DENVER — The hockey committee has recommended the addition of two new programs, which would bring the sport to a total of 34 teams across the state.
During its meeting at the University of Denver on Friday morning, the committee voted to add Chaparral and Woodland Park as varsity programs for the 2017-18 season, meaning both teams would begin play immediately. Their inclusion is dependent upon approval by the Legislative Council at its meeting in April.
"You could tell our committee did their homework because they had very in-depth discussion about a lot of items on our agenda — including the addition of the two new programs," said CHSAA assistant commissioner Bud Ozzello. "We look forward to the continued growth of the sport."
Both Chaparral and Woodland Park made presentations to the hockey committee on Friday. After a lengthy discussion, including questions about what it would do to schedules and alignment, they unanimously voted to add the programs. If approved by Legislative Council, hockey will have 34 teams starting in the 2017-18 season.
"This shows that the interest for hockey around the state continues to increase, and that's only a good thing for our sport," Ozzello said.
Chaparral will be placed into the Pinnacle Conference, and Woodland Park will play in the Highlands.
Chaparral will become the third hockey program within Douglas County Schools. It will also serve Legend and Ponderosa, making it the home program for all students at Parker high schools.
"We came here about seven years ago and we kind of had a long-range plan in Douglas County to start hockey," said Douglas County district athletic director Derek Cheney.
The first program in the area was Mountain Vista, which began play in 2011-12. The Golden Eagles have been very successful, to the point that Douglas County started a second program at Castle View two years ago.
Both Mountain Vista and Castle View spent time ranked in the top-10 this season, and they actually faced one another in the second round of the playoffs this season.
Going forward, Mountain Vista will serve students from Mountain Vista, Highlands Ranch and ThunderRidge. Castle View will serve Castle View, Rock Canyon and Douglas County.
"The final piece to our puzzle was to have a team in the Parker region," Cheney said.
Douglas County Schools has no plans to add a fourth team, Cheney said.
Chaparral has had a club team since 2007. The plan is to have the team split ice time between Family Sports in Centennial and Joy Burns Arena on the campus of the University of Denver.
The mere topic of adding a team drew a lot of interest, with 80-100 parents attending a meeting at Chaparral.
"After that meeting, we really felt like this was becoming a big thing and that they wanted hockey in the Parker area," said Chaparral athletic director Rob Johnson.
"We have the numbers to support three teams" in the district, said Ryan Finnefrock, who will be Chaparral's coach. "We have a ton of hockey players."
Woodland Park's inclusion adds another team from the state's southern region — something that signals real growth of the sport.
"This is exciting," said committee member Erik Austin, the coach at Cheyenne Mountain. "I've been waiting for this kind of proposal from the southern region for about 10 years now. We've been trying to grow the game aggressively, and this is a way to do it."
During its presentation, Woodland Park said the timing was right to add varsity hockey.
"We've got to strike while the iron is hot," Woodland Park athletic director Mike DeWall told the committee. "It's time for us to offer high school hockey in the Teller County region."
The push from Woodland Park was so strong that superintendent Jed Bowman also attended the meeting.
"This is a community dream that has been part of Woodland Park for probably 30 years," said Bowman, who once coached Air Academy's hockey team. "We have a rich history of hockey."
Currently, 11 students at Woodland Park play varsity hockey for four teams spread out throughout Colorado Springs.
"All 11 of them have expressed interest in playing for the school team," Bowman said. That includes three juniors that will be seniors next season "who would like to be part of making history at our school," Bowman said.
Ice time won't actually be a huge issue for Woodland Park. Bowman said they would only need two weeks of practice ice in Colorado Springs, as they have access to an outdoor ice facility in town for practice. For games, they are exploring possibilities in Colorado Springs.
- The Frozen Four moved to a Friday/Monday format this season. It will stay that way in 2018 (March 2 and 5), and 2019 (March 1 and 4). Both events will continue to be hosted by the Colorado Avalanche, but a site is still to be determined. It may be the Pepsi Center, if the dates work out with the NHL, NBA and NLL schedules. "What you're seeing today is just step one," said Jason Schofield, the manager of amateur hockey sales for the Avalanche. "We're just getting started."
- The committee also recommended a change to the waiver process for postseason eligibility, which would allow junior varsity players who play in 65 percent of their team's JV schedule to be eligible to play in the varsity postseason — so long as they don't play club hockey.