Representatives from the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes presented Rio Rancho Public Schools with hundreds of dollars worth of hockey equipment Tuesday at the Rio Rancho Events Center.

The presentation was part of the NHL’s Hockey in Schools program, which is an effort to grow hockey to exponential levels across the country.

Joe Cordova opened the presentation by expressing gratitude to the Coyotes for bringing equipment into Rio Rancho schools.

“I personally want to thank this program and their efforts to build hockey in communities around the country,” Cordova said. “I want to thank you guys, I want to thank the Arizona Coyotes management and ownership groups for opening your persons to the city of Rio Rancho, to Rio Rancho Public Schools to get this started here, and we’re excited about it.”

Arizona Coyotes’ Coordinator of Hispanic Hockey Development Jonah Rodriquez and Corey Cavanaugh, the coordinator of Amateur Hockey Development, donated roughly $700 worth of sticks, balls, pinnies and nets to representatives from Maggie Cordova Elementary School, Rio Rancho Middle School and Rio Rancho High School.

“This program really started about five, six years ago, before my time with the Coyotes, and it was really just started to grow the game of hockey,” Rodriguez said. “We realized that hockey wasn’t really being taught in schools as much and that was because of various reasons like equipment; budgets weren’t there and teachers weren’t knowledgeable of hockey enough to feel comfortable teaching it. So really this program started, like Joe said, he started grassroots program here, it is exactly that over there in Arizona. It’s a grassroots program. A lot of us in our work, in our department, like to say it’s us going out, putting sticks in hands, giving to kids, exposing them to to the sport of hockey and just helping bridge any gaps that there may be.”

RRPS Superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland was also in attendance at the presentation and shared her appreciation for the donation.

“This is just a wonderful gift and we appreciate it,” Cleveland said. “I married someone from Pittsburgh and I grew to love the Steelers, but also found out there was this team called the Penguins and it was kind of a package deal. So we have a lot of kids here from other places. We have a lot of kids here that do love hockey. So it’s a wonderful way to give kids an opportunity to learn more about the sport. We really do appreciate it, and our students will really enjoy it.”