Excitement builds for ‘Birds as Quebec nears
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With a solid first half of the season under its belt, the Colorado Thunderbirds’ 12U AAA team is looking forward to special appointment north of the border next month.
The Thunderbirds, led by first-year head coach Zach Blom and assistants Buddy Blom and Curtis Duffus, will compete in the 56th annual Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament, which will run from Feb. 11-22.
“There are a million things I look forward to every year (in Quebec): the beautiful city, the French culture, the local billet families our kids stay with for the week and the whole city welcoming us like we’re home, but nothing compares to the hockey,” said Zach Blom, who has gone to the event six previous times as an assistant coach.
The Thunderbirds organization has had a relationship with the Quebec tourney going back close to 15 years when Patrick Roy played for the Colorado Avalanche and his sons played Pee Wee AA at the Littleton Hockey Association for Kent Murphy.
Roy set up the Littleton Pee Wees to compete in the tournament, which was the first time ever a Colorado team participated.
Murphy eventually turned that Littleton team into the foundation of the first Pee Wee Thunderbirds team, and the squad has been attending ever since playing in the top A division.
“We expect to play the best hockey of our lives against the best teams in the world while having the time of our lives,” Blom said. “And I believe with all my heart the boys can win it all.”
Blom, who played at the University of Denver and won an NCAA national title as a freshman in 2005, can’t say enough about his group’s resolve.
Back in November, the T-Birds lost a tightly-contested 4-3 game to the then-No. 4-ranked Chicago Young Americans at the Bauer World Hockey Invitational, and in December topped the then-No. 18 Dallas Stars Elite team, 5-2, at a Dallas-hosted SuperSeries event.
“In each of those games, we played great teams in their home buildings,” Blom said. “I saw it as an announcement by our players to the Pee Wee hockey world, but more importantly to each other that we can compete with anyone in the world, even in the most adverse conditions.
“I don’t like my team; I love my team. Every practice, every game, we compete our tails off, and it’s an absolute blast to see them work for each other like they do.”
Blom couldn’t happier coaching his talented young Pee Wees alongside his father and Duffus.
“Buddy is Colorado’s godfather of goaltending, period,” said Blom. “There are so many great coaches and directors around town who were coached by Buddy somewhere along the way, and to have a legacy like that says it all.
“He has to be one of the single biggest influences on how hockey in Colorado became a world-class talent engine.
“And Curtis might be the most talented coach I’ve ever worked with, as a player or as a coach.
“I can’t tell you how lucky I am. I get to do what I love with two people I love most who are great at what they do. They’re two of my best friends.”
The Pee Wees are led by their captain, Luke Clarke, whom Blom says “from Day 1 has poured himself into this team heart-first.”
“But he leads a pack of 16 guys who give their all every game and practice, all of whom I’d give the ‘A’ or co-captaincy to if we had enough letters to go around,” Blom added. “Every player does something awesome every day that sticks out like a sore thumb.”
– Matt Mackinder