On a roll

Steamboat Roller Hockey League offers unique atmosphere for youngsters


— Temperatures were in the high 80s Monday as Alex Berger skated around the sizzling blacktop of the Steamboat Ski Area's Meadows Parking Lot.

But the Steamboat Springs hockey player, who was wearing a full complement of goalkeepers equipment, didn't seem to be the least bit put out by the heat outside.

"I just love hockey," Berger said. "I play hockey as much as I can and this camp will make me a better player."

Berger is just one of 50 local players who are taking part in the Steamboat Roller Hockey League.

The league, which is really more of a six-week camp in the summer, began last Monday at the Ski Area's remote parking lot adjacent to the Tennis Center.

"I think that I've had over 300 kids in my program since it started five years ago," league director Ted Hoffman said.

The camp is open to boys and girls ages 6 through 14. The past several years it has accepted players of all skill levels and offers a unique atmosphere to either get a start in the game of hockey or improve existing skills.

This year longtime ice hockey coach Dave Strang has jumped on board to be the program's lead instructor. Strang coached ice hockey in Steamboat from 1994-1998 before leaving to take a position with the Banff Hockey Camp in Denver. He also held a position as director of junior hockey in Vail the past two years.

"Most of the skills needed to play roller hockey will carry over to ice hockey," Strang said. "We are working to make sure the kids learn good roller-hockey skills and good basic-hockey skills."

Strang said the league has drawn a variety of different players this summer.

Some wanting to improve their hockey skills, and others who just want to learn the game whether it is on ice or pavement..

The six week program meets three times a week. On Monday and Tuesday the skaters spend an hour working on basic skills. Then on Friday the players either play games or run through game type situations.

The league is divided into three different age divisions with the Mites (8-and-under) meeting from 8 a.m. , the Squirts ( 10-and-under) meeting at 9 a.m. , and the Peewee and Bantam players ( ages 11-14) meeting at 10 a.m.

Hoffman said the numbers in the league are down a little bit from last year and he still has room in most of the age divisions for more players. Cost for the league is $145 and Hoffman said he still has openings for about 20 players.

For Berger and about 10 other players the league is a chance to learn some new skills. Berger, however, admits that the group would be on the street playing hockey weather their was a league or not. In fact, after the league ended on Monday Berger and his friends were off to Larimer and Park streets for a little pick up game.

"We had to build our own nets in wood class," Berger's friend Andy Flax said. "We also paint creases on the street. We play hockey all the time no matter what time of year it is."


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