Girls hockey tournament proves Steamboat’s love of the game

Steamboat U15 hockey player Reagan O’Connell takes the puck around a defender in a game against Arapahoe during the Adele Dombrowski Mountain Diva tournament at Howelsen Ice Arena on Saturday November 19, 2022. Steamboat won the game 6-0.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association has seen an increase in girls’ participation. To continue that growth, Steamboat hosts what SSYHA Director Ryan Dingle calls the “biggest and best girls’ hockey tournament in the state.”

The Adele Dombrowski Mountain Divas Tournament is named in honor of former steamboat hockey star Adele Dombrowski, who died in 2005.

Dingle said Dombrowski has been the heart and soul of hockey at Steamboat and thinks it is very special for her to continue in this way as the sport continues to grow.

When Dombrowski was playing there was only one girls hockey team in Steamboat, and 17 years later there are four girls hockey teams from U10 to U19.

The Adele Dombrowski tournament has also seen steady growth in participation with 20 non-steamboat teams making their way from other mountain towns as far away as Wyoming and South Dakota to compete in the 2022 tournament.

So many athletes were registered that for the first time in tournament history, Dingle and SSYHA had to split the tournament over two weekends, with the U10 and U12 girls playing November 11-13 and the U15 and U19 girls competed 18.-20. November.

Dingle is proud of the growth and enthusiasm of local girls for hockey and can’t wait to continue this rising trend.

Steamboat U15 hockey player Mya Chotvacs Chase prepares a scoring opportunity in a game against Arapahoe at the Adele Dombrowski Mountain Diva Tournament on Saturday, November 19, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“We want girls to play hockey and my job is to show them how special hockey is,” Dingle said. “Our coaches are in the trenches showing them the rules, the game, the camaraderie, the list goes on.”

One such coach is U15 coach Kerry Shea, who has two daughters in SSYHA programs. Shea says the best part of his job as a coach is watching the U19 girls watch an U10 game and reminisce about their days as a young hockey player.

Shea believes the growth is due to a mix of the incredible steamboat hockey community and the beautiful ice rink that goes with it.

“This is one of those catalysts for the growth of the game,” Shea said. “The opportunity to see the older girls progress and see the younger girls look up to them is amazing. It’s such a cool vibe that we have especially here at Steamboat.”

Colorado Amateur Hockey Association Board Member Kristy Johnson is dedicated to ensuring all organizations, from recreational leagues to Tier 1, have the support they need for girls hockey.

“We’ve got some good numbers in Colorado and some of the best numbers on the Western Front, but I want more,” Johnson said. “I want to see more girls in shirts, I want to make sure that if you want to play, you have an opportunity and a place to play.”

Johnson was impressed with the tournament’s turnout and said it was a testament to how Dingle and the City manage to pull it off every year. She says the most endearing part is watching girls and their parents give up entire weekends to travel hours away from home to fight for the love of the game.

What makes Steamboat unique compared to other places is the distance to other hockey towns. Dingle says the best thing about playing hockey on Steamboat is the travels you take and the lifelong friendships that form from all the time we’ve been on the road together.

“They don’t really remember scores or anything like that,” Dingle said. “You remember hanging out with your teammates and going out to eat and staying in hotel rooms and everything. Tournament weekends are the absolute best for young hockey players.”