Ice hockey returns to Cherry Creek School District, open to all Aurora players

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Currently only one city team — Regis Jesuit — competes at the varsity level in prep ice hockey, but skaters from all around Aurora will finally have their own option in the winter.

The Regis Jesuit team is comprised solely of athletes who attend the school, but the new team based at Cherry Creek High School — which was approved unanimously by the Colorado High School Activities Association at its last board of control meeting — will be open to any players in the Cherry Creek School District and all others from around Aurora given that no other city varsity programs exist.

The new Cherry Creek team will hold tryouts on Nov. 9, along with the previously existing teams around the state, with a 19-game schedule to begin on Nov. 28. CCSD Director of Activities and Athletics Larry Bull said the team will be participant-paid, so it won’t require any resources from the district budget, which is crucial in a tight economic environment.

“There’s a lot of excitement around it and one of those that I think the biggest thing is that we are adding the sport, but it’s not costing the district,” said Bull, who indicated that a coaching hire would happen soon. “It’s a participant-funded sport, similar to what other districts have done. That’s an important piece of this.”

Many hockey players in Aurora stick to club teams, but those who wanted to play at the varsity level have had to go to other places like Heritage, which had two Cherokee Trail students on the roster last season.

Now, they’ll have an option with the Cherry Creek team, which will be placed in the Peak Conference and is likely to play its home games at the Family Sports Center in Centennial — the same ice reigning state champion Regis Jesuit plays on — with practice taking place there and at other local rinks. Games are expected to be played on Saturday nights.

A return to the ice ends a more than two-decade drought for the district, which had its heyday between 1977 and 1988 when Cherry Creek won six state championships. A scarcity of ice time and concerning fan behavior were among the reasons ice hockey was dropped by the district in the late 1980s according to Bull.

Many local players will be familiar with each other, as they compete in the independent High Plains Hockey League that includes teams from Cherokee Trail, Cherry Creek and Grandview among others.

Bull believes the new team could spark renewed interest among athletes in the area and could lead to great expansion in the future.

“This is a community sport and it has numbers that can support it, so we’ll definitely look into adding another team and/or teams in the future if we need to,” he said. “Ice time could be a challenge, but it’s a sport that’s growing very quickly and we’ll try to keep up with it.”

One of the most accomplished hockey players ever from Colorado, goaltender John Grahame, came out of the Cherry Creek School District. Grahame graduated from Overland and went on to a lengthy career in the NHL.