GLENDALE – The ninth annual Hockey Weekend Across America is fast approaching and the Coyotes, as always, are eager to join in the nationwide celebration of the game.
“The sport of hockey is awesome and it’s cool to see how much it has grown all over the U.S., especially in non-traditional places like southern California and here in Arizona,” said defenseman Connor Murphy, one of three Americans on the Coyotes roster. “We as players get to go to skating clinics and high school hockey games around Phoenix, and I’ve been pleased to see such excitement about the game, not only from the kids who are playing, but from the kids who are there watching. It’s very encouraging to see these kids who come from non-hockey backgrounds falling in love with the sport.”
USA Hockey created Hockey Weekend Across America in 2008 to engage the hockey community in celebrating the sport at all levels and to expose the sport to new audiences. This year’s celebration will run Feb. 19-21.
Like Murphy, Coyotes defenseman Jarred Tinordi, who grew up in Severna Park, Maryland, also is proud of how the game of hockey has grown.
“When I was a kid, hockey wasn’t very big like it is now where I lived,” Tinordi said. “We had to drive for an hour or so to practices because there weren’t any local teams. But now, hockey is pretty huge there, and I’ve only been in Arizona a short time but it seems like it’s doing very well here, too. Whenever we practice at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, it seems like there’s games going on all the time.”
Murphy and Tinordi, both of whom played for USA Hockey en route to the NHL, credit that organization for contributing to the sport’s growth, and both said their dads - both former NHL players - and the coaches they had for youth hockey played key roles.
“Youth hockey coaches typically don’t get a lot of accolades or glory for helping to grow the game but they deserve some,” said Murphy, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio. “They just love the sport and want to be involved. They deserve a lot of credit for giving so much time to help grow the game.”
Hockey Weekend Across America will feature a theme for each of the three days, including Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey Day on Friday (Feb. 19); Try Hockey Day on Saturday (Feb. 20); and Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes Day on Sunday (Feb. 21). Click here to visit the Amateur Hockey landing page to find a calendar and events near you.
In Arizona, that last day may include a salute to Auston Matthews, a Scottsdale resident who learned the game and honed his skills in Arizona, and who likely will be the No. 1 overall pick at this year’s NHL Draft.
“His notoriety and what it has done for Arizona hockey is amazing,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. “Youth hockey has exploded in Arizona. It’s never been more popular and there’s never been more people playing... His story is a great story and shows what’s going on in the desert. Yeah, we’re not Canada and we don’t have that traditional base, but there’s a lot of good things happening in youth hockey here.”
Visit usahockey.com for more info on the 2016 Hockey Weekend Across America.