Season and skating for Aspen Junior Hockey, aiming for 50 this winter

The Colorado Springs Tigers, in yellow, play Mountain Select in the U14 AA Championship game of the Aspen Junior Hockey annual Fall Faceoff tournament on Sunday, October 17, 2021, inside the Aspen Ice Garden. Photo by Austin Colbert / The Aspen Times.

Harlan Pratt’s first season as executive director of Aspen Junior Hockey will sadly be remembered for taking place in the midst of a pandemic. Still, the native Canadian and former professional player praised the AJH youth for their dedication over the past year, despite limited ice time.

“It’s not easy. Nothing in life is easy. But our kids were able to skate quite regularly last year, which I thought was pretty awesome,” Pratt said earlier this fall. ‘Generally speaking, our kids ended up with a normal season in an abnormal year, if that makes sense. And then this year we were able to get the kids out on the ice. We started skating on August 30, which happens in September and it’s pretty nice to get the kids out on the ice as early as possible.

While the pandemic is certainly not over, as rules remain in place locally to guard against the spread of COVID-19, Aspen Junior Hockey is already buzzing at a pre-pandemic pace this fall. It all started with the Back to Hockey Night and the annual Daily Sportsmanship Awards, which are sponsored by the Daily family, run by John Daily and his brother, the late Art Daily.

The 20th edition of the Woody Creek Distillers Stirling Cup took place September 17-18. One of the organization’s biggest fundraisers, it included a fly fishing excursion that Saturday and the usual golf tournament the next day at Aspen Golf Club.

“A pretty fun day, for sure,” said Pratt. “There is such good support from the community, and within that community he supports young people and other small local programs. It is quite special. This makes it a pretty cool place for the kids to grow up.

This year, there will be a second part of the Stirling Cup festivities with an alumni weekend planned for December, carried out in partnership with the Colorado Avalanche. AJH also partnered with Avs and its Mile High Mites program this fall, which kicked off on October 11.

This coming weekend will be the second of three consecutive weekends of the 28th Annual Fall Showdown, a series of tournaments organized as another major fundraiser for AJH. The top tier AA teams competed last weekend.

From a competitive standpoint, most AJH teams skate in a season that usually lasts until spring.

It should be noted that next January will mark the 50th anniversary of Aspen Junior Hockey. Pratt said there were many festivities planned to celebrate the milestone, including homecoming jerseys for the athletes to wear.

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