More people, more talent, same great rink
It’s that time of year, one of my favorites as a local sports reporter: town league hockey season. Don’t get me wrong, watching softball while basking in the evening sun at one of the three spectacular fields in town has its merits. But, there is nothing like watching town league hockey in near zero temperatures at Big Mine Ice Arena.
Your toes freeze, your fingers freeze, even your PBRs freeze, although you’re not allowed to drink at the games, so it’s no longer an issue, is it?
The league is under way with opening night on Wednesday, January 2 and will continue until February 26. All games will be played Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 and 9 p.m.
Once again, the new facility has the hockey enthusiasts coming out in droves.
“We’re a hockey town with a skiing problem,” says Crested Butte Parks and Recreation program coordinator Lauren Alkire.
Last season the league saw a spike in players to 137, as excitement for the new roof, lights and glass had former town league all stars coming out of retirement to play at the new and improved Big Mine Ice Arena.
This year, 149 are registered and were spread out over 10 teams at the annual hockey draft night on December 15.
Held at the Brick Oven, draft night was quite the spectacle as always. The evening was rife with the usual amount of disputes fueled by misinformation, or lack of information, or inebriation, or all three.
“I had to use my gavel as much as I had to use my whistle last year, and I had a big gavel,” says Alkire.
It’s a tough racket, the draft night. First of all, the talent rating system for adult hockey as determined by USA Hockey, has its shortcomings. Simply put, players are rated between one and five with one being the never-evers and five… who really cares. At any rate, the 10 teams this year appear to be fairly evenly matched.
“Only time will tell,” says Alkire. “On paper, the teams look pretty even.”
New this year is an injured reserve (IR) list. While the deadline is long past to register to play town league hockey, you can put your name on the injured reserve list. If someone on a team gets injured and cannot finish the season, the team may pull an equally rated player off the IR list to replace him or her.
The list is up and running and free to get on. You only have to pay if you’re called in to play.
There is a loophole in the late registration as well. If you are willing to put on the pads, the glove, the waffle and stand in front of the net, you can still get in on town league hockey action.
“We’re still looking for three more goalies,” says Alkire.
One other change is the length of the games. Time for town league games has been minimized a smidge to open up more ice time for youth teams to practice. The games will now be 11 minute, stopped clock periods instead of 12 and there will be a one-hour total time limit as opposed to an hour and a half.
“Games need to start on time,” says Alkire.
Defending champions the Brick Oven have the target on the jerseys this season after compiling an undefeated record last year to take the title. Furthermore, the Brick Oven franchise is coming off a league title in Gunnison this past fall.
“Three titles in a row,” says Brick Oven captain Ben Preston. “We’re throwing around the word dynasty. Obviously we want to get another title so Hartigan can steal our trophy again.”
While the team lost a couple of key players in the draft this year, Preston feels the quality is still in tact with the addition of Deuce Wynes and Michael Blunck, who brings a Chicago style of play to a rink that’s been dominated by young East Coast talent.
“I was sitting on a beach in the Cook Islands when they did the draft,” says Preston. “The core is still there. We still got Cram, Gutter, Dan, me, Kent and Marchitelli.”
Regardless, he feels this season should be action-packed.
“We feel town league is going to be a bit more competitive this year because other teams have a lot of our players,” says Preston.
And for all you top-shelf players who feel the need to get your serious hockey fix other than playing down to town league level, there is a new competitive league this season.
There will be comp league games in Gunnison on Monday nights and in Crested Butte Friday nights at 7 and 8:45 and registration for that league is still open.
See you at Big Mine Ice Arena.