Much was lost in the recently settled labor dispute between NHL players and owners. For hockey purists, among the most egregious casualties was the Winter Classic, an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs scheduled for Jan. 1.
But maybe it wasn’t lost completely.
While the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will be otherwise occupied, the Pikes Peak Miners and the San Diego Gulls Bantam AA teams are available. So is the Meadow Wood Sports Complex in Woodland Park.
Welcome to the Winter Classic — Pikes Peak area-style.
‘We didn’t have a Winter Classic with the NHL this year so we figured ‘let’s celebrate outdoor hockey with our own organization,’” said Shaun Hathaway, director of hockey for the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association. “That was really the idea. Since there was no Winter Classic, let’s have our own. That’s really was the motivation behind it all.”
The puck will drop at 8 p.m. Thursday. Admission is free for the game between the teams with players in the 13-14 age group.
“You’re playing outdoors to bring back the nostalgia of the game,” Hathaway said. “That’s what the NHL does and why they celebrate the Winter Classic; to celebrate the roots of hockey.”
The idea for the Colorado Springs version of the Winter Classic came from Kerri Gault, who is the tournament director for the much larger Colorado Cup, which will continue Friday at nearly every ice sheet in the Colorado Springs area.
The first portion of the tournament was held in December and featured 41 teams. This weekend will have 20 teams from seven states and will take place at both World Arena ice sheets plus Sertich Ice Center, Honnen Ice Rink and Monument’s Colorado Sports Center.
Most of the Colorado Cup participants have known only highly organized indoor hockey. That’s part of what makes the Winter Classic so special.
“Sometimes these kids forget where the game originated from,” Hathaway said. “For the San Diego kids, this gives them an opportunity that they typically will never have. They don’t see anything frozen unless it’s inside a building.
“Really, it starts on the pond. That’s what I’m hoping these kids achieve — to get an appreciation for the beauty of the game and get more of that pond-hockey mentality.”
That’s a mentality that transcends labor disputes.
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