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Hub exclusive: Colorado Avs, CAHA partner for 8U event at 9280 Pond Hockey Tournament

By Mike Randleman, SportsEngine, 02/03/20, 11:45AM MST


The organizations sponsored the 8U Experience, a 38-team tournament held on Keystone Lake in late January as part of their initiative to grow interest in hockey across the state. 

Photo slideshow: Beautiful weather and the state's best outdoor ice helped make this year's 9280 Pond Hockey Tournament in Keystone fun for everyone. Thousands of Colorado hockey players — from 8U to adult levels — competed in the sixth annual event held on Keystone Lake Jan. 24-26. New this year, the Colorado Avalanche and CAHA teamed up to sponsor the 8U Experience, an 38-team tournament with three divisions that is part of an effort to grow the sport in the state. Participants in the 8U Experience played at least four games and received jerseys featuring the Avalanche’s primary and alternate ‘C’ logos. Photos courtesy of Colorado Avalanche

Hockey, in its purest form, is played in the elements.

No coaching. No officiating crew. Playing for the love of the game.

It's what thousands of Colorado hockey players of all ages experienced Jan. 24-26, when they descended on Keystone Lake for the sixth annual 9280 Pond Hockey Tournament. New this year was a partnership between the Colorado Avalanche and the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) that resulted in sponsorship of the Colorado Avalanche U8 Experience — a 38-team tournament with three competition divisions that is part of the two organization's initiative to continue expanding interest in hockey across the state. 

“For us, we’ve always been a part of (the tournament) and we’ve worked with (9280 Pond Hockey) before,” said Justin Ellison, Senior Program Manager of Amateur Hockey Development with the Avs. “On the U8 side, it falls in line with what we’re trying to do by helping to grow and develop the game of hockey.”

“They’re learning things on the ice they have no idea they’re learning. You’re not worrying about a coach, you’re not worrying about offsides. They’re doing things on their edges and they’re doing things with their stick in ways that they don’t even know that they’re learning. It’s just for the love of the game.”

— Tim Sisto,
coach and father
of a youth skater
on the experience of
playing pond hockey

The 9280 tournament also included older youth and adult divisions. Coaching is allowed only at the 8U level, but it is not encouraged. Players are emboldened to play a free-flowing style of hockey without systems or structure, and creativity is on full display.

A game monitor helps facilitate play and keeps a fresh puck on the ice, but there are no officiating crews in this 4-on-4 format that uses two 15-minute running time halves for each contest. 

“It’s like the pickup games you played on the ice, like in Minnesota on the lakes,” said Tim Sisto, a former North Star State resident who competed in an adult division and whose child was a youth player in this year's outdoor event. “The spirit of pond hockey is driven by those kids who want to be on the ice. I’ve never seen a kid on the ice during this event that’s not smiling. You always look for it.”

“The (typical hockey) game gets so competitive and so serious, so quickly,” Dell said. “For at least one weekend a year, we just want them to play.”

Skating without all the stress of being coached is beneficial to the young player for so many reasons, Sisto said.

“They’re learning things on the ice they have no idea they’re learning," he said. "They’re doing things on their edges and they’re doing things with their stick in ways that they don’t even know that they’re learning. It’s just for the love of the game.”

The Colorado Avalanche U8 Experience will return at the 2021 9280 Pond Hockey Tournament scheduled for Jan. 22-24 at Keystone Lake. Check CO.Hockey for a link to register sometime in early November following CAHA evaluations and team selections.

Click here to visit the 9280 Pond Hockey website.

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