Only minutes after the second day of school wrapped up Thursday afternoon, the doors at Rim Country Middle School gymnasium sprung open, exposing local youngsters to a myriad of games and activities designed to keep the most ardent of young hockey fans enthralled.
Billed as "The Phoenix Coyotes are Coming To Payson," the event attracted a gym-full of happy youngsters, plus a bevy of local hockey fans, including retirees Irene Schwartzbauer and Beth Leeds. Both are Coyotes season-ticket holders.
The two-hour exposition was originally scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. but because school was in session, the tip-off was delayed until 3 p.m. when local school was let out.
As part of the Arizona Public Service Power Play Tour, the event gave locals the opportunity to experience NHL hockey up close. One of the most popular activities was a slap shot competition in which youngsters using a hockey stick tried to score goals. In another activity, youths donned goalie equipment and attempted to defend the goal as shot after shot was hit at them by tour officials.
During the free event, fans also flocked to Coyotes player Louie DeBrusk for autographs and participated in interactive hockey games. Most hung around long enough to find out who were the lucky winners of game tickets and team merchandise being given away.
The tour made its debut in Payson last summer when it was held in Rumsey Park during rodeo weekend. Officials say they plan to again include Payson on the tour when it is held in 2000.