Success for Jr. Coyotes begins with tireless front office
Take a look at any successful youth hockey organization and several items will immediately stand out – a strong infrastructure, quality coaches and players with aspirations to develop and learn the game.
Welcome to the Jr. Coyotes/Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA).
The organization has a solid backbone in place with its front office, which includes director of Elite AAA hockey Mike DeAngelis, executive director Kristy Aguirre, director of AA travel hockey Kenny Corupe, director of youth hockey development Scott Gruber and Gary Ihling, the new youth hockey manager at the Ice Den Chandler.
Each individual has a certain role within the Jr. Coyotes, yet all work together to keep the program at the top of the state’s most prestigious youth hockey organizations and at one of the top rinks, the Ice Den Scottsdale.
“What I like most about the organization is that we are a group of people who are unified to provide the best programming in the state of Arizona,” said Aguirre, who recently was elevated to her new position after previously serving as the program’s administrator and team manager for 16U and 18U Elite teams. “We each have significant contributions to the overall success of each player in our program. We have the best coaching staff around, including many NHL alumni. Our leaders believe in our program model and tirelessly invest in our efforts.”
For Corupe, a former player in the Pittsburgh and Calgary organizations, he initially settled in Chandler to raise his kids while his wife started her real estate career.
“Even when I was playing, I knew after hockey I wanted to get into coaching youth and help building the game of hockey in the desert,” Corupe said. “We have many people here that all work together as a team to make youth hockey grow in Arizona, and I’m so proud to be a part of that. I love helping make a positive experience for youth hockey players and their families.”
DeAngelis has been with the organization for 11 seasons, but said progress has only started to show in recent times.
“We have made huge strides the last five years to develop a strong program where elite level kids can excel at this sport and eventually leave the state as teenagers to pursue their dreams in junior and college hockey,” said DeAngelis, who played NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and then professionally for the Phoenix Mustangs of the old WCHL from 1999-2001.
Gruber moved to Scottsdale in his youth and played Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget hockey for Team Arizona, later to become the Phoenix Roadrunners. He’s now in his sixth season in his role with CAHA.
“Working in one place, having the same boss and owners for 16 years should be enough evidence that I like it here – it all starts at the top,” said Gruber. “In our building, you can literally start in learn-to-skate and work up all the way to 18U AAA without ever leaving the building. I am not sure a lot of buildings or programs can say that.”
Responsible for the development of the newest/incoming hockey players and helping with their development into the house hockey program, Ihling also manages the day-to-day operations of the house program and oversees the selection and development of the house All-Star teams. Five years ago, he started his coaching career with the Coyotes Development Program as his two sons and daughter began their own hockey journeys.
“Since being new to the organization, I have been overwhelmed with the support that I have received from my peers, coaches and parents,” Ihling said. “Everyone is good at what they do and are willing to assist with anything to make our organization a success. We will settle for nothing less than to provide our players with the very best hockey experience possible. Our belief that it really is all about the hockey experience is what separates our program from any I have been a part of.”
— Matt Mackinder