The administration at Steamboat Springs High School has decided to take a cautious approach before stepping onto the ice for school's next varsity sport.
Members of the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association came to the school board and the administration at the Steamboat Springs High School earlier this spring and asked them to consider making boys hockey the next school-sponsored sport.
However, Steamboat Springs athletics director Steve Moos said the request came too close to the Colorado High Schools Activities Association deadline for the local administration to make the "good-faith" decision. He said the school is very interested in accepting hockey within its ranks, but officials want to take some time to consider all the questions that surround the sport.
"There are a lot of unknowns and we need to answer a lot of questions before making this a varsity sport, " Moos said.
So the school and Steamboat Springs Braves Youth Hockey Association representative Jeff Ruff said both parties will take a year to explore the possibilities rather than making a quick decision.
"Our numbers at that age are high enough to add a new team," Ruff said. "So we decided to approach the school which has been very receptive."
Right now, there is a Steamboat Midgets team that is a combination of the area's top high-school aged players. What Ruff and the hockey association are proposing is making a "B" team that would play a high school schedule, but wouldn't have the same rigid commitments as the Midget team.
Ruff said many of the players who might play on the current team are turned away because they don't want to play hockey from September until April. The high school team would have a shorter season and address many of the barriers some players have with the current program.
"We know that we could put together another team that would be competitive," Ruff said. "But there are not that many teams out there for these kids to play. If we field a high school team, that squad could find some more games against other high school teams."
One reason the high school decided to wait is that none of its administration has ever been to a youth hockey game.
Moos said next season several members of the administration will head down to the Howelsen rink and take in some Midget games.
Other concerns have to do with scheduling, travel, seating at Howelsen and the fact that a high school administrator from both schools must be at every game whether it is home or away.
That is a concern at the high school where administrators are already strapped to cover basketball, wrestling and skiing events.
"It's a time issue," Moos said. "I don't know if we could send an administrator to an away game and still have our home events covered."
School officials also are worried about ice time issues and the physical nature of the sport and the history or fan behavior at the games.
CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said no statistics on problems at hockey games are kept by his organization.
However, he did add that since a brawl-marred state championship game between Air Academy and Cheyenne Mountain two years ago, high school hockey has gone to great strides to make sure that sportsmanship is of the highest priority and ugly incidents like the state championship are avoided.
Players are given stiff sanctions for cheap shots or fighting. It is also a requirement that administrators from both schools are on hand for every game to monitor activity on the ice and in the stands.
Ruff said interest in a high school team is high, but the hockey association understands the concerns and will wait a year to make the team official.
"I think there is work to be done on both sides," Ruff said. "They want to find some answers and we need to do some work in our own house."
Ruff is encouraged, however, by the school's response to the request and doesn't see any obstacles that can't be worked out off the ice. He is expecting the Sailors team to be official by the 2001-2002 season.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail him at email@example.com.