Kelly Sloan, The Business Times
A Grand Junction ice skating arena will serve as home for a new Junior League hockey team.
The Glacier Ice Arena will bring to the area the Glacier Yetis as a part of the newly formed Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League. Junior hockey is a step above AA and geared towards players in the 18- to 20-year old range with aspirations to play in college or professional ranks.
“A junior team offers young players an opportunity to improve hockey skills as they strive towards collegiate or professional careers,” said Robbie Koos, administrative manager for Glacier Ice Arena. “The players who will be involved in this league are generally hoping for college scholarships or possibly an NHL career based on their ability.”
The economic contributions of having a Junior League hockey team in Grand Junction could be considerable, Koos said, at least comparable to the Grand Junction Rockies minor league baseball team.
“Visiting teams will be using local services, especially hotels and restaurants,” Koos said, adding the team has hired a marketing representative to obtain sponsorships. She said the Clarion Inn has committed to being the first team sponsor.
Glacier Ice Arena announced last year it would bring a Tier-III Junior A hockey team to the Grand Valley under the name Grand Junction Coyotes. The name was changed earlier this year to the Glacier Yetis to reflect the squad’s home arena and mountainous nature of the region.
The Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League was formed last year and is sanctioned by USA Hockey. There are six teams in the league.
Koos said other cities want to join in the league, including some from surrounding states. But for the inaugural season, the league will include the Yetis along with the Aspen Leafs, Breckenridge Bucks, Colorado Thunderbirds, Pikes Peak Miners and Colorado Rampage. The season will run from the first weekend in October to the end of February, with playoffs in March.
The Yetis have selected Chris Slater, a Level 5 USA Hockey coach out of Michigan and a graduate of Western Michigan University, as head coach and director of hockey operations.
The team is now working on building its roster for the opening season. “All the teams are in the process of recruiting,” Koos said. “There are scouts going to showcases and camps around the country.” She said the Yetis are actively scouting the region, other states and even internationally.
All of the team’s home games, 20 this season, will be played at Glacier Ice Arena and are divided over 10 weeks. Glacier will host Friday night hockey starting this fall featuring either a Yetis or Colorado Mesa University game each Friday evening. Koos said 16 Yetis home games will played on Friday nights with the remainder played on Saturdays.
She also said the arena is in the process of applying for a liquor license and will serve beer and wine at Yetis and CMU games.
Koos said she anticipates sell-out crowds for the games. “This is full-contact, fast-passed hockey, and Friday night hockey will be a great opportunity for families and friends to get out and enjoy this fun, exciting sport in our own community.”