CB Town league hockey on the edge

“I’ll do everything in my power to see the season finish”

by Than Acuff

With dissention from players and teams and the overall competitive level on the rise in Crested Butte town league hockey this season, officials are growing weary of their jobs. As a result, West Elk Hockey Association (WEHA) executive director Cody Aidala has stepped in and called on players and teams to either shape up or suffer serious repercussions.

“The behavior of certain players and teams has gotten progressively worse,” says Aidala. 

Finding officials to work town league games in Crested Butte has always been a struggle. Due to the league’s affiliation with USA Hockey, officials must be trained and registered by USA Hockey to work the games. Currently, there are five officials that meet those requirements and are willing to work in Crested Butte, four of whom travel from Gunnison. But with dissention on the rise, they are starting to question if it’s worth the drive and time.

“It’s gotten a little out of hand,” says Aidala. “Berating the officials has to stop.”

Just two weeks ago, as temperatures started to rise on the ice, officials continued to keep the game going but when a scuffle broke out in the corner with six minutes left in the game, officials had seen and heard enough and ended the game at that point.

More recently, both games scheduled on Monday, February 20 were cancelled due to a lack of officials. The teams still showed up to play and players scheduled to play the late game officiated the early game and vice versa, but it’s not a solution, at least not for this season.

Aidala sent an email to team managers on Friday, February 17 warning them of continued repercussions if things do not improve and is implementing a “zero tolerance” policy for the remainder of the season.

“If teams continue to show poor sportsmanship, they will be kicked out of the league and cannot play in the playoffs,” says Aidala. “We’re leaving it up to the teams, the players and the captains.”

Aidala is stepping on the ice to help out, working as an official at Crested Butte town league games this week and insists that he does not want it to come down to cancelling games or the season.

“I’ll go out there to help mend bridges between the groups, I’ll do everything in my power to see the season finish,” says Aidala. “There is a slight potential the plug could be pulled if teams don’t shape up. We don’t want to punish everybody because of a few bad apples or a few bad teams. We’re hoping it’s going to get better.”

Looking ahead, Aidala is brainstorming options for the future of town league hockey in Crested Butte. One idea involves splitting into two leagues based on ability, but that runs into finding ice time for the two leagues to play.

“It’s a community rink so we want to make sure other people can use the rink, it’s not just for hockey,” says Aidala.

Another idea is to end the town league’s affiliation with USA Hockey. Aidala admits that the time and effort to become a registered USA Hockey official can be daunting for people and more effort than they are willing to put in. Splitting from USA Hockey can open the potential for WEHA to train officials in house and provide insurance for players and officials as well.

“There are a lot of leagues that do not have USA Hockey involved so we’re looking at stuff that way,” explains Aidala. 

Ultimately, Aidala is calling upon the players to be accountable and responsible for their actions to keep Crested Butte town league hockey in place, something he sees as a positive experience overall.

“The big thing we push with town league is that it’s a community event,” says Aidala. “It should be a good, safe and fun environment. It can be competitive hockey, but it needs to be respectful. Respectful to the officials, your opponent and respecting the game.”

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