Aspen’s European hockey vacation |

Aspen’s European hockey vacation

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Before taking on Colorado, the majority of Aspen High School’s varsity hockey team is heading abroad to face off against some of Germany’s and Switzerland’s best young talent.

While the rest of their peers won’t be taking off for Thanskgiving vacation until next week, 22 local players accompanied by two coaches and 10 parents are flying to Munich today. The ensuing 11-day trip, organized by Aspen Junior Hockey, includes five games against top German and Swiss club teams.

Between practices and games, Aspen players will take in the sights and have plenty of opportunities to get to know their competition away from the ice at joint team dinners. There will also be the chance to spread some goodwill in the German sister city of Garmisch.

“What they get out of it is they realize there is a different kind of hockey out there,” said Andrew Doremus, a local father of five who has already had two of his sons participate in similar trips with AJH. “They also realize that the kids they’re playing against are pretty much just like them. They play the game because they love it.”

Doremus will be accompanying his third-oldest son, Daniel, a high school junior, on this year’s trip. Four years ago, Doremus joined his second-oldest son, Tyler, on a similar journey to the Czech Republic. Two years before that, his wife went with the couple’s oldest, Ryan, to Germany.

Doremus grew up playing hockey in Aspen himself under John McBride, the patriarch of the local club hockey program. For more than two decades, AJH has organized trips abroad for the club program’s top high school players every two years.

As Doremus explained, McBride started the trips because he felt Aspen’s youth could learn about other parts of the world through the shared language of hockey.

“Between the pucks and the sticks, they get to see what another part of the world is really about,” Doremus said.

Local players raised funds for the trip through various enterprises ” everything from parking cars at summer concerts to selling raffle tickets for the local Ducky Derby in August.

That group effort and the trip itself represent the chance for players on Aspen’s varsity high school team to bond before the start of the prep season. While organized by Aspen Junior Hockey, the majority of the 22 players traveling abroad will form this winter’s varsity high school squad.

“I think it’s really kind of a team-building thing,” coach Al Butler said. “We get a chance to play some teams that are higher-level teams to get a feel for the style that they play over there and then we’ll practice with some of those teams. It’s really something that helps bring the team together.”

To underline his point, Butler mentioned that the Aspen High team that won the state championship two winters ago began its season with a similar trip abroad.

Said Doremus: “They’ll leave as a bunch of individuals and come back as a team.”

The local players will also come back with an appreciation of another culture, he added.

The team’s preliminary itinerary includes numerous group outings to historical sights, including a day spent touring a World War II concentration camp in Dachau. Parents and players will also have the option to go skiing next Friday ” the day after the local slopes open in Aspen ” in Davos, Switzerland. Aspen will play one of its games against a club team in the resort village on Thanskgiving.

“You can ask anyone who’s been on the trip who still lives in town, even guys in their late 30s,” Doremus said. “It’s one of the highlights of their youth. They say it’s one of the coolest things they ever did. They all loved going.”

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