Second annual Flagstaff Dark Sky Tournament returning to Jay Lively Arena this summer
The Flagstaff Dark Sky Tournament is back for an encore performance.
Last summer, the event ran at Flagstaff’s Jay Lively Arena and had such positive feedback and parents and players saying it was a unique experience that the Flagstaff Youth Hockey Association will be running it again from July 31-Aug. 2.
“This is such a cool summer tournament in Flagstaff,” said FYHA treasurer Jamie Miele. “Last year, we had kids from Yuma, Tucson, Las Vegas, Flagstaff and Phoenix Metro. Kids register separately and get placed on a team, which gives these kids the opportunity to meet and play with kids they do not play with in the league teams. This builds camaraderie among our youth that will carry into the regular season.
“This tournament is our big fundraiser that helps us keep hockey affordable for everyone in our association, as well as funds our scholarship fund for the coming year.”
The inaugural tournament in 2019 provided two days of friendly competition among kids aged 8U through 14U, tournament T-shirts, unique jerseys worn by the players, a food truck, a skills competition, and an “awesome tournament director” in Kyle Palmer, according to Miele.
This summer’s tournament will see age groups from 8U on up to 16U with games running in the cross-ice format and teams playing 3-on-3 with two 20-minute periods.
Palmer said the idea for the event stemmed from just the idea to give young hockey players something to look forward to individually in the summertime before the grind of the new season kicks in.
“Last year was great,” said Palmer. “Kids signed up individually and then were drafted to teams based on their birth year or level of hockey they played in last year. That’s how we’ll do it again this year, keeping the teams fair and as equal as we can. It’s a great way to play competitive hockey with and against kids that maybe you don’t know or only see during the season during AZYHL games or in tournaments. That was the whole idea why we started this, just giving the kids something to do.”
After the 2019 tournament, the positive comments came rolling in from participants:
- “We had a great time! Thank you for organizing and setting this up. We will see you next year!”
- “A lot of fun! Will be there again. Thank you!!”
- “Great summer tournament!”
Last year’s event had at least one player from every youth hockey organization in the state, plus a handful of players from New Mexico, Las Vegas and Colorado.
“We had a lot of fun last year and had a lot of positive feedback, which was really good,” said Palmer. “We didn’t have the participation numbers for 16U last year, so we dropped that division, but other than that, the numbers were great. We think they’ll be even bigger this year.”
Palmer added that as early as this past fall, people began to ask about the next Dark Sky event.
“We would run into people or be talking to people and they would mention that they wanted to participate this year,” said Palmer. “That seemed like a really good thing and now, we expect it to grow and get bigger every year.
“It might turn into something where we maybe do it back-to-back weekends. We only have one sheet of ice, so that’s kind of an issue right there, but we think this can be bigger than it already is.”
One way the event will change this summer is how the draft will be conducted. Instead of players signing up and being assigned to a team via a draft, Palmer said there will be draft parties July 31 where players will be presented their jerseys, much like at the NHL Draft.
“We’re going to push for six teams in each division this year,” explained Palmer. “There will be between five and eight kids for each team.”
One unique aspect of the event not taking place on the ice has to do with the actual name of the tournament.
The city of Flagstaff holds the distinct honor of being designated by the International Dark Sky Association as the world’s first Dark Sky Community in 2001. One of the city’s requirements to continue to hold this prestigious accreditation is the submission of an annual report. This annual report is completed and submitted by city staff, it is developed in concert and collaboration with the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition.
Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory was established in 1894, placing it among the oldest observatories in the United States, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. In 2011, the observatory was named one of “The World’s 100 Most Important Places” by TIME Magazine. It was at the Lowell Observatory that the dwarf planet Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh.
“We’ve always had this thing for like the last 20 years where no lights point up to the sky, so dark sky is what we have in Flagstaff,” Palmer said. “That’s where the name of the tournament came from.”
With the tournament some five months away, Palmer said coming to Flagstaff and playing in the event will be an experience second to none for all players and families.
“This is such a fun tournament and it’s very competitive,” said Palmer. “Like I said, they get to know kids they wouldn’t play with regularly. It’s a small group sort of thing, so you get to know four, five, six new kids. It’s also something fun to do with hockey in the summertime and offseason.”
Participation fees are still being finalized.
— Matt Mackinder
(March 9, 2020)