The Arizona Coyotes bring street hockey to the gym.
The club has announced that its first Coyotes street hockey league is set to begin on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Burk Elementary School in Gilbert, and the 10-week program features 45 minutes of skill development, followed by an hour of play.
The best part? The league, which is open to everyone between the ages of 7 and 13, does not require any previous hockey experience.
All it takes is an interest in the game, and the Coyotes’ hockey development staff will take care of the rest.
Lyndsey Fry, the Coyotes’ senior director of hockey development, said there’s been such interest from students whenever the team holds school clinics that the club has been compelled to create one. of the very first street hockey leagues for children in The Valley.
“We felt like there was just this feeling from the kids of ‘I had a great day at PE today’, but that’s it, and then their connection to hockey s fades away until they go to physical education the following year,” she said. . “We thought creating a league was the natural next step.”
Fry also said she was optimistic about the league’s potential for growth throughout the Phoenix metro area, and that the ultimate goal was to expand the league for easier access for everyone.
It just has to start somewhere.
“It’s very new for the Arizona markets to start these leagues,” Fry said. “Eventually, we’d like to have a strong ecosystem of street hockey programs – and street hockey leagues – where we could host some sort of big tournament, which is a goal we’ve always had.
“That’s the first building block to get us to this point.”
Jonah Rodriguez, the Coyotes’ Hispanic Hockey Development Coordinator, visits schools frequently throughout the year to help teach the basics of the game.
He has witnessed this interest during his visits to various schools and said the only downside to youngsters’ growing interest in hockey is that they have nowhere to go after each clinic is over. Although the Coyotes offered various skating and learn-to-play programs, such as Little Howlers, Los Howlitos, and 1st Stride Roller, there was no program for kids who just wanted to hit the pavement with shoes and play more. .
Rodriguez said this league aims to change that.
“Kids love it. They come up to me and say, “Oh, hockey is my new favorite sport. Where can I play? “said Rodriguez. “I wanted to create a place where these kids could go and play. We wanted to give them a safe place to go, have fun and work on their skills at the same time.”
The program costs $49, a tribute to Coyotes fan Leighton Accardo, who tragically passed away in 2020 at just nine years old after a courageous battle with cancer.
Accardo, who wore number 49 as a member of the Arizona Kachinas youth hockey program, was inducted into the Coyotes’ Ring of Honor in April 2021. His legacy continues to inspire everyone within the organization.
“We want to keep her in everything we do,” Rodriguez said.
The benefits of participating in the league extend beyond the athletic component. Learning the sport of hockey is unique and can often bond and teach life lessons that can be passed on throughout life.
Olympic silver medalist Fry knows all about it.
“Hockey is the only sport that resembles life in that when you get knocked down in other sports, the whistle blows and the game ends,” Fry said. “In hockey, you get knocked down, the game continues and you have to get up. I think that’s one of the things I really try to encourage in kids who play rollerblading or ice hockey. stand up.”
Children interested in playing can find out more on the official website Gilbert Street Hockey League Page.
However, anyone who is hesitant to participate should literally give it a shot.
“You can go fast, you use your legs, you use your upper body, you do something very unique, you throw pucks, and it’s a special sport in the sense that not everyone does it. , ” Friy said. “I think the most important thing is just the bond you create with your teammates.
“I think if you’re not sure, go ahead and give it a try, and it’ll be a safe, fun, and inclusive environment.”