Members of the Cherry Creek High School hockey team are sharing their love of the sport with youngsters who are new to the game. For six Saturdays in August and September, you’ll find 46 varsity and junior varsity athletes on the ice at Family Sports Center, teaching basic skills to 62 kids between the ages of 4 and 8 years old.
“It’s fun working with them,” said defenseman Adam Frances. “Just seeing them laughing and having fun, then seeing them around the rink afterward and saying ‘Hey, how are you?’”
“It’s the feeling of happiness that you get knowing you’re helping train the next generation of athletes in Colorado for the sport that you love so much and put so much time into,” said defenseman Joe Caputo.
It’s all part of the Mile High Mites Learn to Play Program, sponsored by the Colorado Avalanche and the National Hockey League. For a fee of $160, the youngsters get a full set of hockey gear, including skates, pads, jersey and even a bag in which to carry all that equipment. They also get six weeks of lessons with local coaches and high school players.
“The excitement of getting on the ice for the first time to learn the game is something all players remember,” said Jeff Mielnicki, CCHS head coach. “For our student athletes to be part of a child's introduction to the game, that’s something they’ll never forget. They gain valuable experience teaching and learning at the same time.”
High school hockey in the Cherry Creek School District was reestablished in 2012 after a 24-year hiatus. The CCHS team is a combined team. Members come from all six traditional high schools in the Cherry Creek School District: Cherokee Trail, Cherry Creek, Eaglecrest, Grandview, Overland and Smoky Hill. They train and play together as the CCHS team, competing in a USA Hockey league in the fall and the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) season from mid-November through early March. In the past five years, the team has made three Frozen Four appearances and won one Colorado State Championship. But along with competing at the highest levels, the team is also focused on making a difference in the sport and in the community.
“I want our high school student athletes to give back to our wonderful game by working with the young players,” said head coach Jeff Mielnicki. “It has been an outstanding success as parents, players and the community see our students teaching and also learning the gift of giving time to help others.”