Hockey season approaching quickly

With weather slowly turning to winter, it's that time of year where the Craig youth and men's hockey associations start to gear up for the upcoming season.

According to Kent Nielson, youth hockey is for all ages.

"Hopefully this year we can start off with 5-year-olds," said Nielson. "Last year we did kids from 5 years old to 9 years old. Then we did divide kids up from 9 years old to 11 years old. Twelve- to14-year-olds play together and then high school kids play on the same team."

Nielson said the league has traveling teams and a night league.

"Last year we had seven or eight night league teams," said Nielson. "This year we should have four traveling teams. We will play in Steamboat Springs, Kremmling, Breckenridge and we might have some games in Oak Creek and Gunninson. We will also have a tournament in March."

According to league organizers, the number of players registered are below average, but players interested may still sign up.

"The numbers of kids that are signed up are way down," said coach Jim Wood. "The years before we have averaged 150 kids and this year we only have 40 signed up. Anybody is more than welcome. We take kids from 5 to 18 years old and they can go and sign up at City Hall. We have never turned a kid away."

Wood is coaching Batmans and the Squirts and in years past the teams have gone to tournaments in Salt Lake City and Vernal Utah.

"We have games that are scheduled for the ice rink on Dec. 18 and we will start practicing as soon as the ice is put in," said Wood.

Adult hockey is divided into three teams, the women's group, the novice men's group and the competitive men's group.

"We traditionally have between 15 and 25 players for our adult competitive teams," said team representative Tom Nagoda. "Those three groups generate all the adult hockey in an organized fashion."

The men's competitive team practices each Sunday from 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 9 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.

"That will start as soon as our rink opens," said Nagoda. "The adult competitive team associates with the USA National Amateur group which is the main body for amateur hockey players. We join that group every year. We only go to one tournament and that is the Rock Springs Tournament."

According to Nagoda, the men's competitive team has one home tournament Jan. 7-9.

"In years past we have had Rock Springs, Laramie, Steamboat Springs and Grand Junction," said Nagoda. "We usually have between four or six teams that are there."

Nagoda believes the group has a great time when players are on the ice.

"We have a lot of fun together and it is no-check hockey," said Nagoda. "It's great exercise. We scrimmage every night. These are men that play the game for the fun of it and they just enjoy the game of hockey. We look at it as two sports in one."

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