Steamboat Springs is the latest ski town to host a junior hockey team. It is the third-year for the Steamboat Wranglers in the town known more for its skiers and Olympic athletes. The list stands at 88 Olympians who have called Steamboat home, which is more than any other town in North America.
But hockey is also a big part of the Steamboat Springs community. The Wranglers play at Howelsen Ice Complex, which is an Olympic sheet of ice, also home to Steamboat Stampede Youth Hockey Association with over 200 members, Steamboat Sailors High School Hockey Team, and the Steamboat Springs Figure Skating Club. This Olympic-sized arena also hosts a variety of adult and youth hockey and skating programs, as well as hockey and figure skating camps, and bumper cars on ice.
Many skaters (boys and girls), that consider Steamboat home, have gone on to play college hockey. In fact, Wranglers Head Coach Ryan Dingle played his youth hockey on the ice at Howelsen. He went on to win an NCAA Championship with the University of Denver in 2005. He then played 11 years professionally, seven in Europe, before returning home to Steamboat full-time with his family this summer. Many other former hockey players who have played hockey around the country and the world, at various levels, call Steamboat home.
The rink where the Wranglers play sits just blocks from downtown Steamboat Springs, with the slopes of Steamboat Ski Resort in the background. Closer to the rink are the slopes of Howelsen Hill, which is where all of the kids in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club train after school. It is the longest continuously operated ski area in all of North America, with trails and a chairlift and Poma, moguls, and a half-pipe, along with Nordic ski jumps of all sizes. Howelsen Hill was built in 1914. This winter during Winter Carnival, the largest firework in the world will go off, with representatives from Guinness Book of World Records from London on hand to verify its authenticity. That will happen when it gets dark on Saturday, Feb. 9, after the Wranglers play the Casper Coyotes (at 4 p.m.).
Also next to the rink is Brent Romick Arena, which hosts the Steamboat Pro Rodeo series, and other events such as the Rocky Mountain Bull Bash, and Nordic Combined World Cups and NCAA National Championships. Bulls, calves, sheep, and horses are frequently in the parking lot next to Howelsen Ice Arena, when it is rodeo night.
Routt County and the Yampa Valley have a strong ranching history, to go along with the skiing and hockey presence. The area was the summer hunting grounds of the Ute Indians for hundreds of years. The Yampatika Ute and Arapaho tribes used to visit the area for the “medicine” springs, considered sacred places of physical and spiritual healing. Those springs are still here, and the Wranglers are all guests and members of the local hot springs recreational facility. One spring made a chugging sound and the French trappers thought it sounded like a Steamboat’s steam engine. The town was named.
In 1874, James Crawford came into the Yampa Valley to settle, and Steamboat was incorporated in 1900 with James Crawford as the first mayor. The railroad came through in 1909, which sparked a boom for the commercial industry in Steamboat Springs. Ranching was the primary industry of the valley and the cattle ranchers turned the new railroad depot into one of the largest cattle shipping centers of the West. Sadly, the construction of the railroad silenced the Steamboat Spring’s chugging noise forever. More information can be found at the local museum at www.TreatofPioneers.org.
The Steamboat Wranglers are the newest team to join the Western States Hockey League. The WSHL is an Amateur Athletic Union, Tier II Junior “A” hockey league that has been in continuous existence since 1994. The WSHL is the second largest junior hockey league in North America, with 30 teams in 14 states. The Wranglers are part of the Mountain Division of the WSHL.
If you’re interested in playing for the Wranglers and living in this amazing community, contact Head Coach Ryan Dingle at email@example.com or call 970-846-2672.
The first game for the Wranglers is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at Howelsen Ice Complex in Steamboat Springs. Find out more about the Wranglers at www.SteamboatWranglers.com.