There's a lot of hockey
in this report, so instead of writing it in strict chronological
order, I've put the trip stuff first, and the hockey stuff last.
This is for the benefit of those of you who don't care about hockey
(you know who you are, and shame on you).
At the start of the
Monsters hockey season, the Midget team coach announced that they would be going
to a tournament in Colorado Springs over the President's Day
weekend. Thus, for the fourth time in 13 months, I found myself on a
plane, this time with daughter Teri and grandson Mikie. Our route
there required stops in Las Vegas and Denver, but none were very
long, and our departure and arrival times were at a civilized hour.
We left home on Thursday,
February 13, 2014, for a 3:25 p.m. flight, and arrived in Colorado Springs a
little after 10 p.m. We picked up our rental car, a very nice Nissan
Altima with keyless ignition, and arrived at the Doubletree
Hilton after a short drive.
We had eaten breakfast
that morning, but not much in between, so we were ready for dinner,
despite the late hour. There was Denny's visible from the hotel, and
we quickly determined that it would be easier to walk than to drive,
our route taking us over a wood rail fence, and across a divided
4-lane street that had a fair amount of fast traffic, but plenty of
long breaks that allowed us to cross safely. Temperatures in the 40s
made it an exhilarating but not uncomfortable walk.
With the first
game the next day not scheduled till 1:30, we were able to sleep
late and still have plenty of time before we had to leave for the
rink. I try to maintain my
morning exercise walk program when traveling, so I went out before
breakfast, to be greeted by a very strong wind and a temperature
around 35 degrees. Next to where we were parked, at
the back of the hotel, there was a wooden rail fence, with a path
running along a drainage ditch, a perfect place for walking. Past
the parking lot, on the side opposite from the ditch, was a large pond
that stretched toward other nearby hotels. It was about half iced
over, and half open water, and occupied by many ducks and geese.
With the wind and cold, I
only walked a hundred yards or so before turning back. I got into
the warm hotel just in time to join Teri for our complimentary
The players have to be at
the rink an hour before game time, and we had a 30 minute drive, so
we lazed around the hotel until time to go, leaving about 11:45. The
first game was in the hockey
arena at the US Air Force Academy
, a very nice
facility. With quite a bit of time before the game, Teri and I went
out to walk, and after a short distance on a sidewalk, found a nice,
well-worn path along the road that was much more comfortable for
went quite a ways, cutting through an area covered with short, dry
grass and pine trees, and got back to the rink in plenty of time for
After a game, the players
are ready for a big meal, so we went back toward our hotel and went
to a Chili's a short distance away.
We had another game at
9:15 p.m., this one about 15 miles away, so we had a pretty good
amount of time to rest and read, while the boys hung out in groups
watching TV or playing video games. After the evening game, Teri and
I didn't want a meal, but of course, Mikie had to be fed, so we went
to a Carl's Jr. where he got a cheeseburger and we all got milkshakes.
Because it was after 11 p.m., we went to two other fast food places
first before we found one that was open.
The next day,
Saturday, our game was not until 6:30 p.m., so everyone found
something to do during the day. With much better
weather in the morning, I did a longer walk, going all the way to
another hotel, then back along a sidewalk that took me all the way
around the pond. It was fun to watch the ducks and Canada geese, who
walked around on the ice surface as if they had insulated feet.
We all had breakfast together, then went our
separate ways. Teri was doing homework for an on-line class she's
taking, so that kept her busy much of the time. Mikie and several
other boys went to a nearby Italian fast food place in the
afternoon, while I finished a turkey sandwich that I had saved from
Chili's. I also did a lot of reading, as well as keeping up with my
email on the iPad, and making notes for this report.
The game was at a
different rink, the training facility for Colorado College, about ten minutes
away on the campus. After the
game, we debated what to eat, and at Mikie's suggestion, decided to
try the Italian place, Fazoli's, which proved to be excellent. We
were joined by one other parent and three of the players, all of whom
ended up ordering the same thing they had eaten earlier in the day.
Here I'd like to mention
one of the unexpected benefits of being part of a travel sports
team. With the hour wait before games, the parents/grandparents/etc. get
to know each other a little. There
are quite a few parents in this group that are new or at least not
well known to me, mostly those whose kids just moved up to the
Midget level this year. There are also some we've known a long time,
none longer than the man who joined us at Fazoli's, David Foster. I worked with him at the Department
of Social Services long before I developed any interest in hockey.
Then his son and stepson both played hockey with my older grandson.
During those years his daughter had a son who David and his wife
have raised, and he and Mikie started attending games when they were
still being carried in. As they got older, they ran around and played together
in the halls at the rink, and eventually wound up on the same team
as they began playing organized games. So when we meet at a game,
David and I just shake our heads and say, "here we are still at
it after almost 20 years."
Just around the corner
from Fazoli's was temptation, also known as Baskin-Robins, so
we all went over there for dessert after dinner, then got back to
the hotel in time to do a little reading before bedtime.
On Sunday we again had
plenty of time before the 3:30 game. Mikie went to breakfast early,
then hung out with friends, while Teri went to church, so I had a
long walk, followed by a solo breakfast. On my walk I found that I
could go behind the next hotel and follow the dirt path a
considerable distance before having to walk on asphalt or concrete.
It took me within a few hundred yards of the World Arena where the
game would be played later, so I scouted the best route (the Apple
map program on my iPad gave a round-about four-mile route, while the
actual location was only one mile).
When we arrived at the
hotel we had been given a menu showing a special buffet each night
for tournament participants. We decided to take advantage of this
handy and reasonably priced meal, with Sunday's menu featuring hot
wings, a taco bar and salad. It turned out to be a team meal, with
all but a few of the parents and players joining together. As usual,
the kids sat together, with the adults at another table, but as we
were finishing our dinner, the team came over as a group. Teri
described it best in this Facebook post: "So we had a team dinner with adults at one table and players at another. When the players were done they came over to our table and thanked the parents for bringing them to this
tournament and for all our support. What an amazing group of young people. This is what is right with our
world." Then, remembering the
delights of succumbing to temptation the previous night, the boys
all headed for Baskin-Robbins.
Rink arrival time for the boys the
next morning was 6 a.m., so Teri and I walked across the street to a
Target to get some granola bars for Mikie to eat for
"breakfast." Some small cartons of ice cream accidentally
fell into our basket, so we were forced to return to the hotel and
get rid of them.
The next day was the
final game, at 7 a.m. at the World
Arena, where Colorado College
plays its home games. Our flight home was not until 5:20 p.m., so we
had a long period of free time. Following the game we went to
Denny's for breakfast, then back to the hotel to decide what to do.
I have long been aware of the Garden of the
Gods, an area of
sandstone rock formations north of Colorado Springs, and right next
to the town of Manitou Springs. My parents had been there and spoke
highly of it. Mikie and I stayed in Manitou Springs in 2004, but
didn't visit the Garden. It sounded interesting to
Teri, so we got checked out of the hotel and drove north a ways on
I-25, then into the park.
The property was in
private ownership, but was donated as a public park a number of
years ago, with the provision that it always remain free to the
public. Our GPS directions took us to a parking area on a rise where we could
look across at one of the larger formations, after which we drove
down the hill and turned back on a road that goes to the visitor
center (closed on this day), and into the park. We reached a large
parking area where you can walk through the rocks on paved trails,
and set out on what proved to be about an hour walk.
The quarter-billion year
old formations that rise above the surface here are mostly
fine-grained sandstone and older pebbly or conglomerate rock, also
predominately red sandstone. For some nice photos, go to the Garden
of the Gods website
and click on "Scenic." The background view of Pike's Peak
on the home page is very similar to what we saw, but without clouds.
The trails through the
park wind around the formations, and you can take shorter or longer
walks as desired. Rock climbing with permit and proper equipment is
permitted, and we saw at least a half dozen people making their way
up the steep rocks. We had no desire to emulate them.
After finishing our walk,
we drove a short distance past other formations to Balanced
Rock, which is a large boulder just off the road that leads from
the park to the nearby town of Manitou
Springs. We stopped here for
some photos and to get a good look, then drove out of the park. With
plenty of time before we needed to get to the airport, we decided to
go to the Pike's Peak Cog
Railroad depot. Mikie and I had ridden to the top of the peak in
2004, but with the winter snows we had no desire to do that;
however, I thought there was probably a museum.
It turned out that there
was no parking close enough for us to walk, so we turned back and
drove into downtown Manitou
Springs, founded in 1872 as a scenic health resort. Today it is
a quaint, old-looking town with plenty of places to get rid of money.
We walked around a little, spending time in several shops, and
buying a few items (my usual souvenir
magnet; a sweatshirt for
Mikie, and a book that Teri got for her 14-month old grandson).
By this time Mikie was
hungry again, and all of us realized we could stand to eat, so we
went into Ruffrano's
Hell's Kitchen Pizza. Featuring New York style pizza, this
proved to be an excellent choice, and all of us enjoyed our lunch.
Once we had finished
eating, it was time to get on the road, so we returned to the car
and drove southeast on US 24 to I-25, and from there to the airport. We
still had close to an hour of waiting, but it passed quickly. Our
homeward flight stopped in Denver with just enough time to walk to
our departure gate, and we arrived back in Fresno a little after 8
p.m. on Monday, February 17. One of the best parts of this journey:
Unlike our last three flights, we did not have to go through the LA
Airport, where the minimum layover time seems to be 90 minutes.
Throughout our trip we
had good to excellent weather. It was partly cloudy the first three
days, but sunny all the last day. The wind was only really bad that
first morning, and the hotel web site's
promised views of Pike's Peak and the Cheyenne
Mountain area proved to
be accurate. There were piles of snow from plowing in various
places, patches on the lower hills, and a nice white cover on Pike's
Peak. The highs the first two days were in the 40s and 50s, rising
to the 60s the last two days, with lows just above freezing.
Although this was the
fourth time that Mikie and I have been "on the ground" in
Colorado, it was Teri's first time stepping outside an air terminal.
She enjoyed the weather, the mountains, the walks and the clean air.
I see more Colorado visits in her future.
Observing that Colorado
Springs seemed to be fairly big, we looked up the population on the
Internet, discovering that it is the nation's 41st largest city, with
a population of 460,000. The metro area has about 650,000.
while back someone asked me how many states I had been in. My guess
was "about 20," but it turns out the actual number is 36. States where I only stopped for food, gas, rest or to change planes
are indicated with an asterisk; I’ve spent at least one night in
all the others.
(Not to mention
British Columbia, Alberta
and Baja California del Norte in Mexico.) (My
parents and I traveled from California to Ohio and back when I was
18 months old. I don't remember anything about that trip, but it's
very unlikely we hit any state not on my list.)
the Fresno Junior Monsters Midget A team season began, Coach
said, “we will be going to just one tournament this season.” As
time went on various parents would say, oh let’s go to this
tournament Thanksgiving weekend, or here’s a great tournament we
could go to. Chuck simply said, “We will be going to just one
tournament this season."
This was probably a good thing, since the tournament chosen was the
Presidents Day tournament sponsored by the Colorado
Springs Amateur Hockey Association,
requiring significant expenditure of money, time, and logistical
planning. When the time arrived, parents and team headed for
with low expectations. The team had lost the last four league games,
scoring just four goals and giving up 13. Tournament competition
tends to be a step above that of the home league, and we were
wondering if we could even win one game.
tournament was a major event, with 11 divisions, 95 teams,
and over 220 games, spread over four different venues with six ice
sheets, and games running from as early as 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. To make
things more complicated, we were notified at the last minute (while
waiting for our plane) that the schedule had been extensively
revised due to a team pulling out. I don't know if they had entries
in more than one division, but I imagine the tournament officials
muttered a few non-hockey words as they struggled to revamp the
schedule the day before the start of the event.
lucky enough to have reasonable times for most games, starting off
on Friday at 1:30 p.m. The location was the US Air Force Academy
arena, where the players got to see their team names displayed
on the jumbotron. Our first opponent was the Oklahoma City Oil
Kings. The teams battled through the first period with no scoring,
then the Oil Kings put in two goals early in the second. Finally half way
through the final period Mikie Liddle scored to make it a one goal
game. The team seemed to play with increased intensity after that,
but were unable to score again, and the game ended with a 2-1 loss for the Monsters. (Game
sheet vs Oil Kings; shots on goal Oilers 26, Monsters 27.)
The second game was 9:15
that evening at the Colorado College practice facility, against the
Jr. Eagles from Fort Collins Colorado. The Monsters opened the
scoring in the first with a goal by Jacob Buck, but the Eagles tied
it 24 seconds later, then took a lead 10 minutes into the second.
Fresno's Zayne Jones tied it early in the 3rd, and Liddle scored the
game winner with
just under two minutes left. With the Eagles goalie out for an extra
skater, Buck flipped the puck into the empty net from his own blue
line with 20 seconds left to seal a 4-2 victory for the Monsters. (Game
sheet vs. Eagles; shots on goal Eagles 24, Monsters 22; on the
score sheet the goal at 12:01 in the 3rd is erroneously credited to
#13 who was not on the ice; it was scored by #19.)
The team had most of the
next day to rest up and prepare for the 6:30 game at still a
different rink, facing the Littleton Colorado Hawks. Fresno's
"Doc" Dwyer was taken down on a breakaway, giving the
Monsters a penalty shot, which he converted to take a 1-0 lead late
in the first period. The Hawks then scored early in the second, and
took the lead with another goal less than a minute later. Late in
the period they increased their lead to two. At 2:34 into the 3rd,
Jones brought the Monsters back within one, but the Hawks answered
just over a minute later. Half way through the period Ryan Foster
brought the Monsters back within a goal, but despite a good effort,
they were unable to find the net again, and ended with a 4-3 loss. (Game
score sheet vs Hawks; Shots on goal Hawks 42, Monsters 14.)
The Sunday afternoon game
at 3:30 against the Denver Jr. Pioneers was a must win if the
Monsters hoped to get to the finals. The location was the main rink
at the World
Arena, a very nice 8,000 seat facility and home of the Colorado
College Tigers. A second building, known as the Ice House,
serves as an Olympic training facility. While waiting, Teri and I
watched a few minutes of sled
hockey. Also known as sledge hockey, this development brings the
sport to players with disabilities that would prevent normal
The teams were closely
matched, and played scoreless hockey for the first period and most
of the second. Mikie Liddle came off the bench as Foster cleared the
puck to the wall; Liddle scooped it up and scored from the faceoff
dot with less than two seconds left in the period. The Monsters
fiercely and successfully defended their one goal lead through the
third period, to take the 1-0 win and a chance at the finals. It was
also goalie Austin Hathcoat's first shutout of the season. (Game
sheet vs. Pioneers; shots on goal Pioneers 24, Monsters 19.)
The win left the Monsters
tied with three other teams, with only two playoff spots available.
The rather complex tiebreaker rules put the Pioneers in 3rd and the
Monsters in 4th, meaning they would play in the consolation game for
third place in the tournament - the Bronze Medal game.
An early game time meant
a very early wake-up, with the puck drop scheduled for 7 a.m. With a
shutout over their opponent the night before, the feeling was that
if they could prevent any goals for the first period, the Pioneers
would begin to wonder if they could ever score on Hathcoat. The boys
from Fresno came out strong, and things got off to a good start when
Zayne Jones scored his third goal of the tournament. The Monsters
held their slim 1-0 lead for eleven minutes in the second period,
then went ahead 2-0 on Brennan Achee's tally. Just 1:30 later Dwyer
picked up his second of the weekend to take a 3-0 lead into the
final 14-minute period. Despite being out shot 37-11, the Monsters
held their lead and Hathcoat continued his strong play to notch his
second shutout and give the team the Bronze Medal. (Game
sheet consolation game; shots on goal Pioneers 37, Monsters 11.)
The Monsters' Saturday
opponent, the Hawks, played for first against the Jr. Knights from
Orlando FL, winning gold in overtime.
--Dick Estel, February