A Sport For All Seasons

A Sport For All Seasons

Being a hockey fan in Colorado can’t get much better than this.

The celebrations started in April when the University of Denver captured its ninth NCAA men’s hockey national championship. Two months later, the Colorado Avalanche hoisted the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise history.

Then, we all had to wait months before the new seasons would get underway. Thankfully, October finally arrived, bringing the sounds of sticks and pucks and roars of the crowd back to experience once again.

Al Pedersen, the Monument Ice Rinks’ facility manager and former NHL defenseman, shares a light moment with Eddie the Yeti of the popular book series following the shooting of a promotional video.

We survived that downtime, somehow, but we did. So, for a minute, imagine not having an off-season.At Monument Ice Rinks, just north of I-25 and Baptist Road on Old Denver Highway, it’s all hockey, all the time, 12 months a year, and the next season is always right around the corner. Whether you’re 3 or 75, there’s a place and a team for you.

And that’s where former eight-year NHL defenseman Al Pedersen enters the picture, going back 20 years to when he first stepped into the facility, newly unemployed after his postretirement job with the minor-league Colorado Gold Kings suddenly vanished after the team folded.

This native of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, still had hockey running through his veins and a passion for coaching and introducing the game to newcomers regardless of age. By 2006, he had been elevated to Monument’s facility manager and, since then, has worked tirelessly to build and maintain youth and adult hockey programs.

“It’s been exciting and gratifying to see how we’ve been able to grow the game and develop kids and players—not only the kids but adults,” Pedersen says. “This was an inline rink before and converted to ice in 2006. We got the other building converted to ice a few years later. We have two sheets of ice, and to be honest, it’s hockey year-round for us. We do it every week. It’s one big season.”

 It’s not just for the kids—even adults have a place to learn and hone their ice hockey skills at Monument Ice Rinks’ Big Rookies program. Free loaner equipment is available.

"Something For Everybody"

Pedersen would rather talk about Monument Ice Rinks than himself, and any conversation quickly turns to encouraging anyone to lace ’em up. “We probably have 400 players aged eight and under, then we have a recreational level, club level, and a triple-A level, then the adults,” Pedersen says. “We have something for everybody. We have a motto here, and that’s ‘from diapers to Depends.’ We have a lot of kids who started out as little ones, and now they’re playing in the adult leagues, and their kids are starting out. A lot of great relationships are built through this game.”

Girls Club
The popularity of girls hockey is definitely on the rise. Monument Ice Rinks has special times just for girls on most Saturdays.

Although the sky-high cost of hockey gear might deter many, Monument Ice Rinks eliminates that hurdle by offering loaner equipment, mainly for players between the ages of 4 and 10. That said, Pedersen doesn’t want anything stopping anyone from at least trying out the sport. “We have all the gear, from head to toe,” Pedersen says. “That’s one of the cool things for our program called Junior Rookies. Through a donation program, people give us the gear when they outgrow it, and we loan it out to kids at no charge. That’s a big deal. And they can turn it back in when they outgrow it, and we turn around and give them another set.”

For his efforts in building the adult leagues at Monument Ice Rinks, in 2020, Pedersen was named recipient of the USA Hockey John Beadle Adult Member of the Year Award. “That’s a testament to the community feel we have at our rink,” Pedersen says. “There’s no magic formula, but I think we’ve gotten to this point from the consistent effort we put in as a group and the passion we all have for hockey as a family sport.”

Mile High Mites
Mile High Mites, sponsored in part by the Colorado Avalanche, is a learn-to-play program for kids ages 5–9. A full set of equipment, including skates, is provided, and it is the perfect way to introduce children to hockey.

The Avalance Lends A Hand 

Thanks to a partnership with the NHL and Colorado Avalanche, the Mile High Mites “Learn to Play” program is offered two to three times per year at Monument Ice Rinks.  

Over six sessions, boys and girls ages 5–9 get a chance to learn the fundamentals of hockey, highlighted by former Avalanche players teaching and educating the players, coaches, and parents alike.

“The NHL puts money into a fund for all teams through the Learn to Play program,” Pedersen says. “The big thing for us is growing the game. We really enjoy getting kids and adults started in hockey.”

And, whereas championships and trophies at the collegiate and professional levels don’t hurt, it’s not a requirement. All teams certainly have their ups and downs over a long period of time. “The interest has picked up, especially with the Avs playing at such a high level,” Pedersen says. “But we’ve been doing this for so many years. We were growing the game when the Avs were in dead last. We just do what we do.”

Monument Ice Rinks 16240 Old Denver Rd., Monument 719.487.8572 monumenticerinks.com