|Phoenix Coyote and now Arizona Sundog teammates David Schlemko, left, and Kyle Chipchura go after the puck during training camp this past week at Timís Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. The Sundogs open their 2012-13 home season Friday night against the Missouri Mavericks.|
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg
A second canine hybrid "Sunyote" now resides in Prescott Valley.
Phoenix Coyote forward Kyle Chipchura, 26, recently joined teammate David Schlemko as members of the Arizona Sundogs during the NHL lockout.
The Alberta, Canada, native is happy to be in a competitive atmosphere again, after feeling without purpose the past few weeks.
"I feel like part of the team," Chipchura said after just three days of training camp.
Chipchura grew up in Westlock, a prairie town of fewer than 200 people near Edmonton. It's still home, even though he emptied the nest at 16 to pursue his hockey career.
"Most hockey guys have a lot in common. We're simple guys," he said with a grin.
He donned ice skates when little more than a toddler.
"There are a lot of little ponds around and we'd shovel the snow off to skate," he said. "In a small town, any kid near your age is your friend."
The really dedicated players, with great support from their parents, advance to junior hockey and beyond. In Chipchura's case, he became a first-round, 18th overall pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
He started with the AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs and helped the team earn a Culder Cup championship in 2007.
Then it was off to the Canadiens, and in 2009, the Anaheim Ducks. Traded in 2011, he has 16 points in 53 games with the Coyotes.
Chipchura's parents, Wayne and Sylvia, both work in the city but devoted much money and travel time to ice hockey for Kyle and his older brother, Shayne.
He also loved to ski in the Rocky Mountains just 2.5 hours away from Westlock, but hasn't done that since he was 14. Something to look forward to after hockey - a long time in the future.
Definitely an outdoors guy, Chipchura and his girlfriend, Nancy, now enjoy taking their 7-month-old yellow lab, Nala, to the open spaces surround ing Prescott Valley for hikes and romps.
"I wasn't expecting it to be such a beautiful area," he said. "We've been to Thumb Butte, Willow and Watson lakes, and we'd driven to Sedona, Jerome and Payson after we moved to Phoenix."
Adjusting as a Sundog means he expects to be the "energy guy" as well as one of the top two "line" guys.
"In the end it's hockey," he said of the minor and major leagues. "I expect to get hit and 'finished' (as an NHL player in the CHL). You play with your head up."