When he talks about children learning to play hockey for the first time, Steve Grandbouche's grin grows.
"When they first step on the ice the little ones' eyes are so big," he said while sitting in his office, an equipment garage connected to the Loudy-Simpson Ice Arena. "They are so anxious to get on the ice they sometimes get their stick caught on the door."
In 1989, about a year after Grandbouche had retired from his own contracting business, he was hired to work for Moffat County Parks and Recreation. The Hayden High School alumnus and Northwest Colorado resident for more than 40 years came on at a time that the county needed an experienced builder.
At the time, there was quonset over a skating rink at Loudy-Simpson. The consistency of the ice, which relied on the natural refrigeration of freezing air, was about as predictable as the weather.
"The ice would melt all the time," Grandbouche said. "It was frustrating and very high maintenance."
To prepare the ice for a hockey game, the parks superintendent and a co-worker would have to shave the ridges out of the ice and level it out, a process that took at least three hours a day. They used a converted lawn mower with a tank of water tied on and a makeshift groomer.
Today Grandbouche or another worker at the arena hops on a Zamboni, a machine used to maintain a consistent surface, several times a day to make the surface shiny and smooth.
"A lot of the credit to the changes since I started has to do with the grassroots effort of hockey parents, kids and fans here," he said. "I just helped build it and maintain it."
Build it he did.
Grandbouche, other local tradesmen and volunteers started construction on an indoor facility with refrigerated ice in 1999.
"We did it with money raised by the hockey parents, local businesses, some grants and the county," he said. "Since we were able to do most of it in house it was less expensive."
The in-house efforts kept the renovation's costs around $300,000. One-sixth of the money came from the county's general fund.
"I think we made it as affordable as possible," he said.
Grandbouche remembers well the day that the completed facility was opened.
"It was Jan. 5 of 2000," he said. "The Red Dogs had a tournament that same day."
Since the opening of the consistent ice, Grandbouche's fruits of his labor have been an increased interest in the frozen pool at Loudy-Simpson.
"The programs are starting to grow," he said. "We have a couple of figure skaters getting ready for their first-ever competition and it's because of the ice time they've been able to put in here."
The ice arena isn't the only responsibility the superintendent has. The Shadow Mountain Clubhouse, the Sherman Youth Ranch and the fields at Loudy-Simpson are several of the other responsibilities. But for five and a half months the ice arena is his baby.
"I have three other employees who make sure things are running smooth," he said. "But I've put a couple of hours in here myself."
For his time off, the superintendent spends it leisurely fishing and playing golf. He worked as a greens keeper for the summer before hiring on with the county.
"I still keep in touch with those guys for advice on grass," he said. "In exchange we'll trade them equipment sometimes."
The parks superintendent has spent some time driving around the county for his job and he said he never ceases to be impressed with the facilities offered for the youth.
"We always have compliments on our fields and the quality of facilities we offer in a town this size," he said. "I think it helps make the quality of life here better."
Grandbouche relishes his quality of life.
"This is my town," he said. "I enjoy the people and the opportunities and I don't have any plans to leave anytime soon."
The only time he did leave was for college and he lived for several years in Oregon after graduating.
"I'm glad I came back," he said. "There are a lot of good people in this part of the country."
He also wanted to make sure that those good people were given credit for the facility he keeps in order.
"Don't give me too much credit," he said. "It's the local parents and businesses that have been very supportive and who run the programs. If they didn't get people here my job wouldn't be as enjoyable."
Then for a brief moment he paused, as if to think about another first-time hockey player draped in pads trying to run on the ice only to have his momentum stopped by the end of his stick getting stuck in the door.
"It's a good job to have," he said. "I'm a small part of helping kids grow and I maintain places where families spend quality time together."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com