center stage at Ice Den
While the growth of hockey in Arizona has been a source of pride in recent years, lacrosse has been gaining in participation and popularity as well.
At the Ice Den Scottsdale, lacrosse leagues are forming for the upcoming months as the ice will shortly be changed over to turf.
Bill Casey, who works with the Vipers Lacrosse Club and Arizona Box Lacrosse, is elated with how well the game has grown in the desert.
“This is my 13th year involved in all aspects of Arizona lacrosse and I can honestly say that after a few hiccups, we are on the right path to growth,” Casey said. “The youth organizations merged a few years ago and the leadership now promotes lacrosse clinics in area schools, working with city parks and recreation, YMCAs and other organizations to spread awareness of America’s first team sport, lacrosse.
“Lacrosse sells itself – kids just need access to it. It’s a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey. The game rewards coordination and agility. Lacrosse is a sport that equalizes the little guy that has good stick skills, can dodge and finish.”
The similarities between hockey and lacrosse is one that many people may not see at first glance.
“The correlation between box lacrosse and hockey go hand in hand,” said Ben Prepchuk of AZ Outlaws Lacrosse. “The same number of players on the playing surface, played in a hockey rink, penalties, but most importantly, the hand-eye coordination needed to play both hockey and lacrosse are similar. There is a natural transition for a hockey player, being comfortable playing with the contact, and comfortable with a stick in their hands. There are a lot of the current and former NHL stars – even Wayne Gretzky – that played lacrosse and they attribute some of their success in hockey to the time spent playing lacrosse.”
And playing at the Ice Den provides a superb location for lacrosse at all levels from youth to adults, beginners and experienced.
“There are many positives to playing lacrosse at the Ice Den,” Prepchuk said. “First of all, it is a first-class facility with an amazing staff. For the Outlaws to be able to call the Ice Den home is an absolute blessing. We get to train in a top-notch, air-conditioned facility. Training in the Ice Den has afforded us to have fun local leagues, as well as practices for our Outlaws travel program in an environment where we are out of the elements, and we don’t have to worry about anything other than learning and having fun.
“We had over 135 players playing box lacrosse at the Ice Den last summer and we expect to have even more this summer.”
Prepchuk noted that Outlaws travel teams who train at the Ice Den have won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals competing in top tournaments as well.
“The Ice Den in Scottsdale is an ideal central location for lacrosse players at one of the premier facilities in the USA,” said Casey. “When the third rink was added in 2011, management had the foresight to construct a concrete base for it to provide multipurpose programming, including lacrosse. We started our partnership with Mike O’Hearn and his staff at the Ice Den and they continue to be great supporters of lacrosse in Arizona.”
With more growth on the horizon for lacrosse in Arizona, Prepchuk is overjoyed to be part of the forward progress, including at the college level, where the state has four currently at Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Grand Canyon University and Northern Arizona University.
“The growth and interest can be attributed to the coaches and directors that are out there doing whatever it takes to get a lacrosse stick in as many kids’ hands as possible, giving them a chance to experience the game,” said Prepchuk. “People that have played the game in college are coming back and want to get involved, and quality people like that are moving to Arizona.”
— Matt Mackinder
(March 26, 2018)