Colorado Springs has become the place to be in youth hockey over Presidents Day weekend.
For the 39th year, the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association (CSAHA) held its Presidents' Day Tournament, and it again proved to be a memorable event as teams flocked to the area from all over the country.
The tournament, held from Feb. 12-15, included 101 teams that came from everywhere from California to Florida. There were more than 1,500 players and more than 220 games were played on eight sheets of ice over the four days. The age levels ranged from 10U to 18U, and all games were played by USA Hockey rules. The Sunday session also included a sled hockey exhibition.
“It’s a massive event,” said Pat Kelleher, USA Hockey assistant executive director of membership development. He’s also a volunteer coach at the CSAHA. “It’s a special and unique event in Colorado Springs. We have people coming from all over.
“That’s one of the things that makes it unique from year to year – having people come from different parts of the country. That creates a different and cool feel to it. You’re playing teams from New Mexico and Florida, and they’re playing teams from Colorado.”
Teams traveled from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Even teams from Canada took part. The players also participated in a pin-trading event, which gave them the opportunity to meet and bond over their love of hockey.
The Presidents Day Tournament is one of the largest youth hockey events in the country. It’s a big task for Tournament Director Mike Pipkins and scores of volunteers. Volunteers are vital to the success of the event, and an estimated 1,000 volunteer hours were put in over the four days.
“It’s our host tournament,” Kelleher said. “The parents of the association work shifts in the tournament. My daughter and I worked a game doing online scoring between a Wyoming and San Jose team in the midget bracket. It’s special for the families. We support the teams and hang out at the rink. Everyone in the association has ownership. For the kids, you’re seeing teams from all over the country you never see or likely will never see during the season again.”
The CSAHA is fortunate to have the national offices of USA Hockey nearby. Many members of the USA Hockey staff serve as coaches or play other roles in the association. Because Kelleher and a number of others involved with the CSAHA also work for USA Hockey, the experience is even more unique.
“For us who work for USA Hockey, many are involved in our local associations,” Kelleher said. “But we’re just like all the other volunteers. Even though we’re privileged to work for USA Hockey for our day jobs, many of us have been or are currently youth hockey parents. We have coaches. We have referees. It’s fun to just another youth hockey parent and youth hockey volunteer in our association.
“For a lot of us, we’re connected to the grassroots by where we work, by our kids’ involvement and we’re especially involved in this weekend as a coach and volunteer. Seeing everyone coming in around from the country makes it a really fun and special weekend in Colorado Springs.”
Part of Kelleher’s job with USA Hockey is growing grassroots hockey programs. USA Hockey recently held its Try Hockey for Free Day presented by Kraft Heinz. This nationwide event allowed a record number of players to try hockey for the first time. Kelleher is hopeful that will pay off nationally and locally, in Colorado Springs.
“Maybe there’s a kid who tried hockey for free on Saturday and six or seven years from now will be playing in our Presidents Day tournament,” Kelleher said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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