High school will drop puck next year

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— When the phone range at 4 p.m. Monday Bill Krueger wasn't sure what to expect, but he was prepared for whatever Athletics Director Bruce Crowhurst had to say.

"I tried not to worry about it," Krueger said about waiting for Steamboat Springs High School to make a decision about adding boys ice hockey to its list of sports. "We had made our presentation and hoped the high school would agree with the way we saw things."

After that, Krueger said, he went on spring break and tried to put the proposal out of his mind.

Not an easy task when making hockey a high school sport is something that you've been working on for the last three years.

By the time the call he had been waiting for all day finally came, Krueger was braced for both the agony of disappointment or the thrill of success.

Luckily for him the news Crowhurst passed along was good hockey had been accepted for the 2002-2003 season.

"It's great news," an elated Krueger said. "We are all excited and pumped for the school and the community as well."

Once he hung up the phone, Krueger jumped on the computer and sent an e-mail to all the board members with the good news.

But he also admits the work has just begun for the youth hockey supporters. Now he will have to get parents involved in planning and helping the high school find the right coach to lead the program.

The high school season will include 16 games (12 in the league) and will stretch across the winter high school season (most likely from December through March).

"We are going to do it," Crowhurst said. "It means that everybody is going to have to work a little harder, but we thought it was the right decision for our kids and our community."

This was the third time that Krueger and the Steamboat Springs Hockey Association have pitched the idea of high school hockey to the school.

Twice the hockey supporters have been put off and told to come back again the following year.

This time, however, the school decided to give hockey a shot as a varsity program. It wasn't an easy decision (the school asked for and received a one week extension for CHSAA) before making the choice. Krueger felt like the school was a little apprehensive about hockey.

But Crowhurst, High School Principal Dave Schmid, and Vice Principal Mike Knezevich agreed that hockey would become the high school's newest winter sport next year.

"We think that hockey can be successful at the high school level," Crowhurst said. "We just have to make sure the sport can make the transition for the club to the high school level."

High school officials also feel that the group proposing the sport has a grip on issues such as crowd control, game supervision and other issues, which have held up the decision in the past.

The state is divided into three conferences for hockey, which are not necessarily based on the size of the school.

Steamboat will play in a league with Aspen, Cheyenne Mountain, Regis, Coronado, Rampart and Wasson. At least six of the games will be played at home at the Howelsen Ice Arena with the remaining part of the team's schedule played on the road.

Crowhurst said the school would begin the search for a new head coach in the next couple of weeks.

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