Tonight is Hockey Night in Steamboat

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The Mites' regularly scheduled appearance on the Pepsi Center ice was canceled because the Colorado Avalanche's season, for all practical purposes, has been canceled.

So the Steamboat Coyotes stepped in and found a spot for the Mites, a group of local Steamboat Springs players ages 8 and younger, to get on the ice and show their stuff.

Tonight is being called "Hockey Night in Steamboat," and it will be a chance for people to come out and watch some of Steamboat's youngest skaters skate with some of the town's oldest skaters.

"Most of these kids are new to the program, so they don't know they are missing it," Mites representative Linda Sobeck said about the trip to Denver. "It still stinks, but (the NHL players aren't) going to listen to me. It's nice of the Coyotes to be supportive to youth hockey programs and be concerned with hockey from the older of players to the younger of players."

The Coyotes, Steamboat's men's competitive team, is hosting Vail at 6:30 p.m. today at Howelsen Ice Arena, and the Mites are skating between periods. It might not be the Avalanche versus the Red Wings, but the Mites will scrimmage between the first and second periods and have a shootout between the second and third periods of the Steamboat and Vail game.

"The Hockey Night in Steamboat was something that came up in the schedule for Friday nights," Coyotes player Jens Owen said. "It's about building and promoting hockey in Steamboat."

Originally, the Coyotes had planned to use their Friday night games as a venue to display hockey, but ice time is precious, and the Coyotes will play many of their Friday night games too late for the young skaters.

But the men's team is committed to improving and playing well, no matter the game time.

"Once the team got together and set this goal of playing well, the people have been coming out really late Monday nights to practice and improve team play," Owen said. "We played Vail at the new ice rink in Eagle. We lost, but they've mentioned that it was a strong showing, and we played much better than in the past."

Steamboat will attempt to close the gap even more tonight. The Coyotes will be hosting Front Range teams in the coming months, so the team is eyeing improvement each time out on the ice.

The Mites are just having fun each time they are on the ice. Howie the polar bear will be on hand to toss out candy tonight, and Sobeck will be there with friends to throw out T-shirts and sweatshirts.

"Hopefully, it will be a nice way for people to get out and see some hockey," Sobeck said. "These little guys and girls are so cute."

The hockey theme continues when the Steamboat Springs high school hockey team hosts Peak to Peak at 1:15 p.m. Saturday.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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