Shop Talk: Taking a mobile view of the Arizona hockey landscape
Over the past month, BTM mobile has traveled to Flagstaff for the annual skate swap and to Prescott and Yuma for the start of their fall inline rec seasons.
Here are some thoughts on our trip and the state of hockey statewide.
Our Flagstaff trip coincided with the Arizona Coyotes’ Lil’ Howlers program, which was there there to support the event at Jay Lively Arena alongside Northern Arizona University players and local coaches. It was a full sheet of players, coaches and volunteers and was amazing to see 50 new hockey players as part of the Lil Howlers. Congrats to the city of Flagstaff, Flagstaff Youth Hockey Association and the Coyotes’ Matt Shott (director of amateur hockey development) for a job well done.
The new Coyotes ownership group has really taken the initiative to grow the sport statewide. And the results are evident across the state. The Coyotes are partnering with the NHL where for $100, a new player gets a full set of gear, including skates and a stick to keep, USA Hockey registration and six on-ice sessions with Coyotes alumni. BTM is proud be involved with this program and will be providing FREE fitting sessions for the players. The new Lil’ Howlers can come to a designated BTM on a designated day to get fitted properly. The first time putting on hockey gear for a new parent can sometimes be an adventure.
Our second two legs of the mobile tour were for the start of the rec inline season at Pioneer Park in Prescott and Kennedy Park in Yuma. The entire community rallies together for the promotion and growth of the sport. It is really refreshing and something all of us in greater Phoenix could take a lesson from. The number of parents that volunteer is heartwarming.
In Prescott, longtime inline supporter Dean Koressel is on the mic putting the players through skills and making it a fun event. Anyone who has ever played in an IHAAZ tournament knows Dean, and I can guarantee you that he knows you. He is truly a historian of Arizona inline hockey.
In Yuma, youth hockey president Jeff Johnson puts the players through drills to evaluate the players so teams can be evenly formed. Jeff is truly one the most important people statewide in growing and supporting inline hockey. His passion for Yuma inline hockey and commitment to the IHAAZ is legendary.
Through BTM’s recycle initiative and the community donations, there is an abundance of FREE gear. Both inline rinks are on community parks with the city building these outdoor facilities. Both community’s city leaders have a much better vision than that of our greater Phoenix cities and leaders. How many soccer and baseball fields do you drive by daily in greater Phoenix that are empty?
BTM mobile has been trying to coordinate a fall trip to Tucson. We are looking forward to seeing the growth of hockey plus catching a few Tucson Roadrunners AHL games. In Tucson, there is a renewed energy in developing youth hockey. Let’s hope a full-time rink is in the near future.
Early January, we head to Lake Havasu for the IHAAZ inline festival and get to see another tireless supporter of inline hockey, Bill Beckman. Without Bill, I am not sure inline hockey would even be a sport in Lake Havasu. He has put countless hours towards building their program. The first few years, they took some lumps statewide in the IHAAZ, but now are very competitive. But more important than wins and losses is the fun and sportsmanship the program shows.
In wrapping up our tour of the state, I think the words pride, commitment and cooperation best describes what we are seeing. Personally I could not be prouder of what we are seeing and the friendships made around the state. I am humbled to be part of Arizona hockey.
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.