With an eye on past and present, Huskies hockey turns 20
The originals are how old?
P.J. Bevan is 35.
Or rather, I should say Dr. P.J. Bevan is 35, working in the Cleveland area, married to his infinitely better half, Maggie, with whom they are raising their young son, Lincoln.
This isn’t a big deal except for the fact that the youngest of the Bevan boys was the first captain of Battle Mountain hockey — as a Vail Christian sophomore; the idea of someone not attending school in EagleVail wearing the C was controversial then — back during the Huskies’ first season in 2001-02.
When the puck drops next week against Steamboat Springs, Battle Mountain hockey begins its 20th season, which hurts the brain almost as much as P.J. being 35, married and raising a kid. Twenty years seems like a long time ago.
Sept. 11 was nearly 3-months-old when the Huskies took on defending state champion Liberty in its program opener and won. It seems like it’s been a while since Ken Bielski, the program’s first coach, paced the bench, drank far too much Mountain Dew, earned the ire of every ref in Colorado, hacked off most of Eagle County by playing the youngsters, and showed us how beautifully hockey could be played.
That said, I can still see the likes of Bevan, the epitome of a captain, Stevie Reid (probably not Stevie any more), Michael Medina, Chris Finch, Keith Denton and, yes, Brock Hovey and Nate Simon skating. (Brock and Nate are gone far too soon and we miss them dearly.)
Along with a silly freshman named Austin Chow, who in most eyes shouldn’t have even made the team, Battle Mountain hockey was truly great, starting with the 2001-02 season. Its games were events. The first six or eight years of this program were heady days.
The only thing that didn’t happen was the championship. After beating Kent Denver in double overtime — Hovey lights the lamp — they fell short against Cheyenne Mountain. In 2003 and 2004, Kent Denver ended the Huskies’ season in the semifinals. (Kent really isn’t a player in Colorado hockey anymore, but I still get up for games against the Sun Devils.)
What was terrific about this period was that it kept going. Bevan and company all graduated after the 2004 season, but a new generation of Huskies filled into their place. Chow — finally a senior and the undisputed GOAT of Huskies hockey with 220 points in 82 high school games during his career; the freshman could play — led the likes of Alex Biegler, Brad Myers (The Greaser), Casey Kleisinger, Derek Byron, Jonny Stevens and Connor Tedstrom back to an undefeated run to the finals where they lost to Air Academy. D’oh. (I hate the Kadets, too.)
Austin wasn’t the only Chow on that team because his brother, Barrett, was a frosh back in 2005 and he and the gang (sans Austin) kept it going with Frozen Four appearances in 2006 and 2008.
Those days of yore are why everyone affiliated with Battle Mountain hockey is out of their mind with happiness that CHSAA has created a 4A classification. The Bevans, the Chases and the other royal families of Eagle County hockey want their title.
Will the 2021 Huskies and future editions be like the Battle Mountain of old? No. That’s not possible because everything becomes better with memory and we forget the coaching carousel of those years (Bielski, Jade Kersey and Andy Hire were the team’s three head coaches in its first four years — yeesh), the political infighting behind the scenes and the general soap-opera nature of the time.
Will the Huskies win the state title? Not necessarily. The 16 other teams in Class 4A are thinking the same thing — we can win now that Cherry Creek and others are 5A.
But now the Huskies have a chance to compete and create some legends of their own. And that’s all those of us who are 35, or quite possibly a whole lot older, can ask.