Bobcats reorganize behind the scenes
July 30, 2015
By Brett Fera, Arizona Rubber Magazine
A familiar blue, white and yellow color scheme; a competitive coast-to-coast schedule for its Tier I teams; one of the most rewarding – if even challenging – experiences available for Arizona’s youth hockey talent.
When the Arizona Bobcats hit the ice this fall in the NAPHL, much of what has been visible between the boards over the years, under the direction of founder and head coach Ron Filion, will look all too familiar. But now that the venerable Bobcats – one of the state’s more successful youth development arms in recent years – have become one with the longstanding Valley of the Sun Hockey Association, it’s pretty much a whole new ballgame behind the scenes.
“Our direction right now, from that standpoint, is starting from ground zero,” explains Sean Vandale, president of the newly-minted VOSHA board of directors. “One of the things we’re really striving for is consistency up and down all age groups, and a clear path to development.”
Prior to the coming season, the Bobcats operated a handful of teams under Filion’s direction, focusing mostly on competing at the Tier I level in the state’s older age brackets. Now arm-in-arm as part of VOSHA, the Bobcat brand will include teams of virtually all youth ages – intended to allow for developmental hockey opportunities to lead into those competitive Tier I spots as players age up, and giving Valley youths an opportunity to start and stick with the organization their entire youth career.
Vandale is one of seven board members now charged with managing the “new” VOSHA Bobcat program. Joining him on the board is Robert Gosnall, who served as president of the VOSHA board when its recent teams were known as the Mustangs, as well as John Connor, Jamie Giek, Theresa LeBlanc, Greg Johnson and Robert Mitchell. Connor is slated as vice president, with Giek as treasurer and LeBlanc as community relations coordinator.
Additionally, Leeor Shtrom is now VOSHA’s voting representative on the board of directors for the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association, the state’s governing body for youth hockey.
Vandale stressed the importance of building the new leadership with individuals connected the prior iterations of both the Bobcats and VOSHA. That, of course, includes the on-ice leadership of Filion, the program’s head coach.
The connection to the organization’s past also runs through Jim Rogers. Over his nearly three decades involved in hockey and rink management with Arcadia Ice Arena, Rogers has served in just about every capacity possible for VOSHA, too. Today, Rogers is the managing partner of AZ Ice – which operates the Arcadia rink, as well as AZ Ice Gilbert and AZ Ice Peoria.
Vandale notes that while Rogers might not be involved in the day-to-day operation of VOSHA at this point, his institutional memory of the program he managed for so long and its history hasn’t just disappeared; that’s especially the case, too, with Arcadia serving as the Bobcats official home from this point forward.
And while the building and the youth organization are still separate entities, Vandale added that those close the program can likely expect for Arcadia to feel more like an official “home” come this fall, too.
“The advantages we have right now include the flexibility to start this from the ground up, the history of what Ron has built and what Jim has done with VOSHA, and the ability to do all of this with an independent board in the middle of it,” Vandale said.
“We’re really putting together something that’s on solid ground,” he added. “We’re building an organization that’s fluid … but stable and transparent, and one that’s the best at developing youth hockey in Arizona.”