Shop Talk: Very rewarding to see AZ high school hockey keep growing
The Arizona High School Hockey state championships back on Saturday night, Feb. 4, was the place to be.
The four championship games were held on two rinks at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. The crowds arrived early and boy, did they arrive.
Finding a parking spot would have been easier on Black Friday at the mall.
Fans and parents showed up in their school’s jerseys and colors. The atmosphere was electric. It is amazing to see how the students have embraced hockey in the state.
Through the power of social media, the students can keep updated on their schools’ hockey team. Most schools have their own hockey Twitter accounts. Behind The Mask ran Twitter polls asking which teams would win each of the finals division games.
For the Division 1 game, we received 499 votes, for the D2 game, 372 votes, the D3 game had 67 votes and for the junior varsity game, 95 votes. A total of 1033 people cast their vote. Incredible!
All four games had great student sections. School chants rained down from the packed bleachers. The players saluted the students with some great post-goal celebrations that included glove ice sweeps and Alex Ovechkin-like board jump celebrations. The students went wild, most standing and cheering the entire game.
Having been involved with high school hockey since its inception, I could not be more proud of what I am seeing. In its infancy, the schools did not even acknowledge hockey as it was and still is a club sport.
Over time, that has changed.
There are still some of those friendly faces associated with the programs from the early days. Even some whose kids have long since graduated, but still have the passion to help grow high school hockey. These volunteers are truly amazing and I commend you for your commitment.
BTM has presented the Stephen Daniel Demchik Memorial Scholarship for the past decade. This academic and community service award was named in honor of a Thunderbird High School hockey player who was killed in a hiking accident in 2006. Each year, seniors are encouraged to submit an application to the Arizona High School Hockey Association. This year’s award was proudly presented by my wife Kathy and I to Horizon D2 captain Jack Dobbins. BTM donates $1000 to the school the winner will be attending.
Through BTM, we get to see many of the high school players in our stores. But when the applications come in that show the players’ GPA, SAT and ACT scores, I get to see how successful these kids are in both the classroom and in the community.
Other awards were presented that night including the Scott Gower Memorial Scholarship, named after the late coach of Deer Valley. Scott was a great man who did a lot in the early years of high school hockey. This year, the award went to Cameron Judge of Notre Dame.
Plus, the All State and All Academic teams were given out. It was great to see the well-deserved recognition given out to these players. There were many proud parents, grandparents and friends that evening.
To see the players hoist the state championship trophies will provide hockey highlights for a lifetime. For most, this will serve as the pinnacle of their hockey careers.
Congratulations the winners: D1 Pinnacle, D2 Centennial, D3 Desert Vista, JV Chaparral.
Watch out Minnesota – we’re coming for you!
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.