Steamboat hockey officials eager to take the ice
Steamboat Springs — “Hockey Town USA” is a term that’s already spoken for, but organizers explained at a Tuesday news conference how they hope to turn Steamboat Springs into a hockey town anyway.
A day after an announcement that a junior hockey team would make its home in Steamboat, officials from that team were in town to begin putting down roots.
“We’re very excited,” said Misko Antisin, who will be Steamboat’s first head coach. “Just look at this place. It’s an amazing area.”
Troy Mick, president and managing partner for the team, made the news official.
Mick has served as a coach and manager at several levels of hockey. He currently serves in a similar role to what he’ll be taking on in Steamboat for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Tier I junior hockey team in Salmon Arm, British Columbia.
On Tuesday, he made clear the teams will share more than himself. Steamboat will use that team’s Los Angeles Kings-inspired uniform design and logo, only with a Steamboat mascot swapped in place of the Salmon Arm’s gorilla.
The plan was more than a year in the making and started with Corey Allen, who’s served as director of Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey for the past two years.
He’s resigning to take on a role as a managing partner, assistant coach and marketing director for the new team.
Allen played under Mick as a coach and reached out with the idea for a Steamboat club.
From there, the prospect included numerous trips to Steamboat for both Mick and Antisin, who will move on from an assistant coaching spot with Salmon Arm to be Steamboat’s head coach.
“I came in the summer and noticed what a vibrant community this is. I’d never seen a ski town that wasn’t a ghost town in the summer,” Mick said. “Then I came in the winter and what an amazing place this is in the winter.”
He took the idea to the Salmon Arm ownership group and got the go-ahead.
“This was a natural progression,” said Mick, who will split his time between Salmon Arm and Steamboat. “We have a lot of American players, specifically from the West, who want to play junior hockey, and there’s not a lot of junior hockey out west, so we thought, here’s an opportunity to develop young men into hockey players to get an education.”
That education is a part of the package. Junior hockey serves as a conduit for players to land on university teams, and the players bound for Steamboat will have that goal in mind.
Steamboat’s yet-to-be-named team will consist of 25 players between the ages of 16 and 20.
Mick said there will be an emphasis on offering an avenue for Steamboat Springs High School players to continue their career, but the team will largely consist of players from around the country. There will also be a few spots for foreign players.
Those from out of state will be able to play no matter their age and can continue with school during the October-to-March season. In-state players must have graduated high school.
Junior hockey, at least at the Tier III level at which Steamboat will play, is a pay-to-play operation, requiring athletes cut a check for $7,500 annually to take the ice.
Steamboat’s team will be a part of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League, just founded in 2015. It will play against established teams in Aspen, Breckenridge, Denver, Grand Junction, Monument and Colorado Springs, as well as another expansion club in Vail.
The plan is for players to billet with families in Steamboat.
The season will consist of 40 regular season games, played Friday and Saturday nights at Howelsen Ice Arena in downtown Steamboat Spring for home games.
Organizers plan to practice when the oft-used ice isn’t currently booked, starting at 8:30 a.m. in the morning, and to partner with the high school team to have back-to-back games on weekend nights when both are at home.
There, Mick said, he hopes to help build an atmosphere that can define the team’s presence in Steamboat.
“Game night, we’d like to have hockey night in Steamboat, tailgate parties and school bands and really do it up right,” he said. “Mascots, promos, getting people in sumo costumes or kids playing little minor hockey games — those are amazing. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
“I’m sure we’ll incorporate some with the ski hill, too, but I tell ya, I’m not going off a ski jump,” Mick added.
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