Steamboat Wrangles a New Team
By Dan Greeson
Steamboat Wranglers head coach Misko Antisin and assistant coach Corey Allen are taking youth hockey in Steamboat Springs to a new level by training the first ever resident junior team. Photo by Noah Wetzel.
By Sophie Dingle
Amid the skiers and snowboarders who set their sights on training in Steamboat Springs, there’s another group of athletes in town this winter. You can find them at Howelsen Ice Arena; they’re the Steamboat Wranglers, the new junior elite hockey team that is taking Steamboat by storm.
It started when Corey Allen, formerly Steamboat’s director of youth hockey, had an idea to bring a junior team to town. “Hockey is growing in Steamboat,” Allen says, “and I’ve seen what an elite junior team can do for a community. It can be extremely advantageous for both the youth program and the town in general.”
Junior level is a stepping-stone between high school and college hockey. The Steamboat Wranglers are a part of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League, which is made up of seven Colorado teams. The players are young men aged 16 to 20; they attend the local high school or take classes at Colorado Mountain College and all of them live with families who have volunteered to host players for the season.
“It’s been great to see Steamboat get behind this,” says Allen, who serves these days as assistant coach, marketing manager and partner in the team. “We live in a community that is passionate about athletics, and the players are expected to be mentors to Steamboat’s youth players.”
Steamboat Springs middle-schooler Jake Filler is among those who are thrilled to have the Wranglers in town.
“I think it will be lots of fun!” Jake says enthusiastically. “My whole family is excited.” The Filler family has been involved with the Wranglers from the start. Jake will serve as stick boy for the team, and his mother, Kim, came up with the Steamboat Wranglers’ name.
“There was a competition and I was trying to think of a name that would represent Steamboat,” Kim says. “I settled on the Wranglers because it gets back to Steamboat’s roots with ranchers – and it’s fitting since the rink is right next to the rodeo grounds.”
Throughout the summer, Allen and head coach Misko Antisin began to build the team. Players hail from as far away as Tennessee, California and Alaska and as near as Steamboat.
Steamboat Springs High School senior Jack McNamara is the Steamboat Wranglers’ signature local player.
“For me, this team is the next step towards playing in college,” McNamara says. “Almost all college players play juniors beforehand. Not having to leave home to do that is such a big benefit. It’s a dream come true to have the opportunity to play here and represent my hometown.”
While McNamara may be the only local player this season, the goal is to grow that number in the future.
“Long-term, I’d like to be able to offer the opportunity for local boys to continue on in their careers without having to leave town and play for another team,” Allen says. “It’s beneficial for everyone – the community, our local players, our youth players. The great thing about Steamboat is that it’s a town with resources. If you have a vision, it can be supported.”
Kim Filler dropped the first puck of the season on Friday, Sept. 30, at a home game against the Pikes Peak Miners. It was the first of 21 games to be played at Howelsen Ice Arena before the season ends in late February or March, depending on playoffs.
If history is anything to go by, the new kids on the block can be sure the Steamboat crowds will be there to cheer – it’s what we do best.
Click the following link to view the Steamboat Wranglers' full season schedule: