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Town league hockey season opens Monday

Can the Last Steep repeat?

by Than Acuff

It was an incredible end to an incredible Crested Butte town league hockey season last year as the Last Steep made a prolific post-season run to reach the finals and edge out a 3-2 win in the final minute over Altitude Painting.

“It meant a lot seeing how we were a team that was not expected to do anything really at all,” says player/manager/owner Sean Hartigan. “We just came around at the right time, gelled and everyone actually showed up.”

Last year really had everything one could expect from any local hockey league in any small town. There was regular season domination by a team, only to fall apart in the playoffs. Season-long suspensions were handed out to unruly players. There was a fight in the title game. They had phenomenal goaltending all year long and a handful of stars rising to help lead teams and make their lesser teammates look really good. And in the end, the title came down to the old adage: There’s no “I” in team.

But there is in pig.

Speaking of pig, as I mentioned before, the Last Steep won the 2017 town league title and they’ve got a helluva pig sandwich called the Kansas City Chief.

And speaking of the Kansas City Chiefs, hopes will rise for their fans as they edge out a win in the first round of the playoffs but hopes will then be crushed by the New England Patriots, aka the First Order, in the next round.

Speaking of the NFL, is it me or has the NFL hit an all-time low with the number of injuries, replays and commercials bringing the already slow game to a snail’s pace?

You know what doesn’t move at a snail’s pace?

Crested Butte town league hockey.

This year there are 104 players registered for town league hockey, up from 90 who signed up last year, and that can mean only one thing: More hockey.

“We are able to add a whole other team bringing it to eight teams this year,” says West Elk Hockey Association hockey administrator Wendy Buckhanan. “They’re all going to end up with more games, which is good.”

As mentioned before, there were some player issues last season that were dealt with accordingly and the same rules are in place this year for anyone looking to use town league hockey as an excuse to blow a fuse.

“We followed USA hockey rules and it worked out,” says Buckhanan.

As with any local league, refs and scorekeepers are the last lingering issue. Buckhanan believes she has enough refs for the season, provided they stay healthy and stay here, but scorekeepers are desperately needed. Did I mention it’s a paid position?

Well, it is. If you need a little extra cash on the side, contact Buckhanan through wehockey.org.

The season kicks off on Monday, January 8. Games will be Monday through Thursday evenings at Big Mine Ice Arena. There are two games Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:15 and 8:45 p.m. and one game on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:45 p.m.

The official hockey draft was Tuesday, January 2 and only time will tell who made the right picks but Hartigan is looking to pull together the same crew for a shot at a repeat title.

“We’re hoping to do the same,” says Hartigan. “I’m very much hoping for a similar squad with maybe a few surprises.”

See you at the rink.

“It’s gonna be a great year.”

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