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Hub exclusive: Alumni Open brings top recreation players stick-to-stick with former Avs

By Thaddeus Carroll, SportsEngine, 12/20/19, 2:30PM MST


Championship teams from the NHL club's annual fall recreational hockey tournament scored the chance to compete against Avs alumni at the Pepsi Center in November.

Slideshow: Winning teams from the 2019 Avalanche Alumni Open Adult Hockey Tournament scored an opportunity to compete against former Avs as part of a meet-and-great event in early November. In addition to pickup games — which featured Colorado greats John-Michael Liles, Rick Berry, Kyle Quincey and John Mitchell — tournament champions chatted with the Avs while collecting autographs. Photos courtesy of Colorado Avalanche

After a 15-year career in the NHL, John-Michael Liles returned to Pepsi Center ice in November for another game.

Having retired from the pros following the 2016-17 season, the defenseman who spent seven years with the Colorado Avalanche wasn’t there to take on the Nashville Predators or St. Louis Blues. He was there to face a team of a more casual variety: Tribal Rites.

Tribal Rites won the White Division of the 2019 Avalanche Open Adult Hockey Tournament in September and earned the opportunity to play a friendly scrimmage against Liles and nine Avalanche alumni, including Rick Berry, Kyle Quincey and John Mitchell.

“Just to be out there sharing the ice with nine former Avalanche, it was a bucket-list moment,” Tribal Rites captain Bryce Shuck said.

“It’s not everyday you get to hop on the ice with NHL players, and for these guys to get the chance to catch a pass from John Michael Liles, it is pretty cool.”

— Justin Ellison
Av’s Senior Program Manager for
Amateur Hockey Development

Winning teams also received a championship banner and were included in a meet and great with the Avs alumni, who signed autographs and memorabilia.

This year, the Liles-led Avalanche alumni team took on champions from the recreational tournament’s other co-ed divisions Blue (comparable to C Level adult leagues) and Burgundy (lower E level adult leagues). There was also a game against the champion of the Women's Division (Denver Women’s Hockey League rec division)but the Avs played a man down against Winners Never Quince(y) after former Colorado defenseman Kyle Quincey donned a DWHL jersey and joined the roster of his namesake squad.

The on-ice competition and meet and greet has been a prize for the winning teams for several years, said Justin Ellison, the Avalanche’s Senior Program Manager for Amateur Hockey Development. He said dozens of other former fan favorites such as Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduke and Mark Rykroft have participated in the event.

“It’s a great way for the Colorado Avalanche Alumni Association to get involved with our fans and the Colorado hockey community,” Ellison said. "It’s not everyday you get to hop on the ice with NHL players, and for these guys to get the chance to catch a pass from John Michael Liles, it is pretty cool.”

At the meet and greet, Michael Schreiber — the team captain of the Burgundy Division-winning Whiskey Sticks — had his Avalanche-branded stick from the 1996 Stanley Cup championship season signed.

For Schreiber, who was taking part in the event for the first time, the entire experience was simply awesome.

“It might be the most fun I’ve ever had,” he said.

Individual team stats and scores from the past tournament are available on the CO Hockey Hub.

Co-ed teams can express interest in playing at the 2020 Avalanche Open Adult Hockey Tournament by visiting

Women’s Division competitors can sign up individually and will be drafted by teams to ensure competitive balance based on skill level.

“It might be the most fun I’ve ever had.”

—Michael Schreiber
Captain of the Whiskey Sticks, 
Burgundy Division champion

Bailey Maio, a member of Winners Never Quince(y) and the director of novice and recreational hockey for the Denver Women’s Hockey League, said the event welcomes all skaters. 

“The cool thing is we have women of every single skill level, some having played one or two years and some playing in the Women’s Association of Colorado Hockey,” she added.

The dates for the 2020 tournament have yet to be determined, but the event has taken place in September the past three years.

Shuck, who led all scorers in this year's tournament with 18 points, said his team is ready to defend its title no matter when the tournament will be scheduled.

“This was our first tournament and it definitely won’t be our last,” Shuck said. 

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