Arizona Rubber

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Coyotes Development Program continues strong growth at both Ice Den facilities


As the manager of youth hockey development for the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) at the Ice Den Chandler, Gary Ihling obviously has a serious and critical role not only within the organization, but in all of Arizona.

Ihling works closely with Ice Den Scottsdale’s director of youth hockey development Scott Gruber and together, the duo helps mold area youth into knowledgeable hockey players in the Coyotes Development Program (CDP).


“There are a number of things that make our roles worthwhile, but I would have to say the No. 1 reason is development,” said Ihling. “Our players come from having little or no hockey experience, but hard work and determination turn many of these inexperienced players into extremely good hockey players. Instilling fun into our programs cultivates a love for our game and increases our players’ engagement, which helps development grow tremendously.

“Our travel teams get a large number of their players from our CDP program and that is a gratifying part of our work, watching these players grow and accomplish the goals they set out to attain as well as have success at the next level.”

CDP logoThe CDP features multi-faceted programming, including a full 44-session fall/winter season, 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 sessions in the spring and summer, and the important entry point, the Initiation Program. It focuses on basic skill development with an introduction to team play concepts, in a fun environment for learning. Players are given an equal opportunity to participate and are encouraged to play all positions.

And the CDP keeps growing.

Registrations at the Ice Den Chandler have almost doubled in the last two years alone – from 155 during the 2015-16 season to nearly 300 players this season. The Ice Den Scottsdale has been able to increase the number of teams within its program as well.

The program in Chandler is partnering with its on-site training center to offer professional off-ice training to the house players, which has not been offered in the past. The Center for Athletic Performance and Physical Therapy, located inside the Ice Den Chandler, will be hosting an open house on Saturday, Dec. 2, to promote the center and help the house players understand how off-ice training is crucial to not only their success as hockey players, but how good health is a lifelong habit.

Shane Harvey, manager of off-ice training for CAHA’s AA and AAA teams, will be designing an off-ice regimen specifically for the CDP players, “another example of our growth and how we feel we offer a program that sets the bar for developmental hockey in Arizona,” according to Ihling.

That said, finding ways to get better is always on Ihling’s mind.

“We are extremely proud of our results, but we are always looking for ways to improve,” said Ihling. “We just recently hosted a goalie clinic, run by CAHA director of goaltending Mike Nepsa, that was a huge success. I spoke with Mike to get his thoughts on our clinic and he said, ‘The first CDP goalie clinic (pictured) was a great opportunity for my staff and myself to see what talent we have in our youth program that one day will translate into our travel programs. As long as the goalies are learning and falling in love with the sport, we are all doing our part to grow the game.’”

The CDP also offers the City All Stars program, a collection of local rinks’ (Ice Den Scottsdale, Ice Den Chandler, AZ Ice Gilbert and AZ Ice Peoria) top players at each division. Once each team is selected, they play a series of games against each rink’s teams. This results in two semifinal playoff series and ultimately, the City All Star Championship.

— Matt Mackinder

(Nov. 29, 2017)

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