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NHL All Stars check into Aspen for charity

Tim Mutrie

Over the course of Aspen’s history, world leaders have often gathered here – diplomats, physicists, businessmen and women, skiers and snowboarders, and designers, among others.Now comes a distinguished brotherhood of another sort – hockey players.The finest assemblage of hockey talent ever to grace the upper valley hits Aspen this weekend for the first Rocky Mountain Classic, a fund-raising event featuring dozens of current and former NHL stars.Colorado Avalanche fan favorites Adam Foote and Dan Hinote are hosting the mini-tournament Saturday night at the Aspen Recreation Center’s Lewis Ice Arena. Joe Sakic and Rob Blake, as well as former teammates Chris Drury and Mike Ricci, are just a sample of the names on the rosters.Organizers recently reduced ticket prices – from $100 to $50 for standing room (which theoretically puts your face against the glass) and from $200 to $150 for general admission.The capacity of the two-winter-old Lewis Ice Arena is approximately 700 (with 450 in the stands), not that it’s ever been packed before. Tickets may be purchased at the ARC, the Red Brick Building and at the door.The first puck drops at 5:09 p.m. The format calls for four teams – the Avs, the Boston Bruins, the Phoenix Coyotes and the Toronto Maple Leafs – to play four-on-four in 20-minute games. The tourney will consist of six qualifying contests, plus a championship game.Proceeds from the event, as well as a gala tonight at the Sundeck, benefit the Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, Denver’s Children’s Hospital and Aspen Junior Hockey.”We’ve had a good response, and as it gets closer people are getting more excited,” said event organizer Rene Doubleday. “And I know the players are excited to come to Aspen and take advantage of the things to do here with their families.”We’d strongly encourage people to come check out the event. I know they won’t be disappointed.”Several celebrities have been invited to participate, as well. Cuba Gooding Jr. headlines the confirmed list.”It’s unbelievable,” said ARC facilities supervisor Erich Grueter. “It’s pretty much an All Star list. It’s going to be cool, really, really cool.”We’ll have the games one after another and players will be watching the other players. I wanted to make it fun for the fans that are supporting a charity by coming out, and I want them to see something different, see the players on a lighter side, not as serious. I came up with this,” said the Avs’ Foote last month. This would have been his 14th season with the Avs/Nordiques organization if the NHL lockout hadn’t happened.Doubleday yesterday said fans, particularly young, hockey-loving ones, will have good access to the players.”It’s a small, intimate venue, and the players are there to have a good time and mill around with everybody. They’ll be able to get pretty close to some of their favorite players and legends.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com