An ice dream come true
After years as a club-level squad, ASU's hockey team makes its debut as a varsity sport
Jordan Young grew up in Cave Creek as part of the area’s flourishing youth hockey scene, dreaming of one day lacing up his skates as part of a Division 1 collegiate squad.
But like most hockey-obsessed kids in the Valley, he was resigned to the fact that this dream would, likely, never happen in his home state.
Fast-forward a decade or so and Young is part of something that once seemed impossible: He’s a member of Arizona State University’s first varsity hockey team.
“I was hoping I would get to this level, but back then I didn’t expect it in Arizona,” said Young, one of five Arizona players on the 32-man roster. “It’s a dream come true.”
The move comes after years of watching ASU’s club hockey team build a following and a model of successASU won the club team national championship in 2014, when it was part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association. — and after a $34 million private donation provided financial fuel.
“I knew the club team was getting better and better, but it seemed pretty far off that they would make the jump to Division 1,” said Drew Newmeyer, a junior from Scottsdale.
The funding, which will also allow ASU to develop two additional women’s sports teams, was announced last year. Less than 12 months later, ASU has become the 60th men’s hockey team in the top division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“It’s a matter of everyone getting rewarded for all the hard work they put in,” said Young, one of the team’s three captains. “It felt perfect that it happened at the right time.”
ASU will play 11 home games at Tempe's Oceanside Ice Arena and three games at Gila River Arena in Glendale, home of the Arizona Coyotes NHL team. ASU’s first game, an exhibition Oct. 3 in which they defeated the University of Arizona’s club team 8-1, was at Gila River.
Both Young and Newmeyer came to ASU’s club team after playing on local club teams and in the United States Hockey League, a premier league for players who are 20 years old and younger.
Now that they’re varsity, Young said many things on the ASU team are “amped up.”
“The preseason, the film, the hard work lifting weights, the mental preparation, everything is different,” he said.
“We’re working out four days a week at 6:30 a.m. in the gym. Last year, it was work out on your own, hold yourself accountable and be in game shape.”
Newmeyer said the heightened attention is one difference.
“Everything is way elevated from where it was before,” he said. “There are really good trainers and medical staff.”
Coach Greg Powers said that Arizona will be a prime recruiting area for the team. Youth hockey has been growing in Arizona, with membership in the USA Hockey organization nearly doubling in the past decade, to about 7,400.
“We want to make sure that the best Arizona kids stay in Arizona and play for ASU,” he said. “It’s a priority.”
ASU’s other local players are Edward McGovern of Scottsdale, Anthony Croston of Phoenix and Cody Gylling of Chandler.
But while young Arizona players can now stay in state to play Division 1 hockey, only a few will make it.
“They have to be an elite player,” Powers said. “We’re not going to take someone just because they’re from Arizona.
“But we are starting to produce some really elite players in this state.”
And now they can stay here to pursue their sport and their education.