Hockey homecoming for Aspen High alums

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Shelby Butler, left, and Chelsey Hanle are back in familiar surroundings in Aspen promoting the Denver Cutthroats minor league hockey team. The Cutthroads will play the Tulsa Oilers in a Central Hockey League game at 6 p.m. today at the Lewis Ice Arena at the Aspen Recreation Center (ARC).
Dale Strode/The Aspen Times |

A pair of Aspen High School graduates (and best friends) celebrated a hockey homecoming this week.

Shelby Butler and Chelsey Hanle, recent college graduates and inseparable pals from their prep days, are back in Aspen this week working with the Denver Cutthroats minor league hockey team.

The two are serving internships with the Cutthroats, working in community relations. They’ve been in the area promoting the two-game series with the Cutthroats hosting the Tulsa Oilers at the Lewis Ice Arena in Aspen.

The Central Hockey League opponents played Friday night with another game scheduled for 6 p.m. today at the Lewis Ice Arena at the Aspen Recreation Center (ARC).

“I’ve known I wanted to work in the hockey world since … my sophomore year in high school,” said Butler, who graduated in May from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

“So, this is what I’ve wanted to do. This is what I’ve … prepared to do,” said Butler, a 2009 graduate of Aspen High School who grew up in the Butler hockey family.

“My dad played Division I college hockey up at Lake (Superior) State, and I had two older brothers who played in Aspen their whole lives,” Butler said. “I played since I was 8 all the way through high school. Now, I play for fun.”

Butler is the daughter of Lori and Al Butler. Her dad is the head coach of the Aspen High School boys hockey team, with a state championship from 2007.

“In college, I studied communications, but I also worked with our women’s (hockey) team,” said Butler, who doubled as the coach’s office assistant.

“I tried to focus … on working in hockey,” Butler said. She did a shadow work program with the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. She worked with USA Hockey at their camps last summer.

And she landed a coveted hockey internship with the Denver Cutthroats of the Central Hockey League.

All the while, of course, she stayed in touch with fellow Aspen grad Hanle, who had headed west to Chapman University in Orange County, Calif.

“I had been looking to get into sports in general,” said Hanle, a May graduate of Chapman with a degree in communications. “I like hockey. I think it has a lot of growth (potential) in the United States.”

Plus, she said, there was Shelby Butler.

“My best friend here was like a big hockey fan, and she got me interested in hockey, too,” Hanle said, gesturing across the table to Butler.

“I lived with my dad, and my dad was a big hockey person,” she said. “Then, when I became friends with (Shelby), we would go to games to watch her brothers play. Or we’d go to watch her dad play. She got me into hockey as more than just a sport … the culture of it.”

Hanle returned to Aspen after graduation and started to look for sporting options.

“I also minored in public relations … followed a little bit in my dad’s footsteps,” said Hanle, the daughter of Jeff Hanle, the longtime director of public relations for the Aspen Skiing Co. “And this worked out nicely that this was in Denver.”

Ditto Butler.

“Just like Chelsey, I applied anywhere and everywhere with hockey teams. It happened to be … the (Denver) Cutthroats,” she said.

Hanle said she and Butler were excited when they were invited to interview for the Cutthroats internship positions.

“Our interviews were an hour apart,” Henle said. “And we said a lot of the same things, according to them.”

The Aspen duo was hired and now they are chasing their own hockey dreams, just like many of the up-and-coming players on the Denver Cutthroats.

“We are the community engagement interns, we do all the community events,” Hanle said. “We take the players out to children’s hospitals, and we had them read at the Children’s Museum.”

Their community outreach assignments move to game-day responsibilities on game days and road trips, like the swing to Aspen.

“We were really excited about (coming back to Aspen),” Hanle said. “And we really want people to come out to the games.”

Tickts are available at City Market and at the Lewis Ice Arena.

Butler said the players on the Cutthroats are trying to advance up the hockey ladder.

“They’re trying to get up to the next level. They’re trying to be the best out there. They are working hard to move up,” she said, adding that there have been seven call-ups this season with Cutthroats players moving up to the American Hockey League or the East Coast Hockey League.

“Hopefuly, we’ll make good connections here (in minor league hockey), and they can send us up to the next level, too,” Hanle said.