“Our mission and philosophy hasn’t changed”
After a series of meetings, phone calls and emails back and forth, Crested Butte youth hockey from the squirts (ages 9-10) to the midgets (high-school age) is leaving the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League (RMYHL). Crested Butte hockey was accepted into a new league, the Continental Divide Youth Hockey League (CDYHL) making the move for the 2012-2013 season. Telluride, Durango and Craig are making the same move as well.
The RMYHL has been disintegrating over the past couple of years, especially at the high school level, as programs either disappear or move on. What was once a full-fledged league of teams soon dissipated over time into four teams at the midget level this past season.
“It was made up of towns on the Western Slope and ski towns like Crested Butte that didn’t fit in any other leagues,” says Crested Butte Director of Parks and Recreation Jake Jones. “Some of these communities have seen a decline in participation so it became increasingly difficult to have a league.”
Case in point, when the league was at its height as many as eight teams were part of the RMYHL at the midget level.
Last year, at that same age group, Durango and Telluride had to merge to form a team, the Grand Junction rink shut down and Gunnison moved to the CDYHL.
“In some age divisions we only saw three teams,” explains Jones. “To continue league play for our kids, we had to vacate RMYHL and join another league.”
A new league, especially one that has teams from the I-70 corridor as well as the Denver area, can mean even more travel.
“We’re not sure about games and the travel format yet,” says Jones. “The league is meeting right now to figure it out. They’re motivated to make it work and they do understand by taking us on, they may have to change some things.”
CDYHL league president Turk Montepare is conscious of the toll that travel can take on hockey programs.
“I think of it as a new horizon,” says Montepare. “We’re very enthused about this. We’re kicking ideas around to see how it will work.”
Jones points out that one big selling point for the CDYHL taking Crested Butte in was the town’s new rink facility. When Montepare came to town to talk about the move, he took a tour of Big Mine Ice Arena and liked what he saw.
“If we didn’t have that, we would not be in the mix,” says Jones.
The new league will provide a step up in competition as well but Jones says the Parks and Rec Department will not stray from its goal to give everyone a chance to play.
“We’re unique in that our program is not run by a club, but by the town,” explains Jones. “Being more inclusive is more important than super-competitive. Our mission and philosophy hasn’t changed.”
Jones points out that one of the many advantages to the new league is the opportunity to step up to the level of competition when local numbers and talent dictate.
“It gives us a lot more options,” says Jones.
Montepare feels the Crested Butte teams will grow into the level of competition, adding that in the past three years, Crested Butte has proved itself at the state tournament, the Avs Cup.
“I think there’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve,” says Montepare. “But Crested Butte is right there. Without a doubt the [RMYHL] entrants into the Avs Cup have been very competitive.”
Crested Butte Wolfpack coach John Mortell looks forward to the challenge.
“I think it’s a great move for us,” says Mortell. “The competition is going to be a lot better. There will be some growing pains but knowing the younger generation’s coming up, I think we’ll step up.”