At Ability360’s Family Hockey Night, the court was nothing but controlled chaos.
High energy songs thumped from nearby speakers. The air was filled with squeals and the clack of blocked passes, peppered with the occasional shouts of encouragement from the sidelines.
Children passed pucks, shot for goals, and even set up teams of their own with players Anthony Duclair and Tobias Rieder, who were visiting the Ability360 center for the first time.
Anthony Duclair, left wing, had been playing hockey since he was four years old.
“I remember being this age,” the Canada native said. “And, you know, just having fun and loving the game. You can tell by their faces and smiles that they’re having fun playing hockey and it’s great.”
Tobias Rieder, right wing, said, “It’s fun being around those kids. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but I didn’t expect it to be that much fun. So it’s a good experience.”
The parents, many clad in Coyotes gear, were out of their seats and in motion the entire time, their smartphones were always at their fingertips, snapping picture after picture.
For Tessa Ringo, member of Ability360 for three years and an avid Coyotes fan, Family Hockey Night gives her the opportunity to see her team and thank them.
“We’re just so happy for the opportunity to just play.” She said that this experience will help her son, Aidan, “strive to be better, and stronger and work harder.”
She was joined by Randa Canter, mother of three. This her first Ability360 event. She witnessed her son, Parker, who was timid at first, warm up and steal the spotlight all in under an hour.
“It’s just been so awesome—really overwhelming as a mom,” she said. “For Parker, I see this place and the kindness of the Coyotes and the players taking time coming here. I see big things for Parker’s future because of places like this and the people here.”
After the practices, Duclair and Reider split up the group into two teams, Chocolate Thunder and the Wild Wolves, and the little ones proudly showed off their skills. They huddled, all hands in, and cheered—some for their own teams, others for the Coyotes, and some just to make the room shake. Afterwards, they charged so fast that one could swear they were sliding on ice.
The night ended with a race from one end of the court to the other, where parents eagerly awaited to take photos with their players (and the Yotes, too).
“We had so many kids come out. They were definitely showing Anthony and Toby how to play hockey out there,” said Olivia Campos, director of the Coyotes’ community relations.
Although it was a first for the Coyotes, Campos “wouldn’t be surprised if you guys saw them again.”
Student, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism
Aitana Yvette Mallari is an online journalist and a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. She lived in the Middle East, Asia, and both coasts of the US. Aitana was a North America and Tech Correspondent for UK news site The Global Panorama. You can find her at Ability360, probably wearing a skeleton hand.