The Salute to Veterans Tournament will be held this weekend at several rinks in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Photo by Rick Orndorf, SportsEngine
The kids are excited for the chance to play another hockey tournament.
And once the puck drops, that’s fine. Kids should be enjoying the game.
But going into this weekend’s second annual Salute to Veterans Tournament, it is good to know that the significance of Veterans Day is not lost on the area’s youth players.
After all, many have family who serve or have served in the nation’s Armed Forces.
Colorado Springs Jr. Tigers 14U A defenseman Sam Leafers is one of those area kids.
“A lot of my dad’s friends died overseas fighting, so this is our way of recognizing them by having a tournament in their honor,” he said. “I think it is very important to remember those who gave their lives."
His father is Lance Leafers, a 20-year Navy veteran now working as a civilian government worker. Lance, who is also Sam's coach with the Jr. Tigers, shares his son's sentiment.
“It is a special tournament,” Lance Leafers said. “The recognition for (Veterans Day) and being able to coach in this tournament is important to me. My son has an understanding of the importance, but (talking with the team about the significance) is probably something I should do more. I try to make this team more about the kids than about me.”
“A lot of my dad’s friends died overseas fighting, so this is our way of recognizing them by having a tournament in their honor...I think it is very important to remember those who gave their lives.”
— Sam Leafers,
Jr. Tigers 14U defenseman
That means taking advantage of a home tournament to develop as a team.
“The kids are from a lot of different teams at different levels so getting them to jell as one team has been a challenge,” Lance added. “But we are getting there. We have made a lot of progress and we hope to do well.”
For the kids, that means taking advantage of early November home games to keep improving.
“I feel like we are learning about how to play the body and what it is like to play as a team,” said defenseman Cody Shatzer, whose grandfather served in the Pentagon. “This tournament can show our real character because we have two players injured. It’s a little bit about Veterans Day, but it’s mostly hockey.”
The tournament, one of three sponsored by the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association, is scheduled for Nov. 8-10 and will feature teams competing in the 10U A and B; 12U A and B; 14U AA, A and B; 16U AA, A and high school JV and 18U AA, A and high school varsity divisions. The games will be played at the Sertich Ice Center, Pueblo Ice Arena and The Broadmoor World Arena (all three sheets).
Go to tigershockey.org for more information.