Steamboat Springs Hockey always had been a part of Grant Ehrick's life.
But last year, when the Steamboat Springs High School senior moved to Fort Collins to play in a Triple A league, hockey became his life.
Ehrick lived with a host family, attended Fossil Ridge High School and spent most of his free time playing hockey.
At times, it got to be too much. Ehrick missed Steamboat, his friends and a simpler life.
So, heading into his senior season, Ehrick decided to leave behind the Triple A team and come back to Steamboat, where he was a top defenseman his freshman and sophomore years.
"Hockey really did become my life last year," Ehrick said. "It was more strenuous keeping my grades up with all the traveling time and practice. Basically, my life was hockey, school and more hockey. I missed hanging out with my friends. It's difficult to jump into a new school and miss your buddies you've hung out with since middle school."
So when the Triple A team disbanded, Ehrick saw an opportunity to make the most of his senior year. The defenseman returned to his hometown to play hockey for the Sailors.
It's a decision Ehrick was glad he made.
"At times, I miss playing hockey like I did last year," Ehrick said. "But here, it's fun. I am enjoying being back. I'm glad to be back."
Maybe more important, the Sailors are glad Ehrick is back.
The senior co-captain has helped Steamboat to a 6-1-0 season standing. In seven games, Ehrick has five goals and four assists. Two of his goals have been game-winners.
Ehrick also has helped secure a young blue line with his high level of play.
"I think that the younger guys look up to him as one of those players," Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. "He sets the bar so high for his own performance, his own ability and his own condition levels. He never demands that for others, but by setting the bar that high, the others try to get there."
With the bulk of the season and conference games still ahead of Steamboat, Ehrick said he's focusing on winning as many games as possible.
Ehrick said he knows the Sailors have a reputation of playing well before the holiday break and then faltering down the stretch. During his sophomore year, Steamboat went undefeated before Christmas but struggled after the New Year.
"Most recently, with the loss to Lewis-Palmer, it showed us we're not invincible and that we have to go out and work hard every period," Ehrick said. "If we get big-headed, we'll start to slide off. But I think it's different with this team, because that loss stung a little bit. Everybody realizes now it's going to take 100 percent every shift."
Ehrick said he'd like to continue playing hockey somewhere next year. He plans to try out for some junior teams and will wait to see what happens.
Until then, he's happy to again be one of the playmakers on the Steamboat Springs High School team.
"I guess I learned a lot from going down to Fort Collins," Ehrick said. "There is a lot more to life than just hockey. Hockey is definitely still a big part of my life. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it next year, but I've also applied to college because I've realized hockey isn't going to carry me all the way. It was a good experience overall, but I'm glad to be back."