Glenwood rink preps for hockey season as players find alternative places to play | AspenTimes.com
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Glenwood rink preps for hockey season as players find alternative places to play

Ray Erku, Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A group of hockey players play a game of pick-up hockey on a frozen Grass Valley Reservoir at Harvey Gap State Park on Saturday. Ray Erku / Post Independent

Looks like we’re going to need a bigger zamboni.

As COVID-19 regulations begin to loosen up in Garfield County, the Glenwood Springs Community Ice Rink should next week see more slappers, glove saves and shaved ice within its boards.

Community Center manager Cristi Newton said open-skate times will resume from noon to 1:30 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday starting next week. Reservations, however, will still need to be made in advance.



The news comes after a lengthy stretch of the once bustling sheet of ice being reduced by COVID-19 restrictions to only drop-in hockey sessions twice a week, 10 players on the ice at a time.

“For the most part the ice rink has been closed to the public,” Newton said, “up until 2021.”



Rifle resident Brian King takes a wrist shot Saturday on a frozen Grass Valley Reservoir at Harvey State Park. (Ray Erku/Post Independent)

Only Grizzlies youth hockey, as well as programs across the state, got to enjoy a glimmer of regular season action this past fall. Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey executive director T.K. Kwiatkowski, who’s also president of the Western Colorado Hockey League, said games were being conducted up until November.

Then the COVID-19 dial metric was raised to level red, prompting a pause on all play.

That’s all going to change come Jan. 18.

Garfield County just returned back to a less-restrictive level orange, while the Colorado High School Activities Association was able to procure a variance through the state to help finally begin “Season B” winter sports.

So, theoretically, youth, high school and recreation league hockey are back in Garfield County.

However, that’s not the case statewide.

UPVALLEY AND FURTHER WEST

As Glenwood Springs prepares for puck drop, Newton said rinks and arenas in neighboring areas are still — at the moment — not hosting full-padded, recreation league hockey. Organized hockey is simply not a thing anymore in Grand Junction, while organizers up the Roaring Fork Valley are trying to navigate through an even more complex maze of ever-changing restrictions related to full-contact.

Aspen Parks and Recreation confirmed they’re currently in discussions with team captains to help gauge who’s still interested in playing while they await that game-changing phone call to open general registration. For the time being, however, the Aspen facility will have to wait until Pitkin County’s COVID-19 metric “orange plus-plus” — a term recently coined by Pitkin County Board of Health in describing the area’s nearly red status — dials down to yellow before they can proceed with anything.

“It’s a tough question,” Aspen Recreation Director Cory Vander Veen said of when they can officially start the process. “We have a list of (player) interests from the captains, but we’re not open for registration because we can’t guarantee services.”

Rifle Brian King shoots at a wooden goal Saturday on a frozen Grass Valley Reservoir at Harvey State Park. Ray Erku / Post Independent

The first real taste of some semblance to organized hockey came Wednesday in Snowmass Village. The Snowmass Recreation Department began its first day of four-on-four, stick-and-puck league.

Full contact is prohibited and there’s goalies, but the league already has eight teams and eight captains, according to that recreation department.

To the west and to the north, additional outdoor skating opportunities can be found in Marble, Carbondale as well a couple more in Snowmass Village and Aspen.

Another hockey issue, however, comes down in Grand Junction. In October 2020, the Daily Sentinel reported that a possible $2.4 million sale of the Glacier Ice Arena was being negotiated and that the likely purchaser would not use the facility as an ice rink.

That leaves the Glenwood Springs sheet of ice in an interesting spot.

“I do know some people in Aspen that are going to come down here and play hockey now, but more so from Junction,” Kwiatkowski said.

Kwiatkowski, an iconic youth hockey figure in Colorado who originally grew up playing puck in an intensely northern Minnesota hockey town of Hermantown, said he’s excited.

“To the high school team, to get them out on the ice is going to be awesome,” he said. “That said, those kids have been skating since September, under the club guise of Grizzly Hockey.”

Right now, the community center anticipates having four leagues for adult hockey, anywhere between four to six teams per league, Newton said. Registration is now open.

A hockey player takes a shot on a frozen Grass Valley Reservoir at Harvey State Park. Ray Erku / Post Independent

For live gameplay this season, players will be required to wear facemasks (non-hockey related). Play will be limited to 10 players on the ice, goalies included, referees not.

Newton said benchwarmers will also see a new, socially-distanced way to change lines. Two players can sit in the regular bench area, while two of their teammates sit across opposite the blue line, in the bleachers.

“We’re trying to get through COVID right now,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s been tough. It’s been challenging.”

D-ICE-Y

Sporting a bright-white Colorado Avalanche jersey with the classic blue jeans over the skates look, the sun reflected off 33-year-old Brian King’s sunglasses.

With his friends enjoying a breather with some beers near the makeshift berm of snow, King spoke of what living the hockey life was like before COVID-19.

“Usually we’re out at the rinks, playing,” he said, gripping a hockey stick in his gloves. “We usually got adult leagues and drop-ins. If that’s not happening, this is the best alternative — come out here, skate and play some pond hockey.”

A bluebird sky, barely blemished by spottings of thin clouds, Saturday at the Grass Valley Reservoir beside Harvey Gap State Park was the perfect day for some puck.

A makeshift hockey rink on a frozen Grass Valley Reservoir at Harvey State Park. Ray Erku / Post Independent

King, a Rifle resident and former player under Glenwood Springs High School Hockey coach Tim Kota, agreed that trying to play drop-in hockey right now has its challenges, but the outdoor scenery could be a good substitute, weather depending.

“This is pretty nice though,” he said. “You can’t get this view with the rink.”

Throughout the course of the winter so far, Roaring Fork Valley hockey enthusiasts like King have had to improvise, if they wanted to get some ice time. Luckily, not only does hockey become the most easily replicated, backyard sport when you live in a cold state, the valley is already teeming with rinks.

In the meantime, King has his sights on something bigger than your average pick-up game.

“We were just talking about being able to put on some kind of an outdoor tournament,” he said. “I know there’s so many people that want to play. We could have a bunch of people come out.

“This is pretty nice out here… You just come out here, hang out with family and friends.”

rerku@postindependent.com

Where to play outdoor puck

• Rifle Gap Reservoir, 5775 CO 324

• Grass Valley Reservoir at Harvey Gap, 3159 Harvey Gap Road

• Gus Darien Arena, Carbondale Rodeo Grounds, 1151 County Rd 100

• Downtown Carbondale, corner of Fourth Street and Main streets

• Snowmass Base Village plaza, 110 Carriage Way

• The Snowmass Village Ice Rink, 110 2835 Brush Creek Rd.

• Downtown Aspen rink at Silver Circle, C.P. Burger in downtown

• Redstone Park, along Redstone Boulevard, across the street from Redstone General Store

• Marble outdoor rink, at Millsite Park next to the fire station

How to register for adult league, make reservations at Glenwood Springs

• Call 970-384-6301 or visit https://www.glenwoodrec.com/


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