Arizona Rubber

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

Shop Talk: Not every hockey player has to be a pro to be successful


Arizona has been getting lots of hype nationally for producing Toronto Maple Leafs star and Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews, the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.

We are definitely now on the hockey map.


This will open opportunities for future generations of hockey players. Plus, Arizona is producing numerous other players who are now competing at the college and junior levels. Players are also receiving valuable Division I scholarships to some of the top hockey schools in the United States. There could not be a prouder Arizona hockey person than me about this.

But in my over 28 years of involvement with Arizona hockey, there are things that need to be said about Arizona hockey that get passed over. Through my involvement with Behind The Mask, I have seen hundreds or maybe even thousands of youth hockey players come through our doors. Great friendships have been made with these hockey players. Most of our employees at one point were these players.

What might I be talking about?

The point I am trying to make is that Arizona hockey has produced some terrifically successful people outside the field of hockey. Youth players who are now doctors, lawyers, firefighters, police officers, teachers, business leaders etc., I used to see every day as the customers I have watched grow up. Hockey is a very important part of creating a person’s character – learning how to be part of a team, learning how to interact with teammates, parents and coaches, learning the core values of hard work, learning to make proper life choices, learning how to win and lose gracefully and learning about sportsmanship.

These values you cannot put a price tag on. They are values that set up a person to be a success if used correctly.

Nothing makes me prouder than seeing one of our customers now grown up come in the store. Whether it is because they still play and are getting something or they just stop by to say hello. I always want to know what they are doing now. And quite often, the aforementioned professions are mentioned. Since we have been in business over 23 years, customers who came in as new hockey players just starting out now are coming in outfitting their kids. Or parents coming in outfitting grandkids.

What a great thing to see hockey being passed down through the generations!

Customers who I have not seen in years I often don’t recognize until they mention their names. Many had attended one of our ice, inline or goalie camps over the years. We usually have some good memories and stories. Goalies to this day mention the dreaded “Dot Day” at the Behind the Mask Goalie Camp. I look at it as a rite of passage – a badge of honor and respect. Those who have attended understand exactly what I am saying.

Successes and failures make up a person’s character and certainly, hockey gives us both. No matter how good the player, you have always been cut or have had failure at some level of hockey. This includes Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was at one time cut from the Canadian World Junior team as a 16-year-old. Learning how to deal with both defines our character.

If we always won something, what would we take it for granted? Would we truly be challenging ourselves? Failure often makes a person stronger than success does.

A person with these values is a commodity in the working world. I want to personally thank all the parents, coaches and players for creating such influential people.

Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.

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