Grizzly Hockey Mites rock the Pepsi Center |

Grizzly Hockey Mites rock the Pepsi Center

Contributed photoGrizzly Hockey Mites compete at the Pepsi Center during the intermission of a recent Colorado Avalanche-St. Louis Blues hockey game. "It was the best thing ever to play where the Avalanche get to play," said second-grader Matthew Roggie.

There are not many things in Glenwood as predictable each winter as the Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association’s participation in the Colorado Avalanche Intermission Skate at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

For the past 11 years, Colorado Avalanche fans have been treated to the Grizzly Hockey Mite hockey team (8 and under) competing during the Colorado Avalanche intermissions.

“The Colorado Avalanche once again have done a great job of providing our kids with a great opportunity to play in front of 15,000 plus and see the inner workings of a professional sports team. The passionate look in our Mites’ eyes and stories of ‘almost goals’ right after the kids come off the ice was well worth the trip for me”, shared Grizzly Hockey Mite head coach Nick Senn.

Only one goal was scored during the two intermission games. It’s best described by the lone scorer, Nolan McPherson, a third-grader at Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood.

“Jaymin Kanzer [third grade, Ross Montessori Charter School, Carbondale] and I skated up the ice on a breakaway. Jaymin took a shot, but Owen McCounaughy [third grade, Sopris Elementary, Glenwood] blocked it. The puck bounced out. The puck was on the ice and there was only one thing to do. I loaded up my Easton stick and fired a shot right into the back of the net!”

McPherson continued: “Skating at the Pepsi Center is awesome! To be on the ice at an Avalanche game is not like playing at our rink. The lights, the bumpy ice and the roar of the crowd all make it rock! Thanks to all the Glenwood Springs families that went to the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues game to watch the Mites play.”

This year, the Colorado Avalanche introduced hockey clinics during the holiday break. The offer was extended to youth hockey associations throughout Colorado and all openings were quickly filled.

Grizzly Hockey Pee Wee players (U12) Gavin Olson, Rio McGown-Kauffman, Travis Leahy, Erich Albrecht and Dylan Lee, joined Mite player Kale Tibbetts at the age-specific clinics.

The players attended the clinics in the morning and returned to the Pepsi Center in the afternoon for scrimmages. As an added bonus, the Colorado Avalanche also provided the clinic attendees and their friends and families tickets to the Colorado Avalanche-Phoenix Coyotes hockey game the previous night, and opened up the Pepsi Center ice to them after the game.

The Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey mascot, Grizzly, even participated in the skate.

“What a great opportunity for the Grizzly Hockey players,” Grizzly Hockey Mite team manager Peter Tibbetts said. “After the scrimmage, my son, Kale, dripping in sweat and exhausted, looked at me, smiling, and asked, “Dad, can I do this again next year?” As a parent, what more can you ask for but an exhausted and happy child?”

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