Perhaps one reason why the Littleton Hockey Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season is reflected by the organization’s 76-member wall of fame, which was unveiled on September 23, 2013.
The plaques on the wall honor Littleton alumni who have played hockey, or are playing, at the next level, whether that be in college, in the professional ranks or with the U.S. National Team Development Program.
“We have a place for kids to play at all ends whether you’re a top-end prospect or are playing junior varsity or varsity high school hockey,” explained Brian TenEyck, Littleton’s hockey director. “I grew up playing here and joined the club in ’89 as a 5-year-old. When I was coming through, we didn’t have an NHL team. The Avs came here in ’95 and several [families] eventually enrolled their kids in our program.
“The goal was to provide a place for kids to play hockey.”
The story behind the story for the suburban Denver program’s golden anniversary involves the people who put in the hours required to get the program on the ice and then made sure that it continued to thrive.
“Right off the top, we have a very strong support staff,” TenEyck said. “A number of ex-NHL players have come through the association. We have a board of directors that’s dedicated to improving and building on what we have.”
The LHA this season has 44 travel teams from Under-8 through Midget Major. It’s also a reason why the association was able to add a house program five years ago.
“Our house program is new,” TenEyck said. “We only had travel teams in the past. Now, we want to have a true pyramid. We have tryouts for our travel teams and we have players move to a higher level every year.
“We’ve grown from zero to 10 house teams in five years. It’s a program for kids who just want to enjoy the sport.”
Another plus for the LHA is that it plays out of two facilities, the South Suburban Ice Arena and the Ice Ranch. As a result, the association benefits from having four sheets of ice.
“Having four sheets of ice allows us to continue to grow,” TenEyck said. “Plus, geography plays a role. We’re very accessible. We’re in an area [southwest of Denver] that’s growing.”
The LHA also is affiliated with the Thunderbirds, the local AAA program.
“We’re affiliated with them and provide ice for them,” TenEyck said. “If our players can make it, we encourage them to get there.
“When the Thunderbirds won the 2010 U16 national championship, 13 players on that team came from Littleton.”
Not surprisingly, the LHA teams have won their share of championships, including three national titles along with various state championships.
“For our AA teams, we have an expectation of winning,” TenEyck said. “It’s not that winning is everything, but when our players step on the ice, we expect them to perform because of the resources we provide.
“It’s not a win-at-all-costs philosophy.”
When it comes to resources, TenEyck simply was stating facts. The LHA has a travel and house skills coach in Zach Blom, who played on the University of Denver’s 2005 NCAA Division I championship team. Blom attends one practice every week for the travel and house teams. Kyle Hull is the U8 skills coach. He’s on the ice with the U8 teams once or twice a week. Goalie coach David Nowicki oversees the LHA’s goalie program. Plus the LHA has a skating treadmill and skills pad along with treadmill coaches Nick Combs and Brent Mueller. Next on the drawing board is a dry-land facility.
The LHA recently hosted its 42nd annual Thanksgiving Day Tournament and is preparing to host its 28th annual Slap Shot Tournament plus its 29th annual Presidents Day Tournament. The fact these tournaments have been held for so long underscores the fact that Littleton is a volunteer-driven association.
“It is a lot of work but, again, it goes back to our volunteers — people who want to be a part of this program,” TenEyck said. “A lot of it starts with our board of directors and filters down to our hockey operations committee and our registrar [Dede Cox], who’s very important to us.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without the individuals who are here.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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