Jim Rogers was 14 years old when he got a job at Ice Palace, now known as AZ Ice Arcadia, lied about his age so he could work on an ice rink and play hockey for fun.
It was devoted a lifetime to the development of hockey in Arizona, with Rogers pioneering the sport in the state where he grew from a teenage porter to owning and operating ice rinks and allowing the game to flourish in the desert.
Rogers died on October 6 at the age of 56, after long suffering from sarcoidosis, a lung disease that sometimes made breathing difficult. His death is widely regarded by many in the Arizona hockey community as a major blow to the state’s youth hockey as he was a longtime member of the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association’s board of directors and principal owner of the AZ Ice Arcadia. Gilbert and Peoria rinks.
Rogers was also a youth coach and is credited with helping the Arizona Kachinas Women’s and Girls’ Hockey Association stay operational while running the program on his Arcadia rink. The Kachinas will soon be officially opening their new home, the Coyotes Community Ice Center in Mesa.
Rogers also worked for the old West Coast Hockey League’s now-defunct Phoenix Mustangs, which played at Veterans Memorial Coliseum from 1997 to 2001.
He loved the game and it kept him going. He wanted everyone to play, and at least everyone to try and have the opportunity to try if they wanted to. Nothing would really stop him, said his son, Justin Rogers. I don’t think anyone could honestly fill their shoes, but the good news, however, is that he has really mapped out a path for all of us so now we just have to stay on that straight and narrow path.
Rogers was an Arizona Coyotes season ticket holder who bonded with his family through games. Coyotes games were an escape from troubles on the rink or in life, Justin said.
The team shared a tribute to Rogers on social media the day after his death, and players also shared messages.
Sitting in the stands, there was nothing to replace that. Win or lose, we hockey players in particular, there was never a bad game, Justin said. Continuing his dreams is really the most important.
Coyotes director of amateur hockey development Matt Shott said Rogers did whatever it took to keep the game growing, despite the many challenges he faced. Shott has worked with Rogers often and hopes Rogers will be the first inductee of a project Shott hopes to kick-start, the Arizona Hockey Hall of Fame.
He offered the option for children, he offered the option for adults. If there was a kid who loved rollerblading, but parents found out how expensive it is to play, they would have found a way to get that kid to play, Shott said. In terms of my job with the Coyotes, that’s the kind of person I want to make sure I don’t let down and I look up to.
There will be no other Jim Rogers.
The Coyotes have printed thousands of helmet stickers for amateur players to honor Rogers on the ice. A private memorial service will be held, with plans for public tribute on the AZ rinks in the works.
The Rogers family, owned by Jim’s wife Lori, will continue to operate their ice rinks.
Randy Exelby, owner of the hockey stores of Valley’s threeBehind the Mask, who Rogers had known for 30 years, said Rogers had a passion for getting kids excited about hockey. He called Rogers “a tremendous force in growing hockey for the love of the sport.”
Exelby said Rogers helped save the ice rinks in Gilbert and Peoria by putting together investment groups to keep them going if they went out of business.
“I’ve seen what he’s done for hockey and it’s fantastic,” said Exelby. “Without Jim Rogers there would be hundreds of less hockey players in the Valley.”
The Rogers family has been overwhelmed by the abundance of support and messages from the many who knew Jim, who was a father figure to some of the young players, Justin said.
“Every child sees their parents as rock stars and legends. The overwhelming support, the stories, it’s incredible,” said Justin. ‘He wasn’t just my dad. He was so much more than just a coach, and I think hockey was one of the great things that everyone bonded with. ‘
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