College hockey's season begins Saturday and both area programs are eager for the start.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore said he was happy to be at the annual Colorado Springs Sports Corp. Faceoff Luncheon on Wednesday despite the partial federal government shutdown that left huge holes in the academy workforce.
"I called Congress and they figured out I don't work anyway so they gave me the go-ahead," he told a laughing crowd of 304 at the Colorado Springs Marriott. Mayor Steve Bach and National Collegiate Hockey Conference commissioner Josh Fenton also spoke.
The annual luncheon, punctuated by good-natured ribbing between Serratore and Colorado College coach Scott Owens, is a rite of passage each October.
"The last round of golf has been played, the NHL is underway and the Sports Corp. luncheon is here and hockey season is here," Owens said. "We're really excited about the new league (NCHC) but then everyone is on Oct. 2. It will be a bear and everyone knows it.
"But it will be great entertainment for the fans."
Both coaches expect their teams will do better than predicted with Air Force picked to finish tied for second and CC seventh in their respective leagues.
"We don't plan to use it as motivation but I am sure the players are aware," Owens said.
Air Force exhibition is on
Serratore told the crowd that Monday's 6:05 p.m. exhibition home game against the University of New Brunswick, two days after CC hosts the Reds on Saturday at World Arena, will be held as scheduled.
Many of the support staff would not be available due to the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government, resulting in furloughs for 800,000 nationwide and huge gaps in the academy workforce.
"We may not have video on the scoreboard or a PA (public announcer) or the yellow jackets (ushers), but we will have a game," Serratore said.
Both Falcons assistants, Andy Berg and Joe Doyle, are on furlough with Serratore and former Air Force player Eric Ehn, who is serving at Peterson Air Force Base, running practices, which begin in earnest Saturday.
The New Brunswick team, coming from three time zones and 2,411 miles away, flew to Colorado on Wednesday.