Girls hockey tournament proves Steamboat’s love for the game

Steamboat U15 girls hockey player Reagan O'Connell takes the puck around a defender in a game against Arapahoe during the Adele Dombrowski Mountain Diva Tournament at Howelsen Ice Arena on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Steamboat won the game 6-0.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association has seen an uptick in girl participation. In an effort to continue this growth, Steamboat hosts what SSYHA director Ryan Dingle calls the “biggest and best girls hockey tournament in the state.”

The Adele Dombrowski Mountain Divas Tournament is named in honor of former Steamboat hockey star, Adele Dombrowski, who died in 2005

Dingle said Dombrowski was the heart and soul of ice hockey in Steamboat and thinks it’s really special for her memory to continue on in this way as the sport continues to grow. 

When Dombrowski played, there was only one girls hockey team in Steamboat, and 17 years later there are four girls hockey teams ranging from U10 to U19. 

The Adele Dombrowski tournament has also seen steady growth in participation with 20 non-Steamboat teams coming from other mountain towns as far as Wyoming and South Dakota to compete in the 2022 tournament.

There were so many athletes signed up to play that for the first time in the tournament’s history, Dingle and SSYHA had to split it up into two weekends with the U10 and U12 girls competing Nov. 11-13, and the U15 and U19 girls competing Nov. 18-20. 

Dingle is proud of the growth and excitement local girls have had for ice hockey and cannot wait to continue that rising trend. 

Steamboat U15 girls hockey player Mya Chotvacs Chase sets up a scoring chance in a game against Arapahoe at the Adele Dombrowski Mountain Diva Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“We want girls to play hockey and my job is to show them how special hockey is,” Dingle said. “Our coaches are in the trenches and showing them the rules, the game, the camaraderie, the list goes on.”

One of those coaches is U15 coach Kerry Shea, who has two daughters in SSYHA programs. Shea says the best part of his job as coach is seeing the U19 girls watch a U10 game and reminisce about their time as a young hockey player. 

Shea thinks the growth comes from a mix between the incredible Steamboat hockey community and the beautiful rink that goes with it. 

“This is one of those catalysts for the growth of the game,” Shea said. “The opportunity to see the older girls as they progress and see the younger girls look up to them is incredible. It’s such a cool vibe that we have here in Steamboat in particular.”

Colorado Amateur Hockey Association board member Kristy Johnson has a goal to make sure all organizations from recreational leagues to Tier 1 have the support they need for girls hockey.

“We’ve got some good numbers in Colorado and some of the top numbers in the western front but I want more,” Johnson said. “I want to see more girls in jerseys, I want to make sure if you want to play, then you’ve got an opportunity and a place to play.”

Johnson was impressed with the turnout of the tournament and said it is a testament to how Dingle and the city are able to put it together every year. She says the most endearing part is to see girls and their parents give up entire weekends to travel hours away from home to compete for the love of the game. 

What makes Steamboat so unique to other places is its distance from other hockey towns. Dingle says one of the best parts of playing hockey in Steamboat are the trips you take and the lifelong friendships that form from all the time together on the road. 

“You don’t really remember the scores of games or anything like that,” Dingle said. “You remember hanging out with your teammates and going out to eat and staying in hotel rooms and everything. Tournament weekends are the absolute best for young hockey players.”

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