Colorado Sports Center offers all under one roof
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Imagine this nightmare scenario: A youth hockey team arrives at the rink, only to be told the ice time it reserved is no longer available.
The operations manager relays a convoluted story about plumbing problems at another rink that forced teams to move to this one – or something like that – but the point is hockey is no longer going to happen.
Many players and coaches have endured that grueling experience, but something like that will never happen to the Colorado Rampage organization.
At least not at their home rink, the Colorado Sports Center (CSC) – a two-sheet facility in Monument – because hockey director and 18U coach Andrew Sherman owns it.
As an added bonus, all entities that use the 55,000-square-foot facility are affiliated and under the same umbrella, which helps foster the family-like atmosphere the Rampage is striving for with its hockey program and beyond.
“A lot of places, the figure skaters and the hockey players, I don’t want to say they’re at odds, but it’s not a relationship where they work together,” Sherman said. “It’s really a balance of ice time of who can get what and there’s no real communication, whereas we actually work together; we have a lot of cross-pollination.”
Unique to many facilities, the elite figure skating staff assists with the hockey program by teaching power and edge classes necessary for the overall development of hockey skills.
The true dedication of the staff members delivers results and continues to strengthen the program. All of the elite athletes who train under the roof of CSC understand the passion, drive and commitment it takes to ascend above the rest in both disciplines.
The Rampage just completed its first season as a USA Hockey Model Association and remains steadfast in moving forward. On the hockey scope, the Rampage’s idea is not only to get an athlete into the system, but to also keep them there for the duration.
Hadan Jordan, who’s graduating from nearby Pine Creek High School this month, is a fine example. He’s played for the Rampage for a decade and is aiming to join the North American Hockey League’s Amarillo Bulls next season.
“I’ve always loved everyone there, the coaches, the atmosphere and the players,” Jordan said of CSC. “The coaches are really good and they’ve helped me develop a lot over the course of my youth hockey career.”
Jordan said the familial aspects of the program helped him remain on board.
“Even though kids come from all over Colorado to play for the Rampage, all our families have become associated,” Jordan said. “I’ve gotten pretty close with some friends on the team and our families are even closer.”
The Rampage experienced a bevy of on-ice success in the recently completed season, with its 18U AAA, Pee Wee A and Squirt A squads among those standing out.
The 18U AAA squad – usually a regular to advance to the state championship game – got there again but fell to the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders.
The Pee Wee A and Squirt A teams were ultra-solid down the stretch, an exemplary part of the Rampage’s program-wide tendency to get stronger as the season progresses rather than peaking early.
“With that developmental message we have, we house every level of play certified under USA Hockey and U.S. Figure Skating’s umbrella,” Sherman said. “Our pyramid is a little bit inverted, because we have more elite than we have a huge base, but that’s obviously the idea of this whole thing – we want to grow the base.”
Both organizations share the same philosophies as they work together side by side. Being successful at what they do, they’re both looking to share their knowledge with those of all ages and ability levels.
Creating a path of progression is key for the development of each program as a whole. Celebrating victories along the way, the athletes share their home, training grounds and personal experiences as they grow up and progress through the ranks.
That’s where Pat Bingham comes in.
The Rampage president and 16U National coach was initially contacted by Sherman when the latter took over the arena. Familiar with each other from their playing days, Sherman reached out to Bingham to ask what he could do to better the program.
“My phone rang and he asked if I was ready to step away from the professional ranks and essentially be his right-hand man,” said Bingham, who was a 14-year professional coach. “So I came in three years ago and the culture was much different.”
At that point, Sherman had his 16U and 18U squads and had just applied and been accepted to add a 14U team. He asked Bingham to peruse the program and impart his thoughts.
Bingham was honest.
“What I thought was that the Tier I was getting a great level of coaching and care and culture – all the stuff that Tier II was not,” Bingham said. “It was almost like they were playing under the Rampage banner, but they weren’t getting the same experience.”
When the offseason came, the two brainstormed about how to narrow that gap. One of the first steps was to consult with USA Hockey and talk about the American Development Model (ADM) and what Model Associations do with their lower-level squads. They also absorbed tips about age-appropriate training.
The Rampage did a dry run of incorporating the ADM ideas before they were designated as a Model Association. Bingham’s idea to jumpstart the transformation was becoming a reality.
“Andrew was doing a great job,” Bingham said. “We just wanted to give everybody under the Rampage banner the same quality experience. So two years ago we tried to upgrade our coaches. We looked to stipend or salary them so we could get the best possible ones we could. Another thing we’ve done is to get some of the AAA coaches and players out on the ice and help with practices. Now everybody’s Rampage.”
The idea is to have elite-level coaching no matter what the skill level of the athlete. That goes for the additional entities in the building as well.
Under CSC’s umbrella are the Rampage, 7k International Skating Academy and 365 Performance, which is the sports performance facility inside the rink.
Each organization assists each other by providing the everyday tools that’ll make an impact on every athlete’s training experience. From early in the morning until late at night, the facility is growing and becoming more established with national, international and Olympic-level athletes and coaches. CSC is becoming known as the elite training grounds for many up-and-coming skaters.
Heather Aseltine was recently hired as the CEO who oversees all, much like an athletic director who watches over all the high school programs.
Sherman equated the position to the Edmonton Oilers’ move to hire Bob Nicholson, who’s the CEO of all their sports entities. He oversees the Oilers, American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons and the sports-entertainment components of the organization.
Like nearly any youth association, the Rampage’s and 7k’s chief focus is development, but they want to do it the right way.
“We want to be a hotbed for development as far as being organic, right from those little, early learn-to-play, learn-to-skate introductions to the ice rink,” Sherman said.
For Kevin Patterson, who’s among the Rampage’s distinguished alumni, his interest began before he joined the program.
“I remember when I was probably 10 or 12 years old, I went to a Rampage game and they were playing the (Pikes Peak) Miners at (Colorado Springs’) Sertich Ice Arena,” Patterson said. “I remember watching them and just how hard they fought and they battled. Everything they showed character-wise led me to want to play for them.”
Patterson soon enrolled in the spring and summer training programs and eventually joined the hockey club. He looked up to then-Rampage standouts such as Kevin Sunde and Josh Holmstrom and aspired, like them, to move on to a college program.
Mission accomplished. He just completed his sophomore season as a NCAA Division I defenseman at Niagara University. The Rampage prepped him well for the college game, he said. He remains an ambassador for the program and works out at CSC when he’s back home.
“Everything that encompassed the program, I had similar values in my life,” said Patterson, who graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs. “That’s when I knew it’d be the best organization for me from a development standpoint.”
That’s the message the Rampage and CSC is trying to send.
– Paul Willis