Hayden Loutsenhizer was born on October 9, 2004. As a child, Hayden was lost. He was constantly getting into trouble for little things at school and his grades were mediocre. As parents, we knew that we had to get Hayden into something that he cared about, or we feared he would get into trouble as he got older. Although Hayden showed interest in many things, nothing stuck and he lost interest quickly.
One day, Hayden went on a field trip to Riverside Ice Town where he had a quick lesson on skating during an open ice session. When he came home, he told us how much fun he had and that he wanted to play ice hockey. Knowing that he did not know how to skate on the ice, and we lived in the Coachella Valley, we were not quick to react to this new found interest of his. As Hayden persisted, we thought we would at least look into what was available locally. I heard about the Desert Ice Castle opening up in Cathedral City and found that they were offering a ‘Try Hockey for Free’ day, so we went down to check it out.
It was October 2011, and hockey season already started. We were given loaner gear for him that day and he hit the ice. Although he had no clue what he was doing, he was very intent on listening to the coaches and the smile on his face never went away. Afterwards, we spoke with the Director of Desert Blaze, Jeff Larson, to see what we could do to get him prepared for the next season. Jeff told us not to worry about the lack of his abilities and to come to the Mites practice to talk with the coach and do an informal try out, as they still had openings even though the season had started. Long story short, we were given the opportunity to be part of the Desert Blaze Mites Inaugural Season in Cathedral City, CA.
We were excited for the opportunity, but also found out quickly that this was going to be a huge commitment and investment on our part. Our son did not have a great track record of sticking to extracurricular activities, but we decided to try it out and signed him up. The hockey club loaned him gear temporarily until we were able to purchase gear for him, which, again, we were not prepared for. Unbeknownst to us, Hayden had overheard my husband and I discussing our hesitation and concerns for the mounting costs when Hayden came to us with all his saved‐up money from his birthday, totaling just under $200.00, telling us that he would pay for all his gear himself so he could play. This small action coming from a seven‐year‐old boy, was what I needed that day to give me some kind of confirmation that this was something he was really serious about.
The day we signed Hayden up for hockey season was a life changing event for my son and our family. This was the only thing that Hayden cared about. He was working hard on the ice, respected his coaches and teammates, and his attitude completely changed. We told him that he had to perform well in school or there would be no hockey practices or games, and it worked! Hockey began to transform my son in the most positive of ways.
Over the years, Hayden has been part of amazing experiences with different hockey teams and clubs such as Desert Blaze, Wildcats, Orange County and Empire. Learning to work under different coaches and with different teammates has taught him social diversity. Working with a team and playing in literally every position has taught him the game of hockey. Knowing that there is always something you can improve on, challenging your teammates and yourself to strengthen each other’s weakness, and having fun is the core of this great game.
While Hayden has won championships, tournaments, and scored hat tricks, he has also learned what it is like to lose and what it means to be supported by your teammates when things do not go the way you imagined. In March of 2018, during a double‐header weekend, Hayden broke his arm during the Saturday game in Santa Barbara. Not only did his teammates visit the emergency room after the game,
but so did others from the opposing team. We were able to get him splinted up for the ride home, but all Hayden cared about was getting to his game the next day in Yorba Linda. I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it given his condition and the drive, but his persistence wouldn’t let up. We arrived at the game just as his team finished warming up and the game was about to start. When his teammates saw Hayden come in and stand next to his bench in support, they were elated and yelled through the glass that they were playing this game for him. His team won 7‐1. Hayden was not able to play in the play‐off games that season with his team, but he was adamant that he needed to be at every game in support of his team, and we were.
Our family has met some wonderful people along this hockey journey, and even though the kids may not all play for the same club anymore, or in the same division, they all remain friends, even when playing as opponents. Hayden has also met some great NHL hockey players along the way that have inspired him to continue to work hard towards his goals in hockey and in life.
Hayden is now entering his eighth season in youth hockey. He will be turning 15 years old this month and is currently playing Right Wing and Center for the Empire Hockey Club out of Ontario, CA in the (Midget) 16U AA Division. He is an amazing young man that is compassionate about others, respectful of adults, doing great as a new Freshman at Palm Desert High School, and is balancing both his schoolwork and out of town travel like a champ. It is not always easy for a young adult to have a schedule like we do, but the dedication and passion he has for this sport truly amazes me every day and I can’t be prouder of who he has become and what he will accomplish in his future.