Mission Arizona continues to build a hockey powerhouse
OK, fair enough – it’s kind of about all of those things.
But on an even grander scale, it’s also been about something else – family, or “the brotherhood.”
That’s how Mission Arizona founder and coach-in-chief Jeremy Goltz describes the purpose behind everything he, his wife, Brandi, and the organization’s dedicated coaches, parents and players have put into what is now one of the state’s marquee youth associations.
“If you look at how this whole thing started, we didn’t have much to sell,” said Goltz. “We were out of a couple of different rinks, and it was basically, ‘Come wear this jersey and trust what we’re doing.’”
That was a full 10 years ago.
Today, with Mission now the tenant at AZ Ice Peoria and serving as the benchmark of hockey development in the greater Phoenix region’s West Valley, the program celebrated its first decade of excellence by inducting its 2015 Hall of Fame class in August.
Mission’s Hall of Fame ceremony has turned into an annual event, which includes the induction festivities, an alumni game and more. For the alumni game alone, more than 40 former players returned to Peoria to take the ice with their Mission brethren.
Goltz explains that creating the Hall of Fame in the first place – as a sign of gratitude to that first class of Mission greats and as a way to honor those coming after – is a big part of how Mission is where it is today.
“It was important to honor that original group – I call them the founding fathers,” Goltz said. “They really had nothing back then, but had so much stake in what we were doing. Without those guys, there’s not a 10th season, not a ninth season, there’s not a second season.”
Mission initially fielded just three older-aged teams and since, the program reached a high of 12 at one point, before settling on 10 teams – across all age groups – as the sweet spot.
But Goltz isn’t the only one who associates Mission with “family.” Players and coaches do, too.
“Players will tell you that when they leave the program, not only are they prepared to move onto the next level of hockey, if that is what they choose, but for life as well,” noted Doug Cannon, now in his seventh season as a Mission coach. “It’s a true hockey family.”
Added Goltz: “I think about what makes us different. We started it, we’re still day-to-day running it. I think that personalizes it. There’s been such an investment with our family and it’s been as personal with the players.”
Former Mission coach Jeff Eades said that in addition to the head coach’s never-rest commitment, it’s the behind-the-scenes work of the “other” Goltz that gives credence to the program’s familial nature.
“All of the behind the scenes activities are coordinated by Brandi Goltz,” Eades explained. “Her preference is to fly under the radar. However, she deserves to be immensely recognized because she makes all of us better at what we do within the organization. Isn’t that the very definition of what an exceptional teammate is?”
Her husband is the first to say that while the current players have it good with great ice, updated training facilities, and that classically stylish red and white look, Mission is a lower-frills entity. But don’t take that as self-deprecating as to Jeremy Goltz, it’s the ultimate virtue.
“In a lot of ways, we’re pretty predictable,” he said. “Our story hasn’t changed very much in 10 years. Our coaching situation has been constant and there’s been a definite plan and a goal of what we’re trying to set and that goal goes throughout the organization. Our philosophy has been a constant.”
And credit Eades for perhaps the best way of explaining that philosophy: “The organization has grown and strengthened and become very successful. However, the philosophy is the same – pure hockey, no strings attached.”
— Brett Fera