PHOENIX – Balloons, confetti and the sounds of Latin music filled the Ice Den Scottsdale. In the background, the subtle sound of skate blades and stick taps echoed throughout the ice rink.
Attendees of the Hispanic Heritage Month kick-off event, their faces filled with joy, briefly paused during Wednesday’s celebration while Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez announced the organization’s plans of engaging the local community.
“What I am most excited about is the work being done across the community,” Gutierrez told the crowd. “While we’re here celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re also celebrating everything that we do year-round to target this incredibly important community.”
Through its partnership with the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Coyotes will highlight thriving Latino businesses from the greater Phoenix area and work with Latino marketing agency Chemistry Cultura to help improve their business brands.
Monica Villalobos, president and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is excited about the partnership and future opportunities that will come with the Coyotes.
“I think it’s really important for them to be investing in the Hispanic community,” Villalobos said. “This is a non-traditional sport for us, it’s a huge business opportunity. And so as I always tell Xavier [Gutierrez], the success of the Coyotes is all of our success.”
Gutierrez, the only latino president and CEO in the NHL, hopes to leverage his platform to make a difference in the community.
The Coyotes will continue to sponsor an “Estrella (Star) of the Month” in its partnership with Univision Arizona and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Coyotes will feature one “Estrella” a month in an opportunity to amplify and highlight Latino owned businesses in the Valley.
“We just selected businesses that we know have been making a great impact not just as a business, but everything that they do for the community,” Gutierrez said. “We want to celebrate that these are great stories. They’re great, not only businesses, but they’re uplifting, inspirational individuals that own these businesses, and we want to amplify their message of who they are and what they’ve done.”
Villalobos notes that the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has been highlighting many of these local businesses for a few years.
“We’re so excited to be able to elevate them, to lift them up and to be able to put them on a platform at the level of the Arizona Coyotes,” Villalobos said. “That’s significant, not just for sales and recognition, but for their own motivation to see a team and organization like the Coyotes owned and operated by Latinos. It gives them inspiration.”
The local Latino small businesses selected include: Gomez Construction Group, Infinity Staffing, Little Giants Spanish Immersion Preschool, Mima’s Beauty College and Studio93 Creative Academy. Each of these five businesses will be spotlighted during one of the Coyotes home games this season.
Magdalena Serrano, director of Mima’s Beauty College, says she’s grateful for the selection and recognition from the Coyotes.
“They are supporting us with marketing, which I appreciate very much because our business is a very small school and we need help,” Serrano said. “The support is great because we do not have the money to invest in marketing.”
Gutierrez hopes the new partnerships and involvement in the Latino community attract the next generation of Coyotes fans. In Phoenix, 42.6% of the population is Hispanic or Latino, according to the United States Census Bureau. Arizona is one of the top four states in the U.S. with the largest Hispanic population.
“We’re going to continue to expand a number of efforts to develop this fan base,” Gutierrez said. “We’re talking about the future fans, the future followers of this organization. We know that it’s not necessarily a sport that many people have had as part of their journey. We want to welcome you, we want to open our doors and we want to make you as a community feel that you are welcome.”