SCOTTSDALE - The Coyotes on Monday unveiled a third DEK hockey rink in the Valley, and this time defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson helped drop the puck for about 400 students from nearby Laguna Elementary School.
"This means a lot to me," Ekman-Larsson said. "I like doing this type of stuff and I love kids. It's a lot of fun to come out here and show them a good time. I think it's great that the Coyotes are doing rinks like these for the community."
Growing the sport of hockey in Arizona is key for the Coyotes. That's why the team is building DEK rinks all across the Phoenix metropolitan area, for starters.
"We're excited because it gives young people a chance to learn the game of hockey," said Steve Patterson, the team's President and CEO. "We want to continue to grow the game and grow interest in hockey by giving kids a ball and a stick. On these rinks they can play hockey in their tennis shoes and have a lot of fun."
The Coyotes unveiled similar DEK hockey rinks earlier this year at Luke Air Force Base and in El Mirage.
The rink in Scottsdale, which cost $250,000 to build, is situated between Laguna Elementary School and a branch of The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale, which serves more than 16,000 children in the area. The rink is open to all of them.
"We're here today to provide an amazing opportunity for our kids to be exposed to one of the great sports in our nation and that's hockey," said Dr. Lisa Hurst, the President and CEO of The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale. "So many of our young people couldn't afford to play on a hockey team so this is an amazing opportunity for them to have that initial exposure and develop a love for hockey, and hopefully take it on to another level."
The Coyotes have identified a number of additional sites in the Valley where the next DEK hockey rinks will be constructed. Details regarding the new sites will be announced later.
"This is how I started playing hockey in Sweden so it means a lot to me," Ekman-Larsson said. "We're trying to do what we can to get everybody here into hockey. Building rinks like this is huge."