Whyte ‘absolutely blessed’ to be inducted into DYHA Hall of Fame
It was only fitting that Sean Whyte was inducted into the Desert Youth Hockey Association Hall of Fame the same day the organization hosted a “Nationals Send-Off Event” for its three USA Hockey Youth Nationals tournament qualifiers on March 31.
Even a year after resigning as DYHA’s director of hockey to pursue an opportunity as the NHL’s youth hockey regional director for the Western U.S., the years of work Whyte dedicated to revitalizing the Jr. Sun Devils’ program were still paying off.
There was never much doubt that Whyte would end up in the DYHA Hall of Fame. Not after his lengthy tenure as the organization’s director of hockey, a period of unprecedented growth for the 40-year-old program.
“I was very proud and honored to be recognized for all the years of doing what I can to build that program,” Whyte said of his induction.
Whyte’s accomplishments aren’t quickly counted. During his time as director of hockey, the program exploded – both in its number of teams and players. For a while, DYHA fielded Tier I teams. Whyte helped establish its Lil’ Devils learn-to-play program. Maybe most notably, he led the association through the Firebirds-to-Jr. Devils rebrand.
He has too many fond memories to count, too.
“There’s countless memorable times with all the different teams and families and other coaches along the way,” he said.
But perhaps Whyte’s greatest accomplishment came when he first took over.
Whyte, a former minor league player with the Phoenix Roadrunners and Mustangs during the 1990s, was a coach at the now-closed Ozzie Ice Arena when he was offered the DYHA job.
One of his first calls was to Charles Miscio, one of his closest coaching friends. Miscio remembers Whyte being nervous about the move. He was certain his friend had no reason to be.
“It didn’t matter where Sean was, people were going to follow Sean,” said Miscio, who is now the president of DYHA.
But when Whyte took over, Miscio remembers DYHA being “in shambles.” Whyte was afraid the decades-old youth association was on the verge of shutting down.
“Sean had quite an undertaking when he left Ozzie Ice to take the DYHA job,” Miscio said.
Within a year of Whyte’s hiring, he saw DYHA membership double. He helped give the organization the kick start it needed. It was a blessing for Whyte, too, giving him a new project to focus on after his playing days had passed.
“After I was done playing, I was definitely in a holding pattern, uncertain of what I was going to do with my life,” he recalled, some 19 years and 40 coached teams later.
Miscio was an assistant on many of those teams.
“I learned a great deal from Sean, how to become a better hockey coach,” Miscio said.
Asked what makes Whyte a great youth coach, Miscio cited two principles Whyte abides by: his open-door policy and his 24-hour policy (take 24 hours to reflect on a dispute before acting on it).
“He has 100 percent accountability to everyone,” Miscio said. “He gave everyone an opportunity. You knew exactly where you sat with Sean.”
Even when leaving DYHA, Whyte did his best to put the organization in a good position, Miscio said. Instead of leaving the organization high and dry, Whyte “made sure we found the best possible director of hockey to carry on his legacy,” Miscio added.
That person was Brad McCaughey. In his first year as Whyte’s successor, DYHA swept the state’s Tier II Arizona Amateur Hockey Association state championships.
Sharing his enshrinement ceremony with those teams was a perfect way for Whyte to enter the organization’s Hall of Fame.
“I’m absolutely blessed to be able to continue being involved in the sport that has given me everything in my life,” he said.
— Jack Harris
(June 6, 2018)