Hockey team not coming

Elite junior league postponing season, organizers say

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Organizers looking to bring An elite level junior hockey team to Steamboat Springs told the city Monday it would be impossible to start a hockey league in Colorado for the 2005-06 season.

In a letter written to Howelsen Ice Rink Manager Stacey Foster, organizer Ron Filion said the group of investors had hoped to find at least six suitable markets and ice rinks before starting in September 2005.

"Although we have found six great facilities (and cities), we were not able to finalize some possible lease agreements. Without six facilities, we are forced to postpone the start of our league," the letter reads.

Foster was not sure if the group was still interested in starting a league at any time in the future.

Since August, the city had been in preliminary negotiations with Claude Lemieux, a former Colorado Avalanche player, about Howelsen Ice Arena housing one of six teams in a proposed Colorado Junior Hockey League. The junior leagues are in the Midwest and Canada, but the Western part of the United States does not have any.

Foster said the city had the same concerns as other ice rinks in the state about the proposed league's business plan and the effect it would have on local play and the already limited ice time at the rink. Finding open rink space during prime time usage would be hard for almost every rink in Colorado, Foster said.

The local user groups at the Howelsen Ice Arena were willing to make comprises and were in support of the concept, Foster said.

"It is a great concept. All the rinks liked the concept. We don't have that level of hockey in this region of the U.S. That is the next level we need to go to," she said.

But Foster said there were also questions on how much the city would have to spend to have the rink suitable for the team to play there and if the city would recoup that money through extra revenue on the ice time the team purchased and concession sales at their games.

The city was in the beginning stages of contract negotiations, Foster said, and the other ice rinks in the state raised the concerns first, causing the organizers to delay the league.

The league would feature top 16- to 20-year-old players from across the country. Plans were to house the players with host families and have them attend local schools.

Plans were for the league to hold tryouts in August and run until the end of March. The season would have had about 60 games with 25 being home games at Howelsen Ice Arena. The team also would have practiced about four times a week and would have had a game every other weekend at Howelsen Ice Arena.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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