Eugene Buchanan: A senior moment |

Eugene Buchanan: A senior moment

The Steamboat Stampede U19 girls team defeated Colorado Select 6-1 on senior night on Saturday, Feb. 8. From left, seniors Gabby Demorat, Casey Buchanan, Charlotte Wilson and Kelly Strotbeck were honored ahead of the game.
Ryan Thompson/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Well, we gone and done it. We made it through my youngest daughter’s nearly decade-long career playing hockey in Steamboat Springs, culminating with her gala Senior Night at Howelsen Ice Arena on Saturday. 

Coincidence that the Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza was being held the same night? I think not. We all know the fireworks — and even Tim Borden’s Guinness record-breaker — were for her and her three other senior friends, not the oldest winter carnival west of the Mississippi. 

Kara Stanhope shows her spirit.

And that’s exactly what I told at least one of the gullible parents from the visiting team, who, for a second as hot as the flaming hoop, believed me. I’m surprised Borden’s masterpiece didn’t spell out the girls’ names in all its combustible glory.  

The night was all about celebrating the last home games of their storied careers, with only a weekend road trip to arch-nemesis Aspen remaining before the state playoffs in Denver. No matter that they were playing a depleted Colorado Select team that braved the blizzard to show up without a goalie and only seven players — their bench as empty as Borden’s bank account after the Big Bang. During the ceremony, I could see it in their players’ and coaches’ eyes: a mutual respect for just how fast time, like a hockey puck blasted from the point, truly flies once kids enter your life’s picture.

The festivities included flowers, announcements, photo sessions and even a posters of the four gals spread around town (one of whose teeth I sophomorically blacked out). The revelry was all slated to start around 8 p.m., right about when the fiery fanfare would light up the sky. We might miss the Lighted Man, but we were Delighted Fans, there for a celebration that would likely spark even his interest. 

Fortunately, this being Steamboat and all, things were delayed a hair; enough for us parents to tailgate in the parking lot to see the fire-hoop jumpers and fireworks. And the girls got to see the action also, catching the hoopla dressed in their hockey gear. 

After the Big Bang turned the clouds crimson, we ventured back inside where an even bigger celebration awaited. While only four girls were graduating, they got the red carpet treatment, literally. While the more artistic among us taped giant, blown-up faces of the girls to sticks to wave around, other volunteers rolled a red carpet out onto the ice for them to pose on in front of their adoring fans.

Even a broken wrist from slipping on the ice didn’t stop uber-announcer Shannon Lukens from singing their praises over the microphone, heralding their accomplishments, favorite songs, grateful-for’s and memories.

As I learned that night, my daughter’s fondest remembrance came when she earned a 10-minute penalty toward the end of a game, but she couldn’t serve it because she had to insta-change into a dress to perform in a dance show. After the coaches and referees huddled with her stuck in the box, they let her go, while the opposing crowd booing as she skated off, thinking she was getting the boot. Nope, sorry to disappoint you folks, but she just had to change into a tutu.   

Emma Meyer and Shelbee Weiss hold up faces of graduating senior hockey players, from left, Casey Buchanan, Gabby Demorat, Kelly Strotbeck and Charlotte Wilson.

After photos and praises, we broke down the Super Bowl stage and let the game begin. The scoreboard quickly lit up like the fireworks outside, with Steamboat scoring first. It illuminated like Borden’s handiwork when poor George at the control board had to punch in three penalties for the melee. 

Eternally altruistic me, meanwhile, had volunteered to man the penalty box in my last home-game showing. And lo and behold, who should join me but my own prideful progeny, giving us a quick two minutes to catch up on homework, boyfriends and college plans. When she got back out on the ice, friends donned her masks as she neared the boards, creating a cacophony of Caseys. 

After the game, my wife brought the masks home, proudly showing them to our houseguests. When my daughter returned, six of us held them up over our own, like that creepy Faceless Man Jaqen H’ghar in Game of Thrones.

“That’s actually kind of weird,” admitted my daughter. 

Later, my wife stashed them around the house, my daughter’s likeness taking over the fridge, stairway, piano, bathroom and cadenza. Like a scene from Clockwork Orange, they were everywhere staring at us for the entire weekend. But I didn’t mind. They were a reminder of another classic Steamboat sports run coming to its natural end, and a senior moment I’ll never forget.

Now if I can just remember where I put those car keys?

To reach Eugene Buchanan, call 970-871-4276 or email

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