DEK hockey rink at Doolen Middle School

The recently completed DEK hockey rink at Doolen Middle School is part of a nationwide effort to establish youth hockey in non-traditional markets like Tucson.

A throng of men and women gathered last Monday afternoon to celebrate the grand opening of a DEK, or street hockey, rink located at Doolen Middle School.

The brainchild of the Tucson Roadrunners hockey team, in combination with the Boys & Girls Club of Tucson, the rink cost $250,000 in total. With the facility’s opening, Tucson joins three rinks built in the Phoenix metro area by the Arizona Coyotes (the Roadrunners’ parent club). Both the National and American hockey leagues have taken on an initiative to build DEK rinks across the U.S. and Canada over the last two years. 

Roadrunners President Bob Hoffman beamed with pride after the July 23 ceremony, calling it a monumental day for the fledgling franchise.

“This process is one that is really fulfilling and rewarding,” he said. “A lot of people put their hands into this and it’s been such a collaboration and to see really the support that we’ve generated from the community, it’s really special.” 

A cadre of speakers talked about the importance of having such a facility available for Tucson’s youngest residents, with Mayor Jonathan Rothschild speaking at-length about the construction’s impact on the region. 

“This is an example of good corporate citizenship,” Rothschild said. “On behalf of the students at Doolen, their parents, and the entire community, I want to thank the Tucson Roadrunners and all the other organizations that made this hockey rink happen. It may be the hottest day of the year, but thanks to these folks, that doesn’t mean you can’t play hockey here in Tucson.”

Hoffman believes the team’s support in building the DEK surface is the next step in building trust within the community. He knows how important it is to have a healthy relationship with the city you’re playing in, and believes this development will allow the team to grow the sport of hockey in Tucson. 

“To see the support we have and the appreciation from people that come up and pat us on the back and tell us, ‘we really are thankful for all that you guys are doing in the community and the opportunities you’re giving us,’ is great,” Hoffman said. “So, it’s definitely a rewarding thing and it’s something that we’ve really been excited to be a part of. “

The site is named the William J. Dawson Memorial DEK hockey rink, named after the Boys & Girls Club of Tucson’s longtime executive director. Club CEO Debbie Wagner expressed pride in the collective’s accomplishment and in the man who built the Boys & Girls Club of Tucson into what it’s become today. 

Wagner said they were thankful to the Tucson Roadrunners, generous community partners and BGCT Emeritus Board Member Mark Irvin for bringing The William J. Dawson Memorial DEK hockey rink to their club members. 

“Bill Dawson was the Clubs’ Executive Director for 30 years and was both a leader and inspiration to tens of thousands of kids at BGCT and across the Tucson community,” Wagner said. “Our kids are excited about this new sports and fitness opportunity allowing them to learn and play hockey in their sneakers.”

Mark Irwin, who serves as vice chair and secretary of the Rio Nuevo Board, which oversees the Roadrunners’ home rink at the Tucson Arena, said last week’s accomplishment is a great stepping-stone for hockey in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. 

“The vision of EMP Powerplay, the NHL, AHL, Arizona Coyotes and the Tucson Roadrunners to bring hockey inter-cities is genius,” Irwin said.  “To have the first of what we hope is many rinks throughout our community at Doolen Middle School and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson sites is ideal.  Once again, I have been personally rewarded with a front row seat to folks who are driven, committed and brilliant.”

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