Bob Colby was hesitant to act when his daughter Kacy first decided she wanted to play hockey. The Colorado Springs resident was concerned about the cost of outfitting Kacy for what might end up becoming a passing interest.
That was until the day he received a flyer promoting a low-cost, learn-to-play-hockey program called the Mile High Mites. For less than $200, Bob could gear up his daughter with everything from helmet to skates, and Kacy would also receive hockey lessons.
“When we got that flyer, I almost couldn’t believe it,” Bob said. “Even 30 years ago, when I was a kid, that would have been cheap. I just had to jump on it; it’s such a good deal.”
For $190, boys and girls ages 5-9 are fitted with brand new CCM equipment to keep, including a helmet, skates, gloves, shoulder pads, shin guards, elbow pads and pants. The children also receive a 30-inch equipment bag and a Mile High Mites stick and jersey.
The program also provides each newcomer with six weekly on-ice practices conducted by USA Hockey-certified coaches. In the past, some Mile High Mites have received one session with tutoring from Avalanche alumni Milan Hejduk and John-Michael Liles.
Last spring, the Avalanche even hosted a Mile High Mites graduation at the Pepsi Center.
“There are options for everyone, and (the Mile High Mites program) is a stepping stone.”
— Al Pedersen,
Colorado Rampage coach
Colorado Rampage coaches Al Pedersen and Andrew Sherman run one of the most heavily attended camps at the club's facilities in Monument.
“There are options for everyone, and (the Mile High Mites program) is a stepping stone,” Pedersen said. “The financial (aspect) factors huge in making it affordable and convenient for a lot of families, and the Avalanche have stepped up in the community and done a great job.”
Sherman added that roughly 80 percent of the kids who have tried the sport remain active in the Rampage’s program.
"The kids love it and come back to play for our winter teams," he said, adding that parents also get involved in coaching or playing in adult leagues.
It also produced a new hockey coach, as Bob volunteered to assist with the Mile High Mites program — a commitment that carried over into the Rampage’s winter season, where he was again a coach with Kacy’s team.
Classes in the Mile High Mites program normally include 25-30 new players, but — at times — demand has been so great that as many as 50 kids can be on the ice at one time. It can be challenging coaching so many kids at one time, but Bob didn't find it taxing. He felt it was important to provide encouragement to the first-time skaters.
“I like (working with) that age group because it’s a lot of fun,” Bob said. “Parents are involved and we just want to make sure the kids want to get back on the rink… and if they don’t, at least they got to try it. It’s a great thing to be involved in.”
The opportunities to learn about the sport and create lifetime memories are what Ellison said are just some of the reasons the Avs sponsor the program.
“Long-term, we see this program as not only a great opportunity to get families into the sport, but also to create fans of the game,” he said. “If a 6-year-old gets into hockey and loves it, then mom and dad will most likely love it, as well. And then it becomes a family tradition, which is so cool.”
Click here to learn more about the Mile High Mites program.
Typical Mile High Mite classes include 25-30 kids, but demand has driven participation number to as high as 50 kids. This group went through the program at the Colorado Rampage's facility in Monument. Photo courtesy of Al Pedersen