Steamboat Springs Feeder programs are the lifeblood of high school sports. Their success, or failure, can determine not only the outcome of future seasons but also a program’s overall worth.
And in trying to replace a coach at one of Steamboat Springs High School’s most successful programs, it was pretty easy to look for synergy between youth and high school hockey.
It’s in that vein that Brent “Benny” Tollar has been named the new Steamboat Springs High School hockey coach.
Tollar, who serves as the director for the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association, takes over for Jeff Ruff, who resigned in March.
“There is so much youth hockey can do to help the high school and so much the high school can do to help youth hockey,” Tollar said. “It’s getting harder to get that continuity. It’s neat to see that we can really start with our younger kids in the youth hockey, and when they get to high school, they understand the terminology and know the coaches.”
Tollar takes over one of the most successful teams at the high school. The Sailors have made the playoffs the past 10 seasons. With Ruff at the helm for the past six years, the team went 76-40-3.
Steamboat also will lose just three seniors from last season’s team. The Sailors could return as many as 21 players who saw ice time last season, including leading goal-scorer Matt Hale and starting goaltender Trent Trask.
That’s a good starting point for Tollar.
“First of all, I need to evaluate what I have,” Tollar said. “Hockey is such a tempo sport. An aggressive, fast-paced game is what I coach. I want a fast, hard-hitting, aggressive game. I don’t believe in laying back and letting other teams dictate the pace.”
Tollar originally is from Minnesota, where he grew up playing hockey. He moved to Steamboat in 2000 and split time between here and Denver for several years before finally making Steamboat his permanent home.
“I don’t think there is any debate that the sooner you can teach kids the fundamentals and the sooner you can teach them and develop them close in line to what you want, down the road there will be huge benefits,” said Steamboat athletics director Luke DeWolfe, who was on the hiring committee that included Principal Kevin Taulman, a hockey player who graduated last year and a parent representative.
Tollar said he knows many of the current players from his role with the youth hockey association. He said he would like to put together some offseason workouts and get to know his team better.
Expectations, as they should be with Steamboat hockey, remain high.
“I don’t want to jump out on that branch and make predictions,” Tollar said. “But we have a lot of kids returning. They have ideas of what they want to do, and I have ideas, too. But my expectations are really high.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com