Mission AZ working to strengthen ties to AZ Ice Peoria
For 12 of its 13 years as a program, Mission AZ has made its home in the friendly confines of AZ Ice Peoria.
As the 2018-19 season gets underway, the leadership at Mission is taking steps to further its already strong relationship with the rink’s operators.
Jeremy Goltz, Mission’s director of hockey operations, said he wants to continue doing the things that will support the long-term health of his program while also giving back and supporting the thriving in-house program at the rink. In many ways, those two goals go together, and he recently came to the realization that he and his staff needed to do more to foster those relationships.
“We’re trying to reinvent our relationship with the rink and the in-house program,” Goltz said. “Sometimes, when you’re in one place for a long time, things can get stagnant, and we sort of found that the chain from in-house hockey to playing travel hockey was in some ways broken.”
Goltz and his coaching staff have started a weekly clinic on Wednesdays at 5:10 p.m. to work with in-house players that will run through the entire season. It should be a win-win for both parties as the clinics will also help expose younger players to the Mission program and potentially serve as a recruiting avenue for the program.
“We’re hoping to help some of the in-house coaches with working on specific skill sets with the kids, knowing that they have limited practice time,” Goltz said. “The players get exposure to us as well and get familiar with how we do things at Mission. I think it’s really going to help bridge the gap.”
Goltz has put on summer clinics and organized summer leagues in the past, but they always involved travel players alongside in-house kids, and sometimes that doesn’t make for the most effective learning environment for either group.
“This is really all about Mission directly trying to positively impact the in-house program, maximize their development and give them a little taste of what we’re all about,” Goltz said. “It can give them an opportunity to get more ice time and more coaching, and maybe take a look at how far they want to push their hockey aspirations.”
As tryouts wrapped up for the 2018-19 season, Goltz discovered that about 80 percent of the players in Mission’s Squirt team were new this year, most coming directly from the in-house league at AZ Ice Peoria. That’s obviously a significant positive for the program, and it’s something that he wants to continue growing.
Goltz said that the rink operators have always been strong supporters of the Mission program, and that has played a big part in the program staying put in one place for so long.
“Jim Curley, the general manager, is a huge advocate for Mission,” Goltz said. “He’s always trying to figure out ways that we can bridge programs and make sure that people are educated about Mission. Larry Gibson, the youth hockey director, is also our goalie coach, so there’s a strong tie there. He’s a great link to Mission. Crystal Roe is the adult hockey director, and she does a lot of great work for us.”
In addition to its work with the in-house program, Mission is also getting involved with the selects program, which is a bridge program between house and travel. They will have some of their younger coaches help out with tryouts and other aspects of the program.
“We’re excited about it,” Goltz said. “It’s been a shot in the arm for me to get to work with some different kids. So far, it’s been a lot of fun, and I’m enjoying it.”
— Greg Ball
(Sept. 19, 2018)