Arizona Rubber

Arizona’s and New Mexico’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Strong coaching proving to be backbone of Jr. Coyotes


CAHA logoWith more than 50 coaches committed for the 2016-17 season, the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) youth program has grown exponentially in recent years.

Now with teams competing at the AA and AAA levels at both the Ice Den Scottsdale and Ice Den Chandler, the Jr. Coyotes have discovered that having the right coaches in place has the ability to make the difference from a good organization to a great organization.

Mike De Angelis, the director of hockey for the Jr. Coyotes Elite AAA program, wants only the best behind the bench.

“We have some of the most experienced hockey leaders in the Southwest heading our travel teams,” said De Angelis. “This includes coaches who all combined have thousands of games in college, junior and professional hockey under their belts. These leaders understand the culture of the hockey environment and are very aware of being an important instructor and huge role model for these kids. ”

Jr. Coyotes director of AA travel hockey Kenny Corupe agrees with De Angelis and said selecting coaches all comes down to one item.

“The first thing I look at when recruiting a coach is if they care,” Corupe said. “Do they care enough about the sport? About players on and off the ice? What we believe as a program? Will they work together with the program to make everyone better? I feel you must start with being a high-quality person who will take the time for the players and parents first. We can teach you the game. If they played the game, that is always an added bonus for me. Playing 15 years pro all over the world, there are a lot of players that cannot teach the game to kids. Sure, they can stickhandle, but are they teachers and motivators?”

Next season, Marc Fritsche, a Cleveland-area transplant, will coach AAA hockey with the 2002 and 2006 birth year teams. He coached 16U and 18U for the Cleveland Barons for 15 seasons before joining the Jr. Coyotes this past season.

“I like the fact that the program is developing and growing hometown talent to move up through the ranks of junior, college and pro hockey,” Fritsche said. “The program is building a long lasting legacy of moving its players to the next level and that is very exciting for hockey fans in the desert.”

Mathew Blades, who will coach AA in Chandler with the 2006 and 2008 age groups next season, is passionate about the teaching aspect of the game.

“I’ve been coaching house and helping with power skating at the Ice Den in Chandler, but now that both of my boys are trying out for the Jr. Coyotes program, it’s time for me to make that move as well,” said Blades. “Too many programs are concerned with winning. We want to teach these kids the right way and by doing that, we will win games. It’s a great time to play hockey at the Ice Den.”

This coming fall, David Willcoxson will coach with three teams in Scottsdale – House Pee Wee, 2003 AA birth year and 2008 AAA. He’s played men’s league hockey in the Valley the better part of the last 25 years and is right at home with the Jr. Coyotes.

“I see this program continuing to evolve each year,” Willcoxson said. “I am amazed at the talented youth we have in the program who continue to graduate to the next level. I love to see that other high-level hockey organizations both here in Arizona and across the U.S. want the players that we are developing. Arizona players are a lot more common now in juniors and at the collegiate level, I believe in part to the commitment from the CAHA program.

“There have been tremendous strides in preparing players to play at the next level and CAHA is a leader in that category.”

— Matt Mackinder

  • newtiffen

    David Willcoxson back in the day was asked to play at Mankato State when I was a hockey dad and watched the Jr. Roadrunners surprise teams out of state. He was recruited right of of Phoenix without playing Juniors, that he looked forward to playing.
    It wasn’t to be though, as his parents accepted the offer to play at what is now Minnesota State University. Coach Willcoxson is now an inductee into the MSU Hockey Hall of Fame. Even in the early days with two rinks and AA travel teams, we were able to keep hockey alive and well but only dreamed of what the hockey environment would be today, that ASU would be Division 1, that Matthews would be drafted number 1. Holding on by a thread, parents and players kept the sport alive and would watch players begin to be recruited to Prep Schools and Jr. teams and eventually would find their way to Div 1 and Div 3 colleges and ACHA. I remember so well the dedication and love of the sport in Arizona. We were small but knew we were growing and David was a proud product of that era. What a game.