The wheels on the bus …
Battle Mountain hockey has its fair share of diehard fans.
There are the parents of the players who stake out their regular spots at Dobson. Dr. Bill Bevan can always be found on the northeast side of the catwalk, watching the defensive zone. Glen Heelan, Linda Chase and Nancy and Craig Denton, complete with commentary, are always in the scorer’s booth. Frank Chow sits at center ice one row from the top of the stands, taking pictures with his digital camera.
There are also the students of the valley and, of course, Huskies athetics director Fred Koetteritz and assistant principal Ronda Woodall, who are regulars.
And then, there is Aaron Burwell. He drives the team bus for road games. And, in the process of doing so over the last year and a half, he’s essentially been adopted by the team – he wears sweater No. 38 – and is arguably the team’s No. 1 fan.
Naturally, Burwell will be there when the Huskies head to Colorado Springs to take on Kent Denver in Friday’s state semifinal at the World Arena at 5:05 p.m.
“Aaron’s been awesome. He’s really become one of the guys. He’s like a member of the team,” Huskies coach Jade Kersey said. “He goes above and beyond his duties as a bus driver to help our guys out. He’s just excited to be involved, and we’re excited to have him along. When the thought came up about possibly taking a charter bus down to the state tournament, we just nixed it. It wasn’t like we were going to leave our bus driver behind.”
Burwell cheers at every road game and it doesn’t stop there.
“I’ve gone to several of our games and looked over, wondering where he was and there he is working the penalty box,” Koetteritz said.
Video? He’s done that, too. And, of course, he even does windows, well, because he makes sure the Huskies hockey bus is squeaky clean.
Burwell moved to Colorado Springs from San Diego 13 years ago. After three years in the Springs, he like, many others who have moved to the Vail, decided to come up to the High Country for just one year and is now on year No. 10.
For the last four years, he’s been employed by the Eagle County School District. About a year and a half ago, he got the hockey gig, for a simple reason.
“Basically, it gets assigned to the bus that I drive,” Burwell said. “I’ve got the biggest bus and the most room and they have the most stuff.”
And, logic has given way to a unique relationship.
“I don’t know what it is about the hockey team,” Burwell said. “They’re really good kids. They’re winners. They know how to win. I hope it rubs off on the rest of the sports in the school. I’m proud to be driving the kids.”
The kids are reciprocating in word and deed.
“He’s a fun guy to be with,” senior forward Jason Chase said. “A lot of bus drivers can be mean. He’s really nice. He’s a big supporter of our team. He wears our jersey everywhere he goes. He helps out with the video sometimes and he’s just a fun guy to be with.”
“The relationship’s good,” Burwell said. “I actually have a couple of the kids who want to take my 4 year old out after the season to teach him how to skate. His name is Spencer and he wants to learn how to ice skate, so I rounded up a couple of the boys. Nate Simon showed real interest. Greg Garman showed real interest. We’ll probably get Austin (Chow) out there. Learn from the best.”
Burwell’s job isn’t easy. A school bus doesn’t move like a Porsche. Then, there’s the inevitable Colorado winter weather. And, don’t forget the late hours. While, the players are usually asleep by the time the bus is riding over the passes, Burwell is still sharp.
“It takes a different kind of person to make these drives,” he says. “You have to plan. You know that you can’t be tired on the way home at 10 or 11 or 12 o’clock at night. I usually try to sneak a nap in on the bus while the team is practicing.”
As for this weekend, it’s unlikely anybody involved in Huskies hockey is going to be getting much sleep. Diehards are diehards and this is what Huskies fans have been waiting for three years now.
And like a true diehard, Burwell has his prediction for the weekend.
“I’m predicting that the kids step up and play big,” Burwell said. “It’s some of their last chances to get out there and win the state championship. I don’t think they’re going let this one slip by.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.