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Home arrow News arrow Crested Butte-Gunnison puck merger likely before next year
Crested Butte-Gunnison puck merger likely before next year Print
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014
So long Wolfpack and Blades. Hello __?

It appears that a merger of the Crested Butte and Gunnison hockey programs will move forward before next winter. The Crested Butte Hockey Advisory Committee held a public meeting Wednesday evening, May 7 and about 35 interested parents showed up to debate the pros and cons of the issue. In the end, the vast majority of people at the meeting voted to go ahead with the merger.


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Jake Jones, Crested Butte Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails director, ran the meeting and explained that the local advisory committee had spent many hours debating the move and working through the details with the Gunnison Valley Hockey Association. In the end, both hockey boards voted to merge. The Gunnison general membership voted to support the merger in April.
“We are at a pretty critical juncture,” Jones explained. “Last year a similar proposal focused on the Bantams and Midgets came forward but didn’t happen. This year we addressed a lot of the main problem issues and all the programs are included in the move.”
Under the merger proposal, a new board would be formed consisting of seven people. Three members from the Crested Butte area, three members from the Gunnison area and one at-large member would be voted in. The new organization would have a new “brand” so familiar team names like the Blades and Wolfpack would be retired.
The ice rinks at both ends of the valley would be used for practices and games. The intent would be to use each of the rinks as evenly as possible and both the Crested Butte and Gunnison facilities would be utilized as home rinks for games. Mini mites and mites would not have to travel to the opposite end of the valley for practice or games.
“Having something new is very important,” emphasized Jones. “Crested Butte isn’t joining the Gunnison group. It’s been a positive and collaborative effort working with Gunnison to get to this stage. The ultimate goal is that we want to create a robust hockey program that attracts and maintains players.”
Advisory committee member Randy Barrett explained the quickly changing state situation with high school hockey programs and leagues that are putting the Midget program in flux. Ultimately the Midget program might have to come under the auspices of the school district and the statewide high school league.
Jones said the merger could help players find a skill comfort level in the younger programs. Fees for Gunnison players would likely go up from last year, while fees for Crested Butte players could possibly be reduced. Gunnison has $30,000 in the club bank account it will bring to the new table and Crested Butte has committed to raise and bring $15,000. Until that match is made, the Gunnison area gets to claim the at-large board member. A paid administrator is in the budget. The gritty details would still have to be worked out with the new board members but the overall template is meant to be equitable.
“You have to trust that the new board will be fair and put the best interests of the kids first,” advisory committee member Heather Reily told the parents at the meeting.
Jones said the hockey program in Crested Butte could not be under the umbrella of the town forever. “The future of hockey up here is not in the town Parks and Recreation Department,” he said. “Hockey takes probably the most resources but it’s not our biggest program.”
“The writing is on the wall,” agreed Reily. “The current situation with the town is unique. Ultimately it will fall under a club.”
“Being a town program keeps it in a pretty tight box,” added committee member Maggie Dethloff. “Being under a club scenario can open up the program.”
“As the parent of a girl hockey player that ended up merging with the Gunnison team, I can say that this works,” said Kris Seifert.
“One thing to consider is not lowering the Crested Butte fees,” said parent Dusty Perkins. “They are pretty reasonable and the extra money could perhaps go toward raising that needed $15,000.”
“I am worried that some families will back out and we will lose people because of the increase in travel,” said parent John Collins. “Having to travel to Gunnison a couple of times a week for practice can be prohibitive.”
“I have the same concern,” said parent Gesa Michel. “I’m afraid we’ll lose some of the developmental players because they have to travel.”
“I’m a huge fan of the merger idea,” countered parent and coach Matt Whiting. “There will be some growing pains but the pros definitely beat the cons. Pooling the resources from both ends of the valley can build a great program. The merger can get the local kids playing at their proper level.”
“I acknowledge that the program probably needs to move out of the town Parks and Rec Department,” said parent Bill Coburn, “but it seems like we have a program that isn’t broken. I’m trying to figure out what it is that needs to be fixed. Three of the four program levels in Crested Butte had great seasons. Driving to Gunnison a couple times a week is a big commitment in time, money and homework. And I’m afraid it will cause some kids to drop out. It seems we’re futzing with something that works today, so I’m sort of leery.”
“My daughter is playing on the Gunnison team and it’s been extremely successful,” said Todd Carroll. “The girls have built great relationships so I think this is a positive step forward. I don’t think we’ll lose that many kids.”
Wolfpack coach John Mortell has been an advocate of the merger. “Our rink is honestly open 10 weeks a winter. The Gunnison rink is open three months before we have ice so we are already doing that travel. In six months of hockey, four months is already in Gunnison.
“And as the parent of an 18-year-old who is graduating, let me say that travel time is priceless,” Mortell continued. “It’s great time spent with the kids. I’m missing it already. The kids all want this to happen. I took a mixed team to a tournament in Phoenix last spring and it was the best team to come out of the valley. The kids from both ends of the valley loved it.”
“The kids are definitely for it,” said Bantam hockey player Liam Reily.
“This can ultimately make the whole valley have a better hockey experience,” said advisory committee member Paul O’Connor. “It’s an opportunity to take it up a notch. It’s a no-brainer.”
Parent Reed Meredith expressed some concern with the apparent differing coaching philosophies at either end of the valley. Gunnison, he said, relied on a physical style, while Crested Butte tried to emphasize more skill play. “It’s part of the rivalry with Gunnison, but who ends up being the coaches?” he asked.
Jones said Crested Butte is in a “sweet spot” with coaches and Gunnison parents have expressed a desire to see some of that coaching expertise applied to the overall program. But ultimately, the new board would make the decision on coaches.
“There seems to still be a lot of grey areas and uncertainty,” said Meredith.
“I agree there is a leap of faith needed that in the long run this will be better for everyone,” replied Jones.
Ultimately, Jones called for a straw poll and while not everyone in the room voted, those who did were overwhelmingly in favor of moving ahead with the merger.
Jones said the next step is that the local advisory committee will convene to make sure there are no unresolved issues and then determine the process to nominate the three people who will represent Crested Butte on the new board.

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