Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

High school hockey has its own Winter Classic coming Saturday

by BRENT W. NEW preps@gazette.com - Published: January 26, 2014

USA Hockey's Ken Martel sees more than just his breath at the NHL's Winter Classics. He sees his beloved sport - even if it's only for one night - revert back to its simple beginnings, dressed up with nothing more than skates, cold weather, a pair of nets and an iced-over surface.

He also sees the Classic get attention from not only the casual fan, but the new fan as well. He sees it fill up football stadiums and national headlines, and sees it as one of the NHL's best marketing plans, well, maybe ever.

And now, as the sixth-year hockey coach at Pine Creek, Martel wants to give the same experience and attention to Colorado's hockey scene.

"I hope we can start something very special for our sport in Colorado," he said.

On Saturday, Martel's Eagles (5-5-1) will host the area's No.?1 ranked team, Lewis-Palmer (11-1), at Woodland Park Ice Rink in the first Colorado High School Winter Classic.

As of now, temperatures are expected to be in the teens by the 6 p.m. puck drop and single digits by the third period.

Martel, who is organizing the event, said he isn't worried about whatever Colorado's bipolar weather throws at them, however. He thinks that's part of the fun.

"We are ready for everything, unless it gets really hot and melts the ice . but there's no way that's happening. We know, it'll be cold," Martel said, as players from both teams are expected to wear wool socks with their skates (instead of barefoot) and stocking caps under their helmets, and some will even have eight-hour hand warmers inside their gloves. "We'll bring shovels if it starts to snow and we'll have whatever we need to keep everyone safe in the cold weather and higher altitude. It'll be a great experience for everyone."

It'll also be the friendliest high school hockey game of the year. Well, mostly anyways.

Why? The bonds between these programs are seemingly endless. Rangers coach Hal Jordan's kids go to Pine Creek, and his son Haden played for Martel a couple of seasons ago. Martel, meanwhile, was the assistant to Steve Fillo, who he respected dearly, before Fillo went to Lewis-Palmer six years ago and stepped down at the end of last season. And even most of the Pine Creek and Lewis-Palmer juniors and seniors are very close after having grown up together in the club hockey scene.

This game has all of their thumbs are dancing, sending each other one text after anotherabout why they have the better team and why they'll win Saturday.

"It's always fun playing against your best friends, so it'll be great to get to have this experience with them," said Lewis-Palmer senior AJ Schaefer, who grew up two blocks away and plays on the same club team as Pine Creek assistant captain Zach Barber. "It's fun to get to face your best friends, especially with something as cool as this. And it'll be fun to beat them too."

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