Athletes of the Week: CMU Hockey
The Mavericks hockey team was forced to disband after Grand Junction’s only ice rink closed last year.
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - When Glacier Ice Arena shut down in early 2020, the Western Slope lost its only rink. That meant no more youth hockey, no more ice skating, and potentially no future for the sport in our community.
“It broke my heart to think about these little kids who were on a team, had all these friends and these coaches, and they were just learning to love a sport,” says Gage Sealey, a member of the CMU hockey team from his freshman through junior year. Sealey’s college career was cut short when the arena closed just before his senior season.
One person almost singlehandedly brought hockey back to Grand Junction. Back in February, an anonymous donor donated $1 million from his own pocket, hoping the city would match it and purchase the arena for an asking price of $2 million.
The rebranded River City Sportplex opened under new ownership on October 8th, 2021. Now the community has their ice rink back, along with their favorite hockey team.
“I didn’t really see the rink coming back.” reflects Blake Cloutier, the Mavericks team captain. “For us to be able to play hockey again, when we heard we’d be able to have a team, it was a lot of emotions.”
The Mavs are off to a slow start so far, losing six games in a row to start the season, but they’re also at a huge disadvantage having not played in two years.
“Hockey’s a fast sport, and there’s a lot of chemistry that goes into that,” Cloutier explains. “Knowing where your teammates are on the ice, and having that trust in knowing where your teammates are going to be, it takes some time to build that with each other. We’ve had six games so far, and I can see everyone starting to come together, starting to gel more and get some good chemistry together.”
Their first home games were this weekend, against the undefeated New Mexico Lobos. Both games did end in a loss, but the Mavericks scored two goals on homecoming night in front of a huge, roaring crowd.
“It gives me goose bumps just thinking about how amazing this is for the community,” Sealey told us during the game, which drew a capacity crowd of around 500 people. “I’m glad the team’s back, and now the community has a rink again. There’s youth hockey back here, and the sport can just continue growing on the Western Slope.”
CMU hits the road each of the next two weekends, before returning to play Air Force at home on November 12th and 13th.
Their annual “Pink the Rink” Game will be held the following week, on Thursday, November 18th. All proceeds go towards the St. Mary’s Cancer Survivorship Program.
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