Steamboat Hockey Classic raises $70K for local youth program

2016 Steamboat Hockey — If you’ve bumped into 6-year-old Steamboat Springs resident Gavin Wittlinger in the past couple of years, there is a good chance he was wearing a U.S.A. hockey jersey. So, it’s safe to say, it was a big deal when he met and had his jersey signed by Jack O’Callahan and Dave Christian, both players from the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 Olympic hockey team.

O’Callahan and Christian, along with more than a dozen other National Hockey League alumni, were in town last week for the third annual Steamboat Hockey Classic, a fundraiser for youth hockey in Steamboat.

“This is the top, the cream of the crop, in terms of success in this professional sport. These are some of the most humble, gracious and engaging people you will ever meet,” said event co-chair and youth hockey coach Kerry Shea. “Our big goal is providing a great experience for players, kids and fans participating in the weekend — of being able to celebrate all the wonderment of hockey.”

Shea and Chris Campanelli held the first fundraiser in 2014, raising $7,500 for the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association. The second annual event exploded, with alumni from the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks helping bring in $30,000.

In the third annual event last weekend at Howelsen Ice Arena — which included an auction party and concert at the Sheraton — representatives of the “Original Six” NHL teams joined to raise $70,000 in benefit of Steamboat youth hockey.

“I remember saying two years ago, ’We can do better than that.’ The event was successful, it was fun, it was exciting, but it was new. So we had a lot to learn,” Campanelli said. “Every year, there are some new guys. More Stanley Cup rings this year than we’ve seen so far. It’s been exciting. The overall goal at the end of the season, by having this party, is to create hockey awareness and celebrate the game of hockey.”

Much of the success of this year’s event stemmed from the involvement of the NHL Players’ Association. Among other things, the organization donated 35 full sets of youth hockey equipment for the kids of Steamboat.

The relationship between the NHLPA and Steamboat youth hockey started from talks between Campanelli and Mathieu Schneider, a special assistant to the executive director of the NHLPA, who logged more than 1,200 games as a player and won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

Campanelli and Schneider, as well as NHL alumnus Keith Carney, were high school teammates at the Mount Saint Charles Academy in Rhode Island. Schneider wasn’t able to attend the event, but with Carney’s help, was able to orchestrate a mass influx of NHL veterans to Steamboat.

“I was hoping that we’d be able to do a little bit more than we actually did this year, but from the sounds of everything, it turned out to be another great event for them,” Schneider said. “It seems like it just keeps gaining momentum every year. It’s exciting, from our standpoint. We are always looking at different ways where we can impact young kids and have them become a solid influence and get new kids playing the game.”

The some 200 young athletes involved with the Steamboat Youth Hockey program will benefit from the money raised. With the aid of money from previous fundraisers, Campanelli and Shea helped revamp the program in the fall, allowing kids the chance to get on the ice and try hockey free of charge.

Going forward, the goal is to continue to build the Steamboat Hockey Classic, as well as grow youth hockey in Steamboat, which has seen tremendous growth in just the past two years.

“These kids will be able to use this equipment for years to come,” Campanelli said. “We are just in a great position, and hockey is going full steam ahead in Steamboat, and we are really happy to be a part of it.”

And, for what it’s worth, the NHL alumni can still play. In the skills competition, Jiri Fischer had the hardest shot at 101 miles per hour, witnessed by the 30 local youth on the ice for the event.

2106 Steamboat Hockey Classic NHL Alumni roster

Al Iafrate
Bernie Nicholls
Brian Noonan
Dave Christian
Dennis Hextall
Eddie Mio
Jack O’Callahan
Jiri Fischer
Joe Kocur
Jose Charbonneau
Keith Carney
Kevin Miller
Lorne Knauft
Reed Larson
Ric Nattress
Stephane Matteau
Wayne Presley



Original story written by Austin Colbert of
To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

Hockey Gaining Momentum in Ski Town USA

By Eugene Buchanan – Special to USA HockeySteamboat Youth Hockey squirts C

While February’s NHL Stadium Series might be drawing hockey attention to Denver, Colorado, a smaller mountain town just three hours away is also doing so with the help of NHL alumni and applying USA Hockey’s instruction practices to its burgeoning youth hockey program.

“We’ve been adhering to the USA Hockey’s ADM for a few years, which has resulted in 1,000-percent growth in our introductory programs,” said Kerry Shea, high school assistant coach and Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association (SSYHA) 8U head coach.

Previously run by the city and now taken over by SSYHA, the town’s Introduction-to-Hockey program blossomed from just five kids in 2014 to 55 in 2015, with additional growth projected for 2016.

“In the past, we’ve been limited by the previous coaching platform and resources,” said Shea, who is also leading a campaign to get a second sheet of ice in town to supplement its Olympic-sized sheet at Howelsen Ice Arena. “But that’s the beauty of the ADM. Kids new to the sport can enter in a non-threatening, fun atmosphere that builds the foundational skills and enjoyment for years to come. The kids love it.”

All this, he adds, has led to unprecedented hockey growth in the small 15,000-person hamlet long known as Ski Town USA. Fueling the sport’s heritage and local momentum this year is the third annual Steamboat Hockey Classic, which is bringing 18 NHL alumni from the Original Six franchises and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team to town for a SSYHA benefit game. In its first year, the event raised $7,500 for local youth hockey programs, a number that grew to $30,000 last year.

This year, organizers are aiming to exceed those numbers with a fun-filled weekend of events including a skills competition/player meet-and-greet, HockeyPalooza Auction Party featuring one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia and travel packages, an NHL alumni charity hockey game and a benefit concert by hockey aficionado Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

The numbers tell the story of hockey’s growth in Steamboat. In addition to the kids in its introductory program, more than 300 kids play in its youth hockey programs, 320 locals play in its multi-division adult hockey leagues, and it has a top 10-ranked high school team as well as competitive men’s and three women’s traveling teams. Local hockey heroes include Andrew Farny, currently playing for Colorado College, and Ryan Dingle, a former standout for the University of Denver who played in the American Hockey League before moving to Italy’s professional league and now Scotland, where he plays the Fife Flyers.

“The hockey momentum here for such a small town is huge,” said rink manager Mike Cochran. “It’s really hard to find a town this size with such a great hockey community (in Colorado).”

As for the NHL greats coming to town in March, organizers are expecting a big turn out, among both players and fans.

“We try to roll out the red carpet for these guys whenever they come here, but it’s the friendliness of the community that brings them back,” said Chris Campanelli, event co-organizer and high school hockey coach. “We’re excited to continue the event for years to come.”

Among the NHL notables to skate in Steamboat are Jon Finstrom, Dennis Hextall, Jiri Fischer, Petr Klima, Lorne Knauft, Joe Kocur, Kevin Miller, Craig Valassis and Eddie Mio, as well as U.S. Olympian and former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Jack O’Callahan, Reid Simpson, Peter Marsh, Phil Russell, Brian Noonan, Keith Carney, José Charbonneau, Sergei Krivokrasov, Bill Mullins and Wayne Presley. This year’s event will adds four more Team USA alumni to the Steamboat roster: Dave Christian, Al Lafrate, Reed Larson and Rob McClanahan, along with former fellow NHL alumni Stephane Matteau, Rob McClanahan, Ric Nattress and Bernie Nichols.

There’s good reason for the attendance beyond supporting local youth hockey efforts — it’s also a darn good time. Organizers take the NHL greats fly fishing, skiing, snowmobiling and more during their visit, with hockey, dining, concerts and parties in between.

“It’s truly an amazing event with super hospitality that Steamboat puts on,” said Presley, whose 14-year NHL career included stints with the Blackhawks, Sabres, Rangers and Maple Leafs. “It’s one of the best events we attend all year.”

Organizers anticipate this year’s event, March 18-19, to be the best yet.

“Visitors and locals alike will have a great chance to watch and interact with players throughout the weekend, expanding the sport locally and abroad as we celebrate all that is hockey,” said Shea.

From attending the auction party and skills contest to bidding on the chance to skate with NHL’s best in the charity exhibition game, it should be a fun-filled hockey weekend for all, and a boon to the local youth hockey ranks.

“The growth and momentum we have going here is pretty amazing,” said Shea. “We have the full spectrum, from our growing intro programs to NHL alumni coming to town every year to help grow the sport. And a lot of it owes itself to USA Hockey.”

Article Originally appeared on

Joint effort gets more young athletes playing hockey

Steamboat Youth Hockey - Photo by John Russell
Joey Nelson navigates an obstacle course designed to improve skating skills while coach Corey Allen watches during the “Introduction to Hockey” program.

Original Story and photo by John Russell,

A joint effort between the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association has paid off with a huge increase in the number of young athletes giving hockey a try in Steamboat Springs this fall.

“The reception has been phenomenal as we exceeded our goal of 40 spots for the program, which had previously offered a capacity of five through the city,” said Mites coach Kerry Shea, who is helping lead the program.

Shea said the idea is actually a partnership between the city’s Parks and Community Services program and the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association.

City staff said about 30 of the children in the programs are also part of the after-school ASSET programs offered by the city. The ASSET program transports the young athletes, provides snacks and supervision for the price of the after-school program. The cost of the hockey program is free to ASSET students and those who registered before classes began last week.

The Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association, whose mission is to promote and support youth hockey in Steamboat, provides up to 20 volunteer coaches to help lead the programs, which are open to boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 11. The introductory hockey programs, which meet at 4 p.m. Mondays, have been well received and have exceeded all expectations, Shea said.

According to Shea, there are more than 52 children participating in the programs this fall. The skaters are grouped by age and then moved through a series of stations designed to introduce a variety of hockey stills.

“We were able to combine our respective strengths to achieve a whole new level for this introductory program and in the process increased the access for the youth in our community,” Shea said.

Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey director Corey Allen said his organization recognizes the importance of getting young players into the game.

“The strength of an association is based on the flow of players — most importantly the flow of players at the introductory and Mite levels,” Allen said.

“Over time those are going to be your Midgets and your higher level players,” Allen explained. “We wanted to make sure that our community is offering a strong introduction to hockey. We know it is so important, and I’m very fortunate to have this team of volunteers that I have, because without this group, there is no way I could handle 50 players.”

Original Story by John Russell,
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

2nd Annual Steamboat Hockey Classic Raises $30K

SteamboatHockeyClassicFBOGWhile the Detroit Red Wings alumni edged out the Chicago Blackhawks alumni 14-10 at the second annual Steamboat NHL Alumni Classic March 28, the real winner, apart from the full house of fans in attendance, was Steamboat Springs youth hockey, which received more than $30,000 from the record-setting fundraising weekend.

“It was a super fun weekend and way better than we expected,” said event co-organizer and Steamboat Sailors high school hockey coach Chris Campanelli. “We had great support from the whole community. We try to roll out the red carpet for these guys whenever they come here, but it’s the friendliness of the community that brings them back.”

In all, between record ticket and concession sales for the NHL alumni exhibition game, silent auction and benefit concert by Todd Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters at the Strings Music Pavilion, the fundraiser raised a record amount for Steamboat Springs youth hockey.

The weekend kicked off with a Sled Hockey exhibition by the Colorado Avalanche Sled Hockey team versus the NHL Alumni, as well as a skills competition and youth practice led by NHL greats.

NHL roster notables in attendance included Jon Finstrom, Jiri Fischer, Petr Klima, Lorne Knauft, Joe Kocur, Kevin Miller, Craig Valassis, Eddie Mio and George Bowman of the Red Wings, and Jack O’Callahan, Reid Simpson, Peter Marsh, Phil Russell, Brian Noonan, Keith Carney, José Charbonneau, Sergei Krivokrasov, Reid Simpson, Bill Mullins and Wayne Presley of the Blackhawks.

“It was an amazing weekend for Steamboat hockey,” said co-organizer Kerry Shea, acknowledging the support of local sponsors as well as the Red Wings and Blackhawks alumni for making the weekend such a success. “We exceeded our all expectations, including our fundraising goal of over $30,000 donated to Steamboat youth hockey. We’re excited to continue the event for years to come.”

Red Wings and Blackhawk Alumni face off in 2nd Annual Steamboat Hockey Classic

Joe Kocur - Steamboat Hockey ClassicHowelsen Ice Arena was host the 2nd Annual Steamboat Hockey Classic on March 27 and 28 — a benefit for Steamboat Springs youth hockey highlighted by an exhibition game between NHL greats from the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

The event was followed by an exclusive benefit and silent auction featuring Todd Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters at the Strings Music Pavilion, which will also served as a fundraiser for Steamboat Springs youth hockey.

“Our 2nd Annual event was a huge success this year,” co-organizer Kerry Shea said. “ we had even more NHL stars, as well as an amazing musical performance and silent auction, including one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia and VIP experience packages, to help raise funds for the program.”

Roster notables hitting the ice included Joe Kocur, Jiri Fischer, Dennis Hextall, Petr Klima and Eddie Mio of the Red Wings, and Jack O’Callahan, Reid Simpson, Peter Marsh, Phil Russell, Brian Noonan and Wayne Presley of the Blackhawks. All are more than willing to make a return visit to Ski Town USA.

“Last year’s event was great, with super hospitality,” said Presley, whose 14-year NHL career included stints with the Blackhawks, Sabres, Rangers and Maple Leafs. “We’re all definitely looking forward to this year’s game and visiting Steamboat again.”

The 3rd Annual Steamboat Hockey Classic will return to Steamboat Springs on March 18th and 19th, 2016.