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After 40 years, CSAHA continuing its culture with a development-first philosophy

 

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For the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association (CSAHA), change is definitely a positive, good thing.

Branded as the Pikes Peak Miners for many years, the program adopted the Tigers AAA Hockey moniker for the 2016-17 season after joining forces with CSAHA. The Miners had a long history as the Tier I affiliate of CSAHA and this season, the Tigers AAA 18U, 16U and 15U teams compete in the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL).

The Miners were one of the founding members of the NAPHL back in 2009 and have been members ever since.

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Overall, the Tigers program has numerous selling points and top-quality attractiveness.

“We believe in three things and this is something we talk to with our coaches on a weekly basis,” said CSAHA executive director Brian Copeland. “We want the kids treated fairly, developed and given opportunities. Those are the three biggest things for us. We’re not the type of association that’s going to roll one or two lines in a game just to pursue a victory. Our responsibility is to treat every player fairly to the best of our abilities. We have the facilities and the coaches, so we’re going to develop these kids the best we can. We give them exposure at the right levels. We’ve already got North American Hockey League teams bringing our kids in mid-season for practices.

“First and foremost, we do those three things, we see ourselves as a successful organization.”

The Tigers organization also offers adaptive hockey, house hockey and a 20U team (still called the Pikes Peak Miners) in the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League.

Copeland said the current season has been one he’s very satisfied with.

csaha “I’ve been very happy with the transition and the name change,” he said. “Change is sometimes difficult, but we’re happy with where we are and the consistency within the club, all having the same name, top to bottom, from our 8U all the way to our 18Us, they’re all known as Tigers. We’ve also seen a lot of new faces this year with our coaching change (Kevin Holmstrom coaching both the 16U and 18U AAA teams) and the players all know each other, all support each other. The same team rules are in place and from the start of this year, I told the coaches that the two things I wanted them to focus on were player development and character development. The competitiveness and the wins and losses will come behind that.”

Holmstrom, whose sons, Josh and Ben, played in the organization years back and are now both playing for the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the top affiliate for the NHL’s New York Islanders.

The elder Holmstrom returned to the Tigers this season after spending time coaching youth hockey with the Colorado Thunderbirds and Colorado Rampage. He was instrumental in the creation of the Thunderbirds.

“The program continues to grow with the number of options for players of all levels. including high-level training options,” said Holmstrom. “Between excellent coaching experience to the off-ice facilities, players really have an opportunity to develop and excel. Our staff and athletes are so dedicated that the culture continues to drive the program’s success.

“As a hockey family, I have dedicated years to the development of young athletes and development of the game in Colorado Springs and its associations. All of my coaching and business background and success of not only our two sons, but many other players, gives me a unique understanding of the work and dedication it takes young men to achieve their dreams and goals which I would like to be an integral part of in your organization and be responsible for not only the success of your business, but also in developing young men.

Holmstrom began the season as solely the 18U head coach, but took over the 16U team last month when Cody Campbell was hired as an assistant coach by the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

“We are extremely proud of Cody and are happy to have played a part in his development as a player and now as a coach,” said Copeland. “Cedar Rapids is fortunate to have a coach of outstanding ability and character join their organization for the second time.”

The oldest AAA association in the state, the Tigers began in 1976 as a junior team and then last decade, merged with CSAHA. Now with a constant philosophy in place and solid coaches at each level, Copeland wants to work on the intangibles.

“First and foremost, we want to establish a culture here,” Copeland said. “This transition into one name, one mission, one vision for us was a really good thing. We don’t take the stance that we want coaches here for five or even 10 years. We know we are a transition program for coaches as well and on that, we’re very happy that we were able to help get Cody a position in the USHL. My job as executive director is player development, coach development, staff development. We want the club to have a culture of development from top to bottom.”

Copeland added that the commitment level of the club’s volunteers, mirroring the philosophy that has everyone on the same page, “has been astounding.”

csaha2“Any time I reach out and look for people to help, there are times I have to turn people away,” he noted.

Alumni wise, CSAHA has seen the Holmstrom brothers come through, with Ben playing for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, along with former Northeastern University defenseman Colton Saucerman, Campbell, who also played NCAA D-I at Niagara University, and current University of Denver forward Colin Staub.

Copeland noted that the alumni list is impressive, but people should take note of the program’s 15U AAA team this season.

“Of the 19 kids on the roster, 15 are from Colorado Springs,” noted Copeland. “Those kids are playing and competing quite well in the NAPHL, so at this point of the season, we’re happy with the development coming behind that as well.”

Copeland has been part of CSAHA since 2007, assuming the Jr. Tiger hockey director’s responsibilities with the 2012-2013 season. With that, he was instrumental in the creation of CSAHA’s Skill Development Center, the association’s 8,000 square-foot off-ice training facility, and in early 2016, accepted the position of CSAHA’s executive director.

In his time with the organization, Copeland has been immersed in improving CSAHA on an almost daily basis. He said the program is “in a good place.”

“With my personality, I’m also a person who is never satisfied,” admitted Copeland. “I’m always looking at what we can do better. There’s a term out there ‘Kaizen’ (Chinese and Japanese word that means continuous improvement). As good as any part of our program is that we think we have, we’re always looking at what we can do to take that next step. Where do we go from here? Where do we lay down the next layer of the base? To get to the top of the pyramid, we’ve got to keep adding and building on top of that.

“I’m happy with where the program is at, top to bottom, but I’m always looking for improvement.”

Top photo: Members of the Colorado Springs Tigers 16U AAA and 18U AAA teams, pictured from left to right, are Hudson Cramer (18U assistant captain), Dalton Dosko (18U captain), Matt Moscati (18U assistant captain) and Karter Kovar (16U captain). Photo/Penni Figgins

— Matt Mackinder