Get your pucks: Colorado Extreme Hockey expands with Rifle ice rink
The city of Rifle, historically known for rodeos and other attractions, is poised to have its first brush with the cool air of hockey.
The transformation will come courtesy of Colorado Extreme Hockey’s newest project — an oval ice rink set to be introduced at the Garfield County Fairgrounds. It is expected to open its gates to the public by Thanksgiving.
Sheldon Wolitski, the visionary behind Colorado Extreme Hockey, confirmed the purpose of the rink’s initial season.
“We aren’t quite ready to expand into two teams for the Colorado Extreme Hockey program,” Wolitski said. “The rink will be used this season for recreational hockey and open skating for the public.”
It’s a step forward for the club that was kickstarted by Wolitski in the 2021-22 season. The maiden journey began at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel with an oval-shaped rink, with kids playing in improvised teams and communal gatherings marked by potlucks. The journey led to the foundation of the Steadman Philippon Outdoor Arena in Carbondale and now, a new rink in the Rifle area.
Today, the youth club houses about 50 players, spanning three 8U teams, two 10-year-old teams, three mite teams, and one 12U team. Wolitski also mentioned that while the club currently boasts six coaches, there’s an active search for more local talent to join their ranks, especially due to their expansion to the Rifle area.
But for Wolitski, the mission extends beyond just facilitating a game. Since its inception, Colorado Extreme has distributed 300 free hockey bags filled with gear. Currently, two trailers, each 25-foot long, stand packed with equipment awaiting young enthusiasts.
The Rifle region, however, is relatively unfamiliar with the rink sport. Wolitski’s ambitious forecast is that the new rink could bring as many as 400 new skaters, most of which might be getting their first brush with hockey basics.
Alesha Marrow, a local parent and coach familiar with Rifle’s athletic pulse, underscored the potential impact of the new rink.
“It’s not easy for Rifle families to make their way down to Carbondale,” Marrow said. “During the winter months, these kids have nothing to do.”
Marrow sees the rink as a gateway to not just a new sport, but also community involvement.
A sentiment echoed by eight-year-old Aike Hansen, Marrow’s son, who awaits the rink’s inauguration with palpable enthusiasm.
“I am very excited because I really like meeting new people,” Hansen said. “I have friends who want to play hockey but their parents can’t afford that much gas.”
As the founder of Colorado Extreme, Wolitski’s ambition seems to stem from his own past.
“Coming from where I grew up, there were ice rinks everywhere,” Wolitski said. “We realized the number of kids on our [Colorado Extreme] team and saw a gap for winter sports in Rifle.”
While there are aspirations to possibly introduce a distinct team in Rifle in the future, Wolitski’s current priority remains clear.
“More than anything, we just want to fulfill one of our pillars of being able to grow the game,” he said.Those looking for more information regarding the Colorado Extreme Hockey program can do so at coloradoextreme.org.
This story is from Postindependent.com.