Steamboat Springs High School hockey coach Brent Tollar, center, said that if the Colorado High School Activities Association was to approve a switch to a two-classification system, he'd like his team to play with the bigger schools.

Photo by Ben Ingersoll

Steamboat Springs High School hockey coach Brent Tollar, center, said that if the Colorado High School Activities Association was to approve a switch to a two-classification system, he'd like his team to play with the bigger schools.

Colorado high school hockey could split into two classes

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— A final decision won’t be made until April, but the Colorado High School Activities Association’s idea to divide high school hockey into two separate classifications is closer to becoming a reality.

At a meeting on Sunday in Denver with about two-thirds of the 30 hockey coaches across the Colorado high school landscape in attendance, CHSAA representatives had an open discussion on the proposal.

Currently, Colorado high school hockey is all under one classification with two 15-team conferences — the Foothills Conference and the Peak Conference. If CHSAA approves the shift, the 30 teams would be divided by enrollment and play in a 5A and 4A type of classification, Steamboat Springs High School coach Brent Tollar said.

“Over the years what’s happened and what they’re starting to see is some of these programs aren’t having much success,” Tollar said. “We see usually the same group of teams in the championship. Those other teams' athletic directors are talking about losing their programs, and CHSAA wanted to see what we thought.”

Based on enrollment, Tollar said Steamboat would likely end up in the 4A classification, or essentially the smaller-schools division with teams like Aspen, Summit and Battle Mountain.

But Tollar isn’t totally sold on his team dropping down a class. The Sailors have made the playoffs each of the last three seasons — seasons that have recently seen early-exit losses to perennial powerhouses.

Tollar instead likes the idea of building programs to elite status to compete with the likes of Ralston Valley, Monarch and Regis Jesuit, schools that almost always advance deep into the playoffs.

“I believe so much in this town and these kids,” Tollar said. “I understand why (there is discussion). I’m all about saving kids and programs. I asked if we could petition to play up, and they said yes.”

The Sailors will hold their annual hockey banquet next week, where Tollar said he plans to ask parents for their input through a survey on CHSAA’s prospective classifications split.

Other teams, Tollar said, also have taken issue with certain programs fielding elite squads year after year with only a small handful of players on its roster who actually attend that school.

The second-year Steamboat coach said that’s not an issue for him to decide. When the puck drops for the 2014-15 season in December, Tollar wants his team to get to the playoffs, advance and compete for a state championship — and he wants to do it against Colorado’s best.

“I have so much faith in the kids here and the heart and who they are,” Tollar said. “I’m so proud of this community and kids. You tell us where to play, and we will get ready to play.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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