Close to full strength
[ by Than Acuff ]
Thank God local amateur sports are going to start back up. Thank God we’re at the end of 2020. Thank God Trump will be put in timeout. And a big thanks to Joni Reynolds and the county because as the latest surge ran rampant through the state, Gunnison County remains at a cool Blue level, allowing for the Crested Butte coed town league hockey season to start on Monday, January 4.
The draft night format for town league was still in question as of press time but Wendy Buckhanan, executive director for the West Elk Hockey Association, did say registration numbers are strong for the upcoming season.
“We have enough for eight teams and we might even get to nine, which is what we had last year,” says Buckhanan.
Ultimately, the number of teams may come down to COVID protocols. Currently 25 people are allowed to gather for events so Buckhanan can go with eight teams of 11 players each but the league may opt for nine teams of fewer players.
“On a normal year I’d say eight teams but we’re trying to keep teams as small as possible so we may go to nine teams,” says Buckhanan. “It’s a little bit of a dance.”
Eight or nine teams, whatever the number, town league hockey has been surging over the past four to five years so having a season this year can only mean good things. Not only has the Crested Butte Town League seen several players return to the fray after taking a mid-life break, but also numerous new players over the past couple of years have jumped into the action. Furthermore, for the first time in who knows how long, there’s no shortage of officials at the north end of the valley.
“As of right now I’ve got four certified refs who live in Crested Butte, and one more waiting on paperwork,” says Buckhanan. “I’m really excited about that.”
Now, who will unseat the reigning champion… Wait—there is no reigning champion. That’s right, COVID cut the playoffs short and a champion was never crowned. So that means that 2019 town league champions Kochevar’s are the reigning champions.
Meanwhile, everyone else has had to wait, which can only mean one thing: Folks have got to be chomping at the bit to get their hockey on, which could and should make for a great season ahead of us.
But what if this latest COVID strain (British Flu?) continues to mutate and we end up back where we started? Well, Buckhanan believes she and the county could make something work if Gunnison County moves into the Yellow.
“If we move to Yellow, that would put the kibosh on indoor programming,” explains Buckhanan. “Fortunately we have outdoor rinks but I don’t know how that will look. Maybe we just play four against four.”
As for now though, Crested Butte town league hockey will start on Monday, January 4 at 6:45 p.m. with games Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6:45 and 8:15 p.m.