PHOENIX — A fixture in the Valley hockey community passed away Tuesday at his rink in Arcadia, leaving community members heartbroken and shocked. Jim Rogers was 55 years old.
Phoenix police are investigating his death, but family members said he died of natural causes.
Rogers owned three of the AZ Ice rinks: Arcadia, Peoria and Gilbert. He worked with the Valley of the Sun Hockey Association and the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association. He dedicated 40 years of his life to the sport.
AZ Ice Arcadia on Thomas Road is the oldest rink in the Valley. It became a center for Valley hockey--with adult leagues, all-ages lessons and youth camps.
"There is not a family in Arizona hockey--and even ice skating--that he hasn't touched in some way," said Cammille Becker. "It wasn't about prestige or playing big fancy tournaments. It was about teaching kids to love the game."
Becker's family met Jim Rogers back in 2008 at AZ Ice Arcadia. Her son Blaise fell in love with the game and played on several teams throughout the years with Rogers as his coach.
"I wasn't working and we were struggling a lot. And Jim just made arrangements for my son to always be on the ice. He never asked us for any money," she said.
Becker later worked as the rink manager. She said Rogers gave all his time and love to the rink and to the sport.
"I think his legacy was making hockey and access to the rink and access to the sport affordable for people and available for people," said Becker.
Blaise now plays for another team in Pennsylvania, with hopes of playing in college.
"There is not a day that we do not think about how grateful our family is and how indebted we are to him for what he's done for us," said Becker. "There are some people whose lives will never be the same because he was there. Whether it was a brief moment tying a skate or 10 years of coaching at the rink, I hope they see how loved he was and how much he'll be missed."
The Arizona Coyotes Wednesday posted on Facebook calling Rogers a hockey pioneer.
"We are extremely thankful for his lifetime of dedication to growing the game of hockey in our state. Our hearts go out to his family, his rinks, and his players."