There used to be an ice rink ...
By Jess Myers
COLORADO SPRINGS – If you don’t
mind paying $5 for a domestic bottle, the patio outside
the Hotel Bar at the Broadmoor is one of the world’s
more impressive settings in which you can enjoy a beverage.
Beyond the leather chairs and mahogany walls of the resort’s
ornate interior, the patio overlooks a small lake and stunning
panorama of the Rocky Mountains. Watching the sun sink behind
the towering Front Range there, as dried aspen logs crackle
in the massive outdoor stone fireplace, is time to savor.
|A view of the Broadmoor World
Arena, taken the year it was torn down. (Photo courtesy
of Colorado College Sports Information)
If you’re a college hockey fan with
a memory that dates back to the days before Paul Kariya
won the Hobey, your euphoria about the surroundings may
be tinged with just a note of sadness as you glance across
Cheyenne Lake toward the resort’s west tower. Long
before there were hotel suites, a ballroom, shops and a
parking lot on that site, there was an ice rink of some
note on the premises.
If not for the Broadmoor World Arena and the
vision of a Philadelphia investor named Spencer Penrose,
the event today known as the Frozen Four might not exist,
and collegiate hockey might not be what it has become. After
seeing figure skater Sonja Henne in Chicago, Penrose returned
to the Colorado resort he owned and ordered that the outdoor
horse riding academy be converted to an enclosed ice arena.
He saw the formation of the Broadmoor rink as a sports palace,
and home to some of the world’s elite figure skaters.
It was also the home of Colorado College hockey
for 55 years, starting in 1938. Long before he was winning
NCAA titles as a coach, Jeff Sauer was a player for CC and
recalls that Tigers’ home games at the Broadmoor sometimes
wouldn’t start until after 8:30 p.m., to give the
posh resort’s guests time to finish dinner, dessert
and coffee before the evening’s entertainment (featuring
ice, skates and sticks) began.
William Thayer Tutt, the resort’s general
manager in the 1940s, was among the driving forces organizing
and promoting the early NCAA hockey tournaments, and the
first 10 Frozen Fours were played at the Broadmoor. To this
day, the hockey boosters’ club at Boston College is
named for Pike’s Peak, in honor of the NCAA crown
the Eagles won at the Broadmoor in 1949, in the shadow of
the region’s most renowned mountain. And it was on
the Broadmoor’s ice sheet that a few dozen players
tried out for Herb Brooks in 1979. He picked 20 of them
to go to another mountain resort town – Lake Placid
– and earn American sports immortality.
By the early 1990s, when the resort decided
to tear the place down and expand their accommodations,
it was clearly outdated as a hockey venue. The wooden theater-style
seats (3,900 of them) were relics of an earlier area. The
ladder-accessed press box, although it hung just a few feet
from the top of the Plexiglas, was a challenging place to
work, with a ceiling that was less than six feet high. The
CC program had struggled for decades, partially due to the
recruiting challenges posed when trying to convince players
to call an ancient, off-campus rink their home for four
First-year Tigers’ coach Don Lucia began
the resurgence of the CC program during the 1993-94 campaign,
taking the team from worst to first in the WCHA in what
would be the final season for the resort’s old horse
ring. They started tearing the place down in March 1994,
just days after a 3-2 overtime win by Michigan Tech in the
opening round of the WCHA playoffs.
Lucia, now the coach at Minnesota, says that
when he came to CC, with the Tigers’ home rink scheduled
for demolition, there was no guarantee that the school would
field a hockey team in 1994-95. While respecting the history
of the Broadmoor and the home-ice advantage his first Tiger
team got from the altitude and the small ice sheet, Lucia
is of the opinion that the arrival of the wrecking ball
on that site was the best thing that’s happened to
the CC hockey program.
Today they’ve paved much of this one-time
college hockey paradise and put up a parking lot. The Tigers
play down the hill, by the interstate, in a much bigger
and more modern, if somewhat sterile, facility. The program
is a national powerhouse again, and the NCAA tourney has
returned to Colorado Springs as recently as 2004 when the
West Regional was played at the new World Arena.
If you get to visit the Broadmoor today and
can spend an hour or two watching the sunset as the peaks
reflect off the lake’s waters, it’s a scene
of great serenity. Even if you listen closely, there are
no echoes to be heard of hockey crowds roaring at the exploits
of players in black and gold with names like Frasca, Lidster,
Palazzari and Mio. You can’t hear “Hail to the
Victors” playing in spite of the fact that Michigan
won six of those first 10 Frozens played at the Broadmoor.
But you can be forgiven if the strains of
a sad Frank Sinatra song echo in your head as you sip your
beer and marvel at the mountains. To paraphrase the Chairman
of the Board:
“There used to be an ice rink, right