By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Grand Canyon University Ice Hockey now has a new sheet of ice to call home.
Beginning next season, the GCU Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey programs will train, practice and play all home games at AZ Ice Arcadia in central Phoenix. Located on Thomas Road just west of 40th Street, the rink will give the Lopes greater control and flexibility over ice time with camps, practices, games and promotions. GCU will join the Arizona Titans’ youth hockey program as a tenant, but will become the premier program to play at the rink. The move brings the Lopes’ two-year stint at AZ Ice Peoria to a close.
Along with fans seeing GCU branding all around the rink including the GCU logo at center ice, the move also brings the opportunity to build a brand-new locker room facility for both the men’s and women’s teams. Fundraising and sponsorships will need to be attained in order to raise the necessary funds, but permits are already currently being worked out with the City of Phoenix. The timeframe of the locker room construction is still under wraps, but once completed, the Lopes will have dedicated locker rooms and showers for both the men’s and women’s programs. Within the locker rooms, each player will have individual stalls, while the coaches will have their own separate office and storage space for all team gear.
“We hope that we can start construction on it real soon, but the biggest positive will be that this is our home,” Lopes’ Men’s Ice Hockey Head Coach and GCU Director of Hockey Operations Danny Roy said. “Our players will walk in and feel like this is their place.”
“This will definitely help with recruiting and will help with building a culture,” added Women’s Ice Hockey Head Coach Natalie Rossi. “We’ll have the center ice logo and we’ll paint the place purple so we have many of our own touches to make this rink feel like home.”
With the move, Roy and Rossi also hope to continue to help grow youth hockey in Arizona. The Titans are a youth program that will begin play this year at AZ Ice Arcadia. The program has 11 teams ranging from 6U Mites to 18U Midget teams, and both Roy and Rossi see this move as a chance to be role models for the youth players and become a team that the younger players can strive to be a part of.
“We want to be the program that those kids look up to,” Roy said. “By branding the rink with GCU and being the premier program in there, it creates that drive in that youth program. We hope we can build that want and fuel the fire for growing hockey for both men’s and women’s.”
“We want to have a big influence on the rink and the program that is being built there,” Rossi stated. “It will be really nice to make that impact on local hockey players. This is one of the big things that we make sure is part of our culture and we continue to do.”
AZ Ice Arcadia was founded in 1966, and is the oldest ice rink in the valley. It features a family-friendly arcade, pro shop and a restaurant and bar that overlooks the ice. The NHL-sized rink was also the home of Scottsdale native and Toronto Maple Leafs’ star forward Auston Matthews when he played youth hockey for the Arizona Bobcats from 2011-2013.