‘My heart is on the field’: Craig’s Steve Hafey remembered for decades of sports service
Late Moffat County icon receives Colorado Football Officials Hall of Fame induction
December 14, 2016
The tones of the man known as the Voice of the Bulldogs will stick with Moffat County residents for years after he's gone, as will his legacy as an icon of the local sports scene.
Craig's Steve Hafey passed away Dec. 9 at the age of 75 following a battle with cancer. Steve left behind decades of service to the community and the world of athletics in addition to a loving family that included wife Fay Hafey; daughter Dorie Hafey; sons Corey, Kip and Wade; siblings Tim Hafey, Janice McGraw, Jane Ann Nettleton and Margaret Ruth Lisle; and 13 grandchildren.
With a track scholarship to Mesa State College — now Colorado Mesa University — out of high school, Steve was a strong part of sports teams in his younger days, though it was coaching and officiating in which he truly made his mark.
After graduating from Colorado State College — now University of Northern Colorado — in 1968, Steve began working at eastern Colorado's Stratton High School. His six years saw him serve as a teacher and athletic director, as well as the head coach for the football, golf and wrestling programs, achieving the 1973 Single-A Wrestling Coach of the Year.
When he made his home in Craig, he continued to be a part of local sports programs for all ages, influencing outlets including Craig Youth Baseball Association and Trapper Athletic Club. Over the years, he also lent his time to Moffat County School District Board of Education, Craig Chamber of Commerce, Moffat County United Way and Boys & Girls Club of Craig.
The Craig Daily Press also named him their inaugural Man of the Year in 1984.
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In recent years, he was also able to coach his grandchildren alongside son Kip Hafey in the Doak Walker tackle football league.
Local radio listeners also tuned in regularly for 32 years to hear Steve's broadcasts of Moffat County High School sporting events, including football, basketball and wrestling.
Frank Hanel, owner of KRAI and 55 Country, said being "a fan of all sports" aided Steve in providing solid coverage.
"He was the only person I knew that was able to deliver play-by-play commentary of almost every high school sport with a extensive knowledge of the rules, competitors, coaches and teams and do it in an energetic, exciting and entertaining way," Hanel said.
Hanel added that when he first bought the station in 1989, Steve approached him about adding wrestling to broadcasts of the gridiron and basketball court. Though he was skeptical, Hanel agreed and was thrilled with the community's welcome reception.
"High school wrestling fans in Northwest Colorado and across the state unknowingly owe Steve, every time they listen to our state tournament broadcast," Hanel said.
In keeping with his behind-the-scenes work, Steve was recognizable to many in two colors — black and white.
Steve spent 47 years as a referee for sports events that ranged from the youth level to middle school to high school to college, officiating basketball, wrestling and especially football.
It was one day after Steve's death that he was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Football Officials Association Hall of Fame.
A letter from Steven D. Hall, the Hall of Fame chairman, noted Steve's "many years of commitment, leadership, excellence and professionalism both on and off of the field."
The application for consideration to CFOA — provided to the Daily Press by Kip Hafey — included many recollections by the man of the hour, such as a hard-hitting game between Sacramento State University and Mesa State that resulted in a referee knocked unconscious.
Steve had to stand his ground with a call against Sacramento, telling the furious coach his player had hit his opponent so hard, "it knocked his teeth out."
The hyperbole incensed the Sacramento coach so much, he pulled out his own false teeth just to prove a point.
The Hall of Fame application also noted a quote by Steve that seemed to sum up his career — "My heart is on the field."
A celebration of life for Steve Hafey take place at 2 p.m. this Friday at The Journey at First Baptist Church in Craig, followed by interment at Craig Cemetery.