hockey

In this 2016 file photo, workers prepare the ice rink for the upcoming winter season. This year the season will again be busy with various programs, including the adult coed hockey league. (Planet file photo)

As a dusting of snow blanketed the area earlier this week and the town settles into the lull of offseason, the Telluride Parks & Recreation Department is busy gearing up for the adult coed hockey league season.

The hockey league consists of 12 teams and a pool of goalies that rotate through the teams. There is also a draft with the team captains like other parks and rec club sports, and returning players have priority. Parks and rec have a few different hockey programs, but what makes the coed league so unique is the “wide range of abilities” of participants, the department’s recreation supervisor Ryan McGovern explained.

“We have people who might have played their whole life, like through high school, or maybe even college. Then you have a lot of adults who may have learned to skate in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s,” McGovern said.

The coed league is the second most popular sport that the parks and rec department organizes throughout the year, behind only softball, he added. Gear is not provided, so each participant must come prepared with their own equipment. For most who signed up this is not their first time on the ice, according to McGovern.

“Everyone knows how to run, but hockey has this huge barrier of learning how to skate,” he said.

That aspect has made the league less intense and aggressive than other sports, he explained.

“It’s a little more fun and social,” McGovern said.

Elizabeth Edwards is one of many locals who signed up for the coed league this year, and she is excited about the league’s social yet challenging aspects.

“I am looking forward most to the playful-yet-competitive atmosphere that is allegedly a characteristic of this league. Adult sporting leagues tend to allow people to tap into youthful feelings of joy that may be latent during the more professional parts of their days. Hockey is cathartic and meditative. It induces paradoxical feelings of euphoria and exhaustion,” Edwards said.

Growing up in Lake Placid, New York, which hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, hockey has always been an essential part of her life. Edwards played with an organized hockey league from age nine to 18, and then continued with a club in college, followed by an adult league post-grad. She missed getting to play this past year and is eager to get back on the ice. Edwards joined the league because she “heard high praise of the hockey leagues here from other community members.”

“To me, hockey is emblematic of unity and competition and tradition and creativity. I was drawn to Telluride because I grew up with the opportunity to both ski and play hockey. This community affords me that lifestyle as well,” Edwards said.

Last year the coed league was canceled due to the pandemic. Some hockey programs, including the women and men’s leagues, continued, but on a much smaller scale. Unlike last year, when COVID protocols barred all onlookers from the bleachers, spectators will be allowed in the stands if they are wearing masks this season.

“We are working with the county to adapt as needed to COVID protocols, but we’re hopeful,” McGovern said.

The league has the potential to grow, but the biggest challenge is creating ice time for all the teams, since the rink must be shared between several teams and leagues, McGovern explained. In past years, they’ve increased the number of teams to 13, but there were too many organizational challenges, and games had to be scheduled on holidays.

“We have a youth hockey program, a youth figure skating program, and we have a curling program. All of those people are vying for ice,” McGovern said.

This demand is reflected in the Hanley Rink’s event calendar on the Town of Telluride’s website. Save for weekends and holidays when the rink is closed, the rink has several scheduled events or ice times allocated for different leagues and teams everyday up until Jan 2.

Due in part to the league’s popularity and scarce ice time, McGovern warned, “this league is highly sought after and fills up quickly.”

As of press time Tuesday afternoon, there were still spots available on the women and men’s coed teams waitlists.

To enroll, visit telluride-co.gov and find the “Activities” tab on the parks and rec page.