Hockey Festival transforms Steamboat

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— Howelsen Ice Arena is ready to turn Steamboat Springs into hockey central as teams from around the state take to the ice in the seventh annual Ski Town USA Hockey Festival.

The four-day tournament, running from Thursday through Sunday, is the primary fund-raiser for the popular Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association and will feature a slate of great games mixed with a party-type atmosphere.

Squirt "B," PeeWee, Bantam and Midget Minor Division "A" teams will represent various towns throughout Colorado, including Steamboat. The tournament begins at 3:45 p.m. Thursday at Howelsen.

The Howelsen ice will be booked Friday and Saturday with 11 or 12 games per day beginning at 6 a.m. and running continuously until midnight. Consolation games begin Saturday night with the remainder of the consolation games, as well as the championship games in all four divisions, scheduled for Sunday.

Intermixed between the games is a silent auction on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. featuring such items as Colorado Avalanche ticket packages, recreation passes, home furnishings and a 96-roll case of toilet paper.

Judging by the popularity of this tournament, Howelsen may need to use some of the bathroom tissue to stock its own facilities.

In the past, the festival has been held in the spring near the completion of the hockey season during state evaluations and end-of-season tournaments. This year, however, it comes on the first full weekend of December and filling the tournament divisions was not a problem.

In addition to Steamboat, towns represented by teams this weekend include Vail, Arvada, Colorado Springs, Littleton, Fort Collins and Aspen.

A complete schedule can be found at www.steamboatyouthhockey.com.

Admission is free until 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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