Colorado is hosting a USA Hockey national championship for the first time in more than a decade.
This year, one of USA Hockey’s premier events will take place on home ice.
The Colorado Springs-based organization announced March 1 that Denver is hosting the girls' Tier II 14U, 16U and 19U USA Hockey National Championships. The tournament runs from April 29 to May 3.
This is the first time since 2008 that Colorado has hosted any USA Hockey national championships. The state played host to the Adult Elite Tier I and Tier II tournaments back in 2008. This is the first time the state has had any girls’ national championships since 2005, when the Tier I tournaments were played in Centennial. The state first put on the national championships back in 1960.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve hosted any national championships,” said Randy Kanai, president of the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA).
USA Hockey began holding its annual championships in 1938. Since then, the organization has held its national championships across the country. The divisions range from girls’ 14U all the way up to 19U in two tiers. The boys’, meanwhile, have four Tier I divisions along with three Tier II tournaments. There is also a high school national championship along with adult men’s and women’s national championships.
Host sites are generally announced more than a few weeks before the tournament, but COVID-19 protocols created a need for some last-minute changes and helped Colorado land the event. The Tier II girls’ tournaments were originally set to take place in Anaheim, California, but tighter rink restrictions for spectators led to Denver being selected as the alternate site.
Kanai said plans are still being finalized, but games are set to take place on six sheets of ice across three facilities: Family Sports Ice Arena in Centennial, South Suburban Ice Arena in Centennial and The Edge Ice Arena in Littleton. Kanai said he estimates that about 300 games will take place during the five-day tournament.
“It’s great that they have the confidence in us to give us this tournament at the last minute and know that we will be able to run it well,” Kanai added.
Colorado’s health protocols may be more open than other states, but some restrictions remain in place to protect players, coaches, officials, fans and the community. At this time, only one fan per player will be allowed inside the rinks.
Kanai, however, said he hopes that restriction will be loosened by the time the tournament starts, approximately eight weeks from now.
This year’s tournament may look different from previous ones due to spectator limits, mask wearing and additional safety measures in place, but the event’s focus will continue to be on girls’ hockey. Kanai said he hopes to have multiple National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) players on site to mark the occasion.
“We want this to be a celebration of female hockey,” Kanai said. “It’s going to be great to see all of these girls taking the ice in our backyard.”
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