The Phoenix Coyotes sled hockey team pose on the ice.

Sled Hockey Team Sweeps the Competition in Florida

By Michele Crane
Photo by Christopher DiVirgilio

Over the past year, the Phoenix Coyotes Sled Hockey team has made great strides in bringing attention to the disability community, including the ever-growing sport of Sled Hockey. Through hard work and perseverance, this team has been able to expand its roster, increase community awareness and achieve the long-awaited goal of bringing home the Tier III Championship title from the USA Hockey Sled Classic.

This year, the team increased their roster with 4 new players, most of whom attended a Wounded Warrior ice clinic hosted by the PVA and Phoenix Coyotes Sled Hockey team. The three new players – Richard Alcaraz, Lidia Lopez Johnson and Jeremy Wagner – all military veterans, played a role in securing the team’s Championship title.

The team took on the Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks and San Diego Ducks in the Sled Classic games, sweeping all, including the Championship win, with goalie Matt Giacobbe, winning by a shut out of 5-0 against the Colorado Avalanche. The top three players of the Tier III division were all Phoenix Coyotes Sled Hockey players; Paul Crane led the Tier III division with 13 total points, followed by Joe Hamilton with 9 points and Richard Alcaraz with 7 points.

“The Coyotes have shown that our disabilities will not define us.”

“We lost in last year’s championship game, and through hard work and determination, we were able to make our abilities shine and achieve this accomplishment. Now we move the bar up and work for the next level,” said Coach and Executive Director Paul Crane.

With the assistance of the team sponsors, including Ability360, Phoenix Coyotes Alumni, USA Hockey, Arizona PVA, and Casino Del Sol, the team has been able to reinstate the Western Sled Hockey League and make this year the biggest year yet with a total of 8 tournaments for the 2015-16 season. The team is scheduled to host a mini tournament at the Alltel Ice Den with the USA Women’s team January 10-21. The team will also host its own tournament at the Alltel Ice Den February 19-21. The Coyotes tournament will include the Western Sled Hockey League teams: Colorado Avalanche; Los Angeles Kings and the San Diego Ducks.

Along with all of the team’s on-ice success, there also came off-ice success. Most recently, the team met with City of Phoenix Mayor, Greg Stanton, and received a Proclamation: declaring December 3rd as International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Mayor Stanton presented the team with the Proclamation and congratulated them on their championship win. He also praised the team for being an inspiration to the community and for exemplifying camaraderie and teamwork.

For more information on the Phoenix Coyotes Sled Hockey team, please visit their Coyotes Sled Hockey Facebook page.