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Avalanche alumni, youth groups come together

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Game benefits scholarship programs for Foothills, Colorado Select

By Michael Hicks

When Ken Klee retired from the National Hockey League after the 2008-09 season, there was talk of forming a Colorado Avalanche Alumni Association, but it never really came to fruition. Still, hockey remained part of the 42-year-old’s life as a coach with the Foothills Hockey Association.
Fast-forward five years, and not only is the alumni association a reality, former Avs players are turning it into an outlet to support the community, as evidenced by the inaugural Colorado Avalanche alumni game against coaches from the FHA and Colorado Select Girls Hockey Association on Jan. 24 at The Edge Ice Arena.
The game, the brainchild of Klee and former teammate Pierre Turgeon, now a coach with Colorado Select, was a way to not only support both associations but to bring former Avs players back together on the ice.
“Obviously, we know this is super important for us. There were people that helped us along the way,” said Klee, who played for the Avalanche during the 2006-07 season. “Now we’re both at this rink four or five times a week. This is a great opportunity to do it.”
Turgeon agreed.
“This is a win-win thing. We can get back together but at the same time give a show to the fans and hopefully help the organizations moving forward,” said Turgeon, who played two seasons with the Avs before retiring after the 2006-07 season. “We’re giving back to youth hockey. That’s great and a lot of fun.”

GIVING BACK TO THE KIDS
Turgeon and Klee are already giving back as youth coaches, and they see the benefits of their expertise every time the kids enjoy coming to practice. But rest assured: This first alumni game was a hoot for them as well, especially seeing former teammates they hadn’t been around in some time.
“It’s awesome just walking in and having so much joy in (the locker room),” Turgeon said. “There are some guys that you don’t see too often. Starting the alumni gives us more of a chance to do so, but at the same time we can take advantage by giving back to the community.”
Approximately 800 tickets were sold in advance and another 200 walked up the day of the game for a sellout.
Officials were limited to selling 1,000 tickets due to fire code regulations, but the small crowd was plenty vocal upon seeing Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Scott Parker and other pros lace up the skates one more time.

BENEFITTING PROGRAMS
All of the proceeds from ticket sales, jersey drawings and DVD sales of the event were to be split evenly between the Foothills Hockey Association and the Colorado Select Girls Hockey Association for their respective scholarship funds, Foothills Youth Hockey president Charlie Marchese said.
“We had 20 people on scholarship this year,” said Scott Smith, director of hockey operations for Foothills Youth Hockey. “That’s 20 players who got to play hockey who wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”
The last time Smith played competitively was 12 years ago for the minor league Utah Grizzlies. But he wouldn’t have missed this opportunity for anything, even if the 34-year-old walked off the ice feeling much, much older.
“I’ve got game jitters that I haven’t felt in a long time,” Smith said. “It’s different now. Now it’s like, am I going to pull a muscle or be able to get up and down the ice? How many shifts before I have a heart attack? It’s a lot different game jitters.”
And the game wasn’t just for the guys. There were four female players, representing the Colorado Select Girls Hockey Association.One of those was director of hockey Marnie Hill, who noted that it wasn’t just a unique opportunity for them, but also a chance to raise awareness for the program.
“Very few people outside of the hockey community know that girls actually play hockey,” Hill said. “With the exposure, media coverage, video coverage and the amount of people they’re expecting, this is a tremendous boost for us.”
“I think this is the beginning of what can be, for the lack of a better word, a wonderful marriage between the two,” said former NHL player and current Avalanche color commentator Peter McNab.

Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.