Junior Sun Devils Hockey is established to provide the youth of Arizona with the highest quality USA Hockey sanctioned amateur ice hockey program available. We are committed to obtaining the highest levels of competitive player development, while maintaining a realistic balance in our commitment to our players in both their development as athletes and as maturing young people. Our comprehensive program is designed to maintain and improve our well-established reputation of teaching physical and emotional growth, based on commitment, respect and responsibility. We focus on consistency in our actions with respect to our members, including the recruitment and maintenance of outstanding coaches to staff every level of our travel program, coaches who believe in and are committed to the long-term skill and character development of our players. We will base our administrative, financial and disciplinary decisions on sound business and character-based principles. We pledge to make hockey decisions based on hockey considerations with these same balanced principles.
By maintaining and recruiting the highest level of coaching staff personnel coupled with an aggressive player development plan, we will at all times focus on “Doing the right things for the right reasons.”
The tale began nearly 40 years ago. But we pick up the storyline just a few years ago in 2008. The Valley’s oldest and most storied youth hockey organization, DYHA, was skating on thin ice and on the brink of disaster. The non-profit was broke, its board of directors was in disarray, and the organization was about to lose the rink it had operated since 1974.
Back in the beginning it was known as Desert Hockey Association. As with any seasoned organization, it was no stranger to the ups and downs of success, waxing and waning of membership, challenges and triumphs of the leadership. Every year, in the nearly 40 year old history of what is now known as Desert Youth Hockey Association, a new chapter in the legacy book is written.
One of the more recent chapters speaks volumes to the DYHA legacy and might be titled “Where Champions Skate… Once Again” because today DYHA is once again the home of champions. In the past three seasons, DYHA Firebird teams (now the Junior Sun Devils) have won an impressive six state championships at various age levels under the direction of a coaching staff that includes five former professional hockey players, four of whom played in the National Hockey League.
The road back to excellence was not a smooth one, but it was paved by a dynamic new board of volunteer parents who were so dedicated to the ideals of youth hockey – sportsmanship, leadership and citizenship – that they rolled up their sleeves and began to rebuild the association piece by piece.
For them, DYHA was a unique treasure worth saving. In addition to its legacy, DYHA is one of the few non-profit hockey associations in the country that operates its own rink. Most other youth hockey associations are affiliated with rinks run by cities or for-profit corporations.
One of the new board’s first steps was to hire Sean Whyte as director of hockey operations in 2008. Local hockey fans may remember No. 9 from his days with the Phoenix Roadrunners and Taylor Cup champion Phoenix Mustangs, but he also played with the Los Angeles Kings alongside familiar names like Gretzky, Coffey and Kurri.
Sean then hired Alex Hicks, who played for four NHL teams as well as in Europe, and together they worked tirelessly to reset the organization’s No. 1 priority of hockey development – helping young players reach their goals and develop in their hockey careers.
But because hockey is a sport that prizes character above all else, hockey development means not just molding boys and girls – and young men and young women –into hockey players, but into scholars, good citizens and leaders as well.
Over the years, Whyte and Hicks have recruited a staff of talented coaches who share that same philosophy, including former NHL defenseman Keith Carney, former NHL center Max Middendorf, and Ron Filion, who had a distinguished career in European hockey leagues.
In addition, they have worked tirelessly with the board to make Oceanside Ice Arena the Phoenix metro area’s premier hockey training facility. With a brand new weight room, refurbished locker rooms, professional-quality boards and glass and the best ice in town the Oceanside rink is a no-frills testament to simply….hockey development.
DYHA’s Oceanside was chosen as the home rink for the ACHA National Champion Arizona State University hockey program, a partnership that gives our young players a chance to see how their own hockey careers might progress given dedication, hard work and sacrifice.
In addition to a full array of competitive travel teams ranging from the youngest to the oldest, DYHA also offers private and semi-private lessons with professional coaches, as well as weekly skills sessions for all players and off-season leagues so players can remain in top form all year.
The results are hanging in the rafters. In the last few years, the following DYHA teams have won Arizona State Championships and have advanced to Nationals:
The results are also playing at the next level. Several DYHA alumni are now skating at junior programs around the US and Canada as well as with collegiate teams across the nation.
The DYHA legacy belongs to every player that has laced up the skates and donned the DYHA sweaters for nearly forty years. They are the writers of this story and bear the pride of ownership in an organization unparalleled in its longevity and commitment to the advancement of the great sport of hockey. But the story doesn’t end here. If you think the last few years of rebuilding and reinventing were impressive…….just watch what the next few years will bring.