How serious is Arizona native David Spina about hockey? Here’s a true story:
Spina was already an avid skater by the time he was 8 and his parents moved the family from Seattle to suburban Phoenix. While searching for a house, the Spinas took out a map, noted the location of Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe (one of just two ice sheets in greater Phoenix at the time), and then used a ruler to determine which potential home was closest to the rink before buying.
Learning and growing in the game as one of Arizona’s early rink rats, Spina would watch the Los Angeles Kings and catch NHL games on ESPN2, but everything changed when he turned 12 and the Coyotes arrived.
“That had a huge impact on me and on hockey here,” said Spina, who currently plays in the Coyotes minor league system, working to recover from a preseason injury, and eagerly anticipating his opportunity to become the first Arizonan to skate for the hometown team.
“For the first time, we got to go to NHL games in person and dream of being Jeremy Roenick and wait for autographs afterward.”
Following his hockey dreams, Spina played for the National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., where then-coach Mike Eaves (now coaching the University of Wisconsin) was immediately impressed by Spina’s puck-handling ability, and interested by the words “Mesa, Arizona” in the space where Spina listed his hometown.
Spina’s friendship with Eaves’ sons, Ben and Patrick, factored into his decision to follow the brothers to Boston College, where he was an important member of the Eagles for four years and played in the 2004 Frozen Four.
As a professional, Spina bounced between minor league stops in Utah, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Massachusetts before signing a free agent contract with the Coyotes in 2008. Last season he led the San Antonio Rampage – the Coyotes’ top farm team – offensively and played three preseason games for Phoenix this fall before being sidelined with a torn muscle in his arm.
True to his missionary-like zeal for growing the game in his home state, Spina spent part of his down time hanging at the neighborhood rinks in the Phoenix suburbs, getting some ice time and working with kids, trying to be the role model for the next generation of Arizona hockey stars.
“I know some kids here look up to me, and it’s great for me to get out there and spend time with them, pushing them to get better, just like they push me to get healthy,” Spina said.
“I try to be that guy that’s made it, and give them proof that coming from Arizona, it can be done.”