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Hockey in the Desert
Whether you live as far east as Gold Canyon, as far west as Buckeye, as south as Tucson and as far north as Flagstaff there is an ice arena close to you to meet your hockey needs. If your youngster is wanting to tryout youth hockey or you are ready to join a house team or travel team, each of these locations offer programs for beginners and seasoned players.
Oceanside arena, located in Tempe, is home to Arizona State University Men's and Women's Hockey teams as well as the DYHA Jr. Sun Devils travel hockey program. Oceanside offers a free Lil Devils learn to play hockey program for youngsters to start learning the great game of hockey.
The Ice Den offers locations in Chandler and Scottsdale providing youth hockey leagues, learn to play sessions and are the homes to Jr. Coyotes, CAHA Bucks and Bobcats travel teams. The Ice Den Scottsdale is also were the Kachinas Development, an all-girls hockey program, will play their inaugural season.
AZ Ice offers three locations, AZ Ice Gilbert, AZ Ice Peoria and AZ Ice Arcadia. AZ Ice Arcadia is the home to Grand Canyon University Men’s & Women’s Hockey teams. Each of these locations provide youth hockey programs, learn to play sessions and are home to Arizona Union, Mission and Titans travel teams.
If you are further south of the valley, you will find the Tucson Convention Center. Not only is this arena home of the AHL Tucson Roadrunners, but it also home to the University of Arizona Wildcats Men’s Hockey. The Tucson Convention Center offers youth hockey programs and is the home of the Jr. Roadrunners travel team.
Finally if you are located in Flagstaff you will find the Jay Lively Activity Center. Home to Northern Arizona University Ice Jacks, Jay Lively Activity Center also offers youth hockey programs, learn to play sessions and is home to the Flagstaff Northstars travel tema and Flagstaff Avalanche high school team. Northern Arizona University is in the process of constructing a new facility in the Field House, which will be located on campus and offer youth hockey programs and learn to play sessions.
All of these arenas are great place to start your youngsters down a hockey path. Arizona's youth and college hockey programs are growing each year. With more opportunities for Arizona's youth to learn the great game of hockey, there is no doubt that this great sport will continue to grow and thrive in the desert. Let’s all help grow the game in Arizona!
The first step toward your weekends being spent in a rink is to get your child in a pair of skates and start learning to skate. There are several learn to skate programs, at the various rinks, but the best program for your future hockey player to get registered in is the Little Howlers program. The Little Howlers program is a six week program, for kids 5-9 years old, which will focus on skating, basic stick handling and shooting. The great part about this program is that all the equipment needed to play hockey is included with the registration fee. Each set of equipment includes everything your child needs to get started-shin pads, socks, hockey pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, helmet, skates, jersey and a stick. Your child gets to keep all this equipment to use in future programs. Little Howlers will provide an equipment fitting day to make sure all the equipment fits properly and your child and you know the proper manner to dress before getting on the ice. After the six weeks are completed you will be given information on learn to skate and hockey programs to continue your hockey path.
There is another program offered for your child to try hockey for the first time. The Learn to Play Hockey program offered at various AZ Ice Arena’s is a free four week program that gives kids from 3-14 years old the opportunity to try the great sport of hockey. Your child will be provided a helmet, skates, gloves and stick to use during the class. Your child will learn basic stick handling, shooting and a strong emphasis on skating. At the end of the program parent will be given an evaluation with details of your next steps would be.
Have a girl who, after completing the Little Howlers program or similar Learn to Play/Skate program, and wants to continue to develop their hockey skills? Then check into the Small Frys all girls hockey development program. Started by Arizona native and Olympic silver medalist Lyndsey Fry, the Small Fry program provides a place for young girls to develop a love for the game, build their confidence and connect with other girls wanting to continue growing as a hockey player. Small Frys is intended for young girls from 6-12 years old. The will teach girls specific skating skills, stick handling, passing, shooting, positioning and game play. The program is broken into 3 strides focusing on basic hockey skills. The program runs from April through August and offers girls a great opportunity to meet other female hockey players who are currently playing at the college or have previously played at the college or professional level.
Once your youngster has developed their skills and is ready to join a team at your local rink, then it’s time to register them with USA Hockey. All players are required to be registered with USA Hockey before they can join any local house or travel team. To register your child with USA Hockey click here USA Hockey Registration. Once you have your USA Hockey registration number you can now register with your local rink. Your child will be playing on an age appropriate team depending on their birth year. Teams are usually classified by Mini-Mites, Mites, Squirts, Pee-Wee or Bantam/Midget:
Mini-Mites- 2013-2014, 8U (Mites)- 2012-2011, 10U (Squirts)- 2010-2009, 12U (Pee-Wee)- 2008-2007, 16U (Bantam/Midget) - 2006-2004
The fall hockey season runs from September – March with registration opening up in August. Register early because the spots fill up fast. Once you are registered for a house team you will usually have two evaluation sessions to make sure the teams are balanced. After the evaluations your child will then be placed on a team and they are off on their hockey path and you are now a hockey mom or dad. At this point you might want to purchase a heavy jack, because you are going to be spending a lot of time at the rink. Even if it’s over 100 degrees outside keep that jacket in your car, you are going to need it. Enjoy the experience, hockey is a great sport for your child to be involved in a great sport to watch at any level.
Once your child falls in love with the game, they will start looking at joining a travel team. The difference from a travel team and a house team is; a house team only plays games at one rink verses other teams from that rink. Travel teams are based out of one rink, but travel to play teams from other local rinks. They also may travel out of state for tournaments. Travel teams will hold tryouts for hockey players looking to join their team. These tryouts will be posted on their websites. Visit our Travel Hockey page for more details on Arizona travel hockey teams.
Your son or daughter may also want to play hockey at the high school level. Yes, Arizona has High School Hockey. The Arizona High School Hockey Association (AHSHA) offers high school students the opportunity to play competitive hockey through local high schools. High School ice hockey is not a sanctioned high school sport under the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA). Due to this reason the AHSHA is an independent league that does not operate under the cognizance of the AIA. Many high schools within the AHSHA have set up ice hockey as a club sport. Due to the fact that ice hockey is not a sanctioned AIA high school sport, many schools vary on having ice hockey as a club sport. Players who attend a high school that does not have a pure high school team will be assigned to a combined high school varsity or junior varsity (JV) team based on their skill level or geographic requirements. Check out our High School Hockey page for more information.
The Arizona Kachinas inaugural season, sees the vision of former Olympian Lyndsey Fry go from dream to reality. Fry, a native of Arizona, played her college hockey at Harvard and was part of the USA silver medal team at the Sochi Olympics. After returning to Arizona, Fry became determined and passionate about growing girl’s hockey in the desert. Youth hockey has exploded over the years in Arizona. With thousands of USA registered hockey players and multiple boys’ teams at every level and age group. One thing was missing, a girls hockey program that was at the very bottom tier to develop young girls skills while playing with other girls. Starting a program that allowed girls to step on the ice at an early age and build a girls hockey program from the ground up would become her mission. The idea was, by growing the program at the bottom, the younger girls that learned to skate and play hockey earlier would grow with the program and fill the higher levels on their own.
At the time the Lady Coyotes were a higher tier all girls hockey team coached by Matt Shott. Shott happened to be the Arizona Coyotes Director of Hockey Development. Shott had a vision of a girl’s developmental program and once Fry was back in Arizona he knew he had the perfect partner to start and all girls hockey developmental program. After years of planning and hard work by Fry and Shott, the two launched the Small Frys program. The Small Frys program was designed give little girls who graduated a Learn to Play program the opportunity to continue developing their skating and hockey skills with other girls. In its first year the Small Frys program graduated 56 girls. That is nearly double what they had projected for the programs inaugural season. Fry ran the program with an all-female staff. This was a vision Fry had for the program from the start. She wanted to keep the staff all-female, so young girls could see older girls and women playing the game they were learning to play. Neither Fry nor Shott could imagine how successful the program was.
The main priority of Fry and Shott was to grow girls’ hockey in Arizona. Know that they had girls interested; they now needed to establish a program for the girls to take the next step. Thus the Kachinas were officially launched in August of 2018. During the first year of the Kachinas, the girls couldn’t play in any games outside of intrasquad scrimmages due to association restrictions. The girls didn’t seem to mind, around 40 girls stuck with the program working on their skating and improving their hockey skills though out the program. Then came the announcement Fry and the girls were waiting for, the Kachinas were officially approved by the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association in the spring of 2019 and would be allowed to play official games in the fall 2019-20 season. The Kachinas were split into two programs, the Kachinas Development program and the Kachinas Elite. The program also implemented a merger with the AZ Lady Coyotes. The Kachinas have added Natalie Rossi, Grand Canyon University Women’s Hockey head coach, who will serve as Co-Director of Hockey Operations. Alongside Vanessa Maines, who will serve as Co-Director of Hockey Operations and Director of Social Media. Erin Cain is the final piece of the Hockey Operations while serving as Director of Fitness and Mental Performance.
The goal of the Kachinas program is to provide a stable, sustainable model to retain talent for a competitive girls’ team through the development of programs for the youngest skaters to the girls looking to play at the next level. This season the Kachinas Elite have enough girls to field teams in 19U, 16U, 14U, 12U & 12U B teams division. The Kachinas Elite will compete in the Arizona Youth Hockey League. The Kachinas Development program will play in a house league out of the Ice Den Scottsdale and will have teams completing in the 14U, 12U, 10U and 8U divisions. The Kachinas program offers girls, wanting to stay in Arizona, with many options to develop their hockey skills in a competitive environment and an opportunity to grow and develop as a team. Watch out boys, these girls are about to rule the rink.
We are looking for some local hockey talent that not only excels on the ice, but also off the ice. We want to highlight local players, coaches and even parents who go the extra mile to make an impact on their team and in their community. Your nominee doesn’t have to be the super star of the team, but could be the player who is always making their team mates better by working hard during practice, cheering for all their teammate’s accomplishments and making the most of their ice time. Your nominee can be someone who has accomplished as much, or more, off the ice. Someone who excels at school or is improving their community though their hard work outside the rink. Don’t limit you nominees to only players, coaches and parents have just of an impact to the success of players. Coaches and parents give a lot of their time with little recognition. So, if you know a local hockey player, coach or parent that goes above and beyond on and off the ice, then nominate them for our State 48 Hockey Highlight Award.