New coach takes the ice as Steamboat Springs Hockey team moved toward season |

New coach takes the ice as Steamboat Springs Hockey team moved toward season

Sailors hockey coach Ernie Thiel runs his players through skating drills during the team's final tryout Tuesday afternoon. Thiel, a longtime Steamboat Springs resident, is entering his first year as the Steamboat Springs High School's head hockey coach.
John F. Russell

— When the head coaching position for the Steamboat Springs High School team opened up last summer, longtime local Ernie Thiel was excited to throw his hat onto the ice.

Thiel looked right at home Tuesday as he skated across the ice at Howelsen Ice Arena, taking time to visit with players between drills and keeping the atmosphere light during tryouts, which will determine the players who will be wearing Sailor uniforms this winter.

“I’ve alway been a part of it,” the new coach said. “I’ve been around hockey my whole life, and I’ve played the game my whole life.”

Before taking the ice Tuesday, Thiel talked about his love of the game, and his hopes for the success of the team under his leadership. He made it clear that winning games is a priority, but it’s not his main goal.

“If every kid grows, if we have a great team culture and if everybody gets better throughout the year, our record isn’t as important to me,” Thiel said. “If the players on this team have a great season and they have learned from the experience of playing the game, that’s way more important to me than our final record.”

While the head hockey coach position is new for Theil, he is no stranger to Steamboat.

He’s an accomplished musician playing guitar and singing at a number of local venues throughout the year, and he also owns and operates Sign Works. He was also the head professional at the Steamboat Golf Club a few years ago.

He moved to Steamboat in 2003 along with family. His twin children are freshmen at Steamboat Springs High School.

“It was no secret that I was going to apply for this job when it came open,” Thiel said. “I just needed to make sure that I could accommodate it in my schedule.”

The coach has a wealth of experience. Before moving to Steamboat, Thiel coached club teams at George Mason University and Georgetown University. He also has spent a lot of time working with players at camps around the country.

When he arrived in Steamboat Springs, it didn’t take long for him to get involved with the youth hockey programs, and he said he is now very excited about the chance to coach the high school team.

“I’m pretty pleased with the level of kids that have come out this season,” Thiel said. “I’m looking forward to working with them and building a program where they can continue to learn about the game of hockey and the life lessons that come from playing the game.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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