Stirling Cup returns to celebrate Aspen Junior Hockey’s 50th anniversary

Photo from Aspen Junior Hockey's Colorado Avalanche alumni game on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at Lewis Ice Arena. The game was part of AJH's annual Stirling Cup fundraiser.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen Junior Hockey is continuing with the 21st annual Stirling Cup to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The Woody Creek Distillers Stirling Cup kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 10, with the fly-fishing event and will continue into Sunday with the golf event. On the weekend of Dec. 10, Aspen Junior Hockey will host the Colorado Avalanche Alumni Charity game.

The Stirling Cup was founded by Jody Cooper in honor of her late husband, Stirling Cooper. In 2001, a golf tournament was hosted in memory of Cooper. From there, the fundraiser has grown to a multiple weekend event with hockey, fly-fishing, golf and other activities.

For the first few years, the Stirling Cup supported Aspen Valley Ski Club and Aspen Junior Golf along with Aspen Junior Hockey. Eventually, they transitioned into just supporting Aspen Junior Hockey, said Jody Cooper, founder of the Stirling Cup.

“The reason for that is that Stirling was so involved with the boys and sports,” Cooper said. “He’s coached soccer, he was always out with the ski team and he always supported my son with his hockey.”

This year, both of Cooper’s children, Brandon and Matthew, are able to attend the Stirling Cup. Additionally, Cooper Street Capital will be co-sponsoring the event.

“As a nonprofit for the youth in the city of Aspen, the program really relies on donations, sponsorships and fundraising events that help keep our program running,” Harlan Pratt, executive director of Aspen Junior Hockey said. “The Stirling Cup is our biggest fundraising opportunity.”

This year is Pratt’s third year as executive director, however, this is the first time the Stirling Cup will be able to run at full capacity.

According to Pratt, having the event spread over two weekends allows people to enjoy all the amenities Aspen has to offer in the two different seasons.

Before the Avalanche Alumni Game on Dec. 10, Aspen Junior Hockey plans to host a skills competition similar to what they did last year. Pratt said this competition gives kids a chance to get out on the ice and have fun before the alumni game.

“We did fastest lap, hardest shot and breakaway stuff. It’s something the NHL all-stars do, and we’re going to do that again this year with 14-U players,” Pratt said.

Over the years, the Stirling Cup has become a community event Cooper said. Cooper and her children plan to continue hosting the event to help support Aspen Junior Hockey in the future

“It means a lot that for 21 years people have continued to support this event. There’s a lot of people who have been there every single year, which is amazing,” she said.