NAHL taking inaugural foray into Colorado with new Grit franchise, starting with 2023-24 season
The North American Hockey League is entering Colorado for the first time.
Last week, the league announced that its board of governors has approved the membership application for an NAHL team in Greeley, owned by Colorado Sports Partners, LLC, an entity owned and operated by Bob Bowden, Casey Bradshaw, and David Clarkson.
The team will be known as the Colorado Grit and will compete in the South Division beginning in the 2023-24 season out of the Greeley Ice Haus.
The Colorado Sports Partners, LLC, ownership group and key personnel all have a passion for hockey and helping players develop and pursue their hockey goals. Besides a great passion for hockey, the group has a strong financial background, strong business experience, nine years of Junior hockey experience, over 20 years of high-level coaching, recruiting, and player development experience at the junior, professional, and AAA/Tier I levels.
Bowden is the founder and owner of B2B Builders, Bowden Properties, and Bowden Custom Homes in Aspen. He also serves as executive VP of Sencore, Inc., an electronic testing device manufacturer. Bradshaw is the founder and owner of Certified Prosthetics & Orthotics and Certified Orthopedics/Adaptive. He has previously served as president of Mountain States Youth Hockey and VP of Northern Colorado Youth Hockey. Clarkson had the opportunity to play in the NHL for 12 years and has spent the last five years as a dedicated youth coach, in addition to currently volunteering as a coach for the Colorado Warriors hockey team.
The Greeley Ice Haus lends itself well to house an NAHL team with a 1,200-plus seat capacity, boxes, concessions, built-out locker rooms, and offices all situated in a downtown backdrop with bars, restaurants, and hotels within steps of the facility.
Greeley is about 50 miles northeast of Denver, in Weld County with a local population over 300,000 and is considered the fourth fastest growth area in the United States. This community has grown immensely over the last decade but has kept its small community culture.
“We are excited to grow the NAHL towards the west with likeminded owners interested in putting the players and the community first,” said NAHL commissioner and president Mark Frankenfeld. “The Colorado Grit will be the NAHL’s first-ever team based in the state of Colorado and will create natural rivalries with those teams in the western part of the South Division. In addition, the team is in close proximity to three high-level NCAA Division I hockey programs, which will bring more eyes on every player that plays in the South Division.”
The Grit will be the ninth team in the NAHL’s South Division, which currently includes the Amarillo Wranglers (Amarillo, Tex.), Corpus Christi IceRays (Corpus Christi, Tex.), El Paso Rhinos (El Paso, Tex.), Lone Star Brahmas (North Richland Hills, Tex.), New Mexico Ice Wolves (Albuquerque, N.M.), Odessa Jackalopes (Odessa, Tex.), Oklahoma Warriors (Oklahoma City, Okla.), and Shreveport Mudbugs (Shreveport, La.). Five of the last 10 Robertson Cup national champions have come from the South Division.
“As a group, we are excited for the opportunity to join and be accepted into the NAHL,” said Bradshaw. “With the great reputation of the NAHL, coupled with this great Colorado opportunity, there is no doubt a successful organization can be built. This group is committed to long long-term success and will establish a program both the Colorado hockey community and the NAHL will be proud of.”
In addition, Clarkson has also been named director of player development, and Steve Haddon has been tabbed as the organization’s first head coach.
Prior to his coaching career, which has included the past 10 at the junior level with the WSHL’s Colorado Jr. Eagles and USPHL’s Northern Colorado Eagles, Haddon played seven years of professional hockey in the Northern Colorado community with the Colorado Eagles of the ECHL and CHL. He has been fortunate enough to have won championships at every level: junior, college, and professional.
“As a program we are excited to have these two phenomenal ‘hockey guys’ who share the vision of establishing a successful NAHL program,” Bradshaw said. “They have great coaching and development acumen and are committed to helping players advance their careers and grow as young men. Their combined experience and backgrounds as coaches and former players who competed at the highest levels will truly help guide our players toward successful hockey careers while mentoring them to become successful and productive individuals, on and off the ice.”
(January 9, 2023)