Breck’s Summit Hockey Classic turns 20 this weekend with $5 celebrity NHL games | SummitDaily.com

Breck’s Summit Hockey Classic turns 20 this weekend with $5 celebrity NHL games

Rick Boh's ties to the Summit Hockey Classic run deep.

As Boh explains, he first got involved with the annual fundraiser 20 years ago when The Summit Foundation launched it as an ingenious little event. Breckenridge had a piddly little two-sheet rink at the time — nothing like the gorgeous indoor-outdoor Stephen C. West Ice Arena — but the Foundation was convinced it could attract former pros like Boh to town for a weekend of hockey with local coaches, NCAA players, youth hockey alums and the like.

"When they built that, they were very skeptical if they could make that outdoor sheet of artificial ice work," Boh remembered of the first Classic in 1998. "They had a trailer for dressing rooms, and at the time it was perceived as a gamble. But it was an incredible success."

And then some. If Boh remembers right, that first Classic was such an incredible success that the town green-lighted construction on the current ice arena. He was (and still is) good friends with Ron Byrne, former director of hockey in Breckenridge and head coach for Colorado College when Boh played there from 1983-87, and Boh says his old coach was instrumental in bringing the Classic and new rink to Breck.

"It is really just a unique story at that rink," said Boh, a Canadian native who now lives in Denver and hasn't missed a Classic in two decades. "It started as a little outdoor rink with two sheets of ice, and for me, I see such a community there… Even in my travels I haven't seen such a project that was supported by so much of the community. They have youth, women's, men's hockey there — the hockey community runs deep."

This weekend, the Classic celebrates its 20th anniversary as a local fundraiser with four games featuring Boh and friends. The event has switched hands over the years and now supports Summit Youth Hockey, a club that's home to hundreds of locals with dreams of maybe one day reaching the majors, just like Boh and other past invitees: 19-year NHL veteran Pierre Turgeon, retired Avs winger Milan Hejduk, fellow Avs players Ken Klee, Rick Berry and Dan Hinote, who played on the 2001 Stanley Cup-winning team.

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"I'm the old guy out there these days," laughed Boh, who describes his stint with the Minnesota Northstars as "a cup of coffee" after graduating from CC. "I'm the fossil."

Four teams, one trophy

But what exactly is the Summit Hockey Classic? In 20 years, the format has changed very little: four teams and four games in two days, plus a couple distractions like a silent auction and the celebrity puck shootout thrown in for good measure. (Sorry, all — the ice gals aren't back this season.)

The weekend kicks off tonight with two prelim games. At 6 p.m. the Peak One Surgery Center team faces off against the Vail Summit Orthopedics team. At 8 p.m., Copper Mountain Resort takes on Beaver Run Resort. The four team sponsors have been around since the beginning — well, Peak One Surgery Center wasn't, but the team captains were — and each team includes a mix of Summit Hockey coaches, alums and invited celebrity pros.

"The players who play in this love playing for us," said Kathy Grotemeyer, event coordinator for the Classic. "We bring up 12 celebrity skaters and they just love being asked to play in this. And, there are a lot of hockey fans in Summit County (who) love supporting the event."

Tickets for both days of play at the Classic are $5 per night and available at the door. All proceeds go to Summit Youth Hockey — somewhere to the tune of $36,000 in 2016.

"The folks I have met on the youth hockey board, volunteers like Kathy Grotemeyer — I'm in awe about how much passion they put into this event," Boh said. "At the end of the day they're doing it for the right reason."

The weekend wraps up tomorrow with the consolation game, championship game and celebrity shootout. The consolation game starts at 5 p.m. with losers from the first round, followed at 7 p.m. by the shootout. The championship game begins at 7:30 p.m.

For Boh and other invited pros, the weekend is more than hockey. It's also a time to bring the family on a mini-vacation to Breckenridge, where the kids can ski during the day and watch day play hockey at night. He looks forward to it every season, he says, and he'll keep playing until … well, until they just don't want him anymore.

"Every day they let me play I'm humbled and grateful," Boh said. "I'm in my early-50s and glad I can still play, but I'm just waiting for the day they say, 'Rick, how about you be the honorable coach?'"

2017 Summit Hockey Classic

What: The 20th anniversary of an annual celebrity hockey fundraiser, with four teams comprised of invited pros, Summit Youth Hockey coaches and local hockey alumni

When: Friday and Saturday, April 7-8

Where: Stephen C. West Ice Arena, 189 Boreas Pass Road in Breckenridge

Cost: $5

Tickets are $5 per night and available at the door. All proceeds go to Summit Youth Hockey. Paired with the four games is a silent auction on both nights with items from local restaurants, retailers and more. VIP tickets are also available by contacting Summit Youth Hockey at SummitHockey.org.