WOODLAND PARK • It wasn’t the NHL Winter Classic to be sure. For the Kiemels, it could not compare to watching their son Noah play an outdoor youth hockey game.
The 14-year-old and his family had tickets for the Jan. 1 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. The NHL lockout nixed that idea.
“It’s one thing to go and watch an outdoor game but to play in one is pretty neat,” said his father, Tom.
“It was a combined Christmas and birthday present,” said the Colorado Springs Christian School student who turned 14 on Jan. 5 with his twin brother, Nicholas. “This was a pretty cool second choice.”
“Besides we are already planning on making it out for next year’s (2014) Winter Classic,” said his mother, Annie Kiemel, who is from Kalamazoo, Mich. “The kids are so excited.”
So were the parents, including those from San Diego, the Miners’ Bantam AA (ages 13-14) opponent.
“I am from Detroit originally and we were so looking forward to watching the Wings,” said Tina Jones, who also had tickets to the Winter Classic. “This totally makes up for it. This is awesome.”
The 5-2 win for the visiting Gulls on Thursday night may not be what Miners captain Brendan Doyle wanted, but it made the cold night no less memorable, the Challenger Middle School student said.
The outdoor rink at Meadow Wood Sports Park in Woodland Park used a Zamboni to keep the ice pretty smooth and has netting above for shade and to keep most pucks in the rink, which is bordered on one side by trees.
“It’s definitely a different feel,” said Miners goalie Jack Gault, 13, of Jenkins Middle School. “We’ve all played on ponds before but that was just for fun. It was never a game that counts.”
The game is part of the two-part Colorado Cup tournament, which continues through the weekend all over the Colorado Springs and Monument area.
You didn’t have to play to enjoy the novelty.
“It’s cool to see the kids get to play this game,” said referee B.J. LaChat, of Colorado Springs. “Being part of it is even better.”
None of the San Diego players had ever played outside, even in pond hockey. Most travel to the mountains to see snow.
“It’s something that we may never get the chance to do again,” said Gulls captain Jake McLean, 14. “I will always remember this night.”
It proved no less memorable for the Miners.
“It’s something you can tell your grandkids about,” said Miners defenseman Dylan Sater, 14, of Jenkins Middle School. “Not many players get to do this. Even the NHL guys couldn’t this year. That’s pretty special when you think about it.”