Vail Mountain Hockey Club’s 36th annual Sportsmanship Tourney hits the ice for three weekends
VAIL — It’s 5:30 a.m. on a weekend morning. Do you know where your child is?
If you’re a hockey parent, you do.
They’re on the ice, before your watchful, loving gaze.
The 36th annual Vail Sportsmanship Tournament is under way.
Dozens of kids will roll out well before the butt crack of dawn, strap on blades and sticks and bang into each other.
Their parents, meanwhile, will wonder how much coffee they can drink at that hour and still get a nap later.
Here’s the thing about hockey parents: As they huddle in jackets and coats in the stands, they watch and wonder where they would rather be — and can’t come up with anywhere else on God’s green earth.
Kids do this because they love it. Parents do it because they love their kids. And the world turns as it has for generations.
Vail hockey legend Merv Lapin started the tournament 36 years ago, along with the Vail Hockey Association. As Vail grew, so did hockey.
Lapin’s vision extended well beyond the valley, so he started the Vail International Hockey program. It gives teenagers a chance to travel the world, experience cultures and play a little hockey along the way.
Sportsmanship by the numbers
The Sportsmanship Tournament attracts 25 youth hockey teams to town during the first three weekends in November. Teams visit from all over Colorado and neighboring states.
“The tournament sold out early, at each level this year,” said John Seymour, program director.
The numbers go something like this: There are 18 kids per team.
They all have parents, many have siblings. And coaches. They have lots of coaches, too.
They’ll need somewhere to stay, preferably indoors. That means hotel nights.
And they’ll need to eat. Even though those hockey parents just fed their hockey players the day before yesterday, the kids will want to eat again. Kids are like that. So that’s three meals a day for that many people.
They’ll buy the occasional T-shirt and other souvenirs.
They’ll buy a bunch of gas because you cannot stuff hockey gear into a Prius, and because each team is guaranteed four games — two in Vail and two in Eagle.
Add it all up and multiply it by three, (because economists figure tourist dollars change hands three times before they cycle out of the area), and the economic benefit tops $600,000, maybe more, during a slow time of year.
Then there are these numbers.
If it’s a 6 a.m. game, the kids have to be there at 5 or 5:30 a.m. to get squared away before the puck drops.
The team in which local Realtor Rick Beveridge has a parental interest — Bantam A, 13-14 year olds — will play an 8:30 p.m. game in Vail, then are back in Vail the next morning for a 7:15 a.m. game. That means at 6:15 a.m. they’re filing out of the car.
The Sportsmanship Tournament is the Vail Mountaineer Hockey Club’s largest fundraiser of the year.
“Contributions and sponsorships from local businesses and individuals help bridge the gap and make it possible for the Vail Mountaineer Hockey Club to continue providing on- and off-ice development for our youth at more affordable rates,” said Beveridge, Vail Mountaineer board member and fundraising chair.
The Vail Mountaineer Hockey Club is a nonprofit, youth hockey organization for boys and girls, ages 9 and older.