Adult hockey leagues gearing up


— It's hard to imagine that the person who uttered the words "it's never too late to learn" was thinking about teaching adults the basics of ice hockey.
But that is exactly what came to the mind of program directors at the Howelsen Hill Ice arena a few years ago when they started offering adult beginner hockey and adult intermediate hockey at the Howelsen Hill Ice Arena.
"They have been very popular in the past," said Stacy Foster, ice arena manager. "The programs also fit into our overall plan of offering a program to every age of skater."
The introductory programs will begin Oct. 6 and are designed to bring the sport of hockey to the over-18 crowd in our community that has limited or no experience playing hockey. The only requirement is a desire to learn the sport and possibly the price of a few pieces of equipment. Of course, there is also the cost of joining the program.
The classes meet every Friday night from 9 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. for eight weeks this winter. There is also an adult learn-to-skate program offered every Thursday from noon until 12:45 p.m. for those folks who want to learn to skate but who may not be dreaming of playing for the Avalanche someday.
Foster said the programs are just a part of what is offered at the Howelsen Hill Ice arena in Winter.
Other programs include a youth learn-to-skate program, an initiation to hockey for youths and a parent-tot learn- to-skate.
Last year's programs were up 17 percent overall, and Foster expects the growth trend to continue when the final numbers come in on the 2000-2001 season.
Much of that growth can be attributed to the adult hockey clinics, which grew from 70 to 85 skaters last year. The growth trend has also been noticed in the adult hockey leagues, where the number of participants has grown from 181 in 1998-99 to more than 300 in 1999-2000.
The fall adult hockey leagues are already in session. There will also be a winter league starting in December and a spring soccer league starting after the youth season slows down in the spring.
This season, the winter recreation league will be run by private contractor Peter Van De Carr. Van De Carr said the adult programs could grow even more, but a lack of ice time has put up a road block and forced him to turn many teams away.
Eight adult leagues play twice a week in a short fall and spring season. In the winter, the skaters in two different leagues are reduced to one night a week.
"It's tough," Van De Carr said. "Playing two nights a week is ideal, playing one night is OK, but not playing at all, well, that's not good."
That may be the case for the adult leagues on certain weeks this winter. Van De Carr is expecting five teams to join the winter league. That means at least one team will have a bye each week.
"It's too much of a good thing," Van De Carr said. "But it's better than being in Denver, where the ice time is even harder to get and it's more expensive. At least here it's a little less congested and cheaper than some of those other places."
Van De Carr said getting ice time is the hardest for top players between the ages of 18 and 30.
"Sure the youth programs get most of the time because they have a large group of people out there pushing to make sure they get the time to play whatever sport they are interested in. We (the hockey leagues) can't complain too much; youth hockey drives almost everything at the ice rink. Without it, we wouldn't have this rink and it wouldn't be in this kind of condition."
Because of the popularity of youth hockey, most of the adult programs have been pushed to the shoulder seasons.
"Our adult leagues are in full swing during the shoulder season," Foster said. "The youth leagues will not kick in until November, so this is a perfect chance for the adults to get out and play a little hockey before the ice time gets tight."
There are about 120 adult skaters playing on one of eight local hockey teams.
This fall, there is an adult co-ed league that meets twice a week on Tuesday and Saturdays. There is also an A-B over 30 league that also meets twice a week.
This winter there will be one adult co-ed recreational league that will meet on Sunday nights. Van De Carr expects about five teams to play in that league.
There will also be an adult 35-and-over senior league that will also meet on Sunday evenings.
For more information on the adult co-ed league, contact Van De Carr at 879-6249. For more information on the senior league, contact Donn Fowler at 879-1480.

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail


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