Fast skaters, free BBQ big draw for A-league hockey championships
If you go
What: Steamboat A-league hockey championships, Game 2 (best of 3)
Where: Howelsen Ice Arena
When: 8:45 p.m. Sunday
Who: ESPN Radio Rockets vs. McKnight's Mad Dogs. The Mad Dogs lead the series, 1-0.
Why: The Pit on 5th is giving out free BBQ sliders from 8 to 9 p.m. Admission is also free.
Steamboat Springs — Regardless of background, Brian Harvey thinks all hockey players eventually end up at the same place.
“As we jokingly say, all roads lead to men’s league,” Harvey said. “Some of us just took a little longer to get there.”
The only proof one needs is to look at the Steamboat Springs recreational adult A-league hockey teams. Players range from hobbyists to former college athletes, some fresh out of high school, others well past their prime.
Harvey, a longtime radio personality in Steamboat, is among the latter and has seen the league’s ebbs and flows through the years. He is captain of the ESPN Radio Rockets, the core of which has been playing together for more than two decades and like to refer to themselves as the “AARP line.”
“We are smart enough to know us old guys can’t do it on our own,” Harvey said. “We are replenishing with lots of youngsters. The league has just gotten exponentially better over the years.”
Now a six-team league, the winter season could come down to Sunday’s game between the Radio Rockets and McKnight’s Mad Dogs. Sunday’s game will be the second of a three-game championship series, with Mad Dogs having won Game 1 Thursday, 3-1.
“We have beaten them twice this year, so we know we can beat this team,” Harvey said. “We were much more dominant in the ’90s. We haven’t been to a championship game in a while. They’ve been pretty relevant. They’ve won the last two years in a row.”
Led by league commissioner Kerry Shea and team captain Brent Pearson, the Mad Dogs have been among the dominant forces in the league throughout their 15 years of existence. However, with the growth of the league and the influx of talent, maintaining that dominance is easier said than done.
“It’s pretty good parity within the league, which has made the games super exciting and fun to watch and fun to skate in,” Shea said. “We had six teams in the league, with a real potential for expanding next year, given what the interest was this year.”
There is hope of making the A-league finals a yearly Steamboat spectacle. Sunday’s game, which starts at 8:45 p.m. at Howelsen Ice Arena, is free for spectators. Also, The Pit on 5th will be providing free barbecue sliders from 8 to 9 p.m.
If needed, Game 3 will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, winner take all.
“The skill level is pretty good. Even though it’s a no-check league, it’s pretty fast, pretty competitive,” Harvey said. “I’m hoping we get a great turnout. And it’s definitely family fun. Even if you just watch a period or two, that’s probably all it will take to get sucked into it.”
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