Oil Riggers bring ice rink title to GJ
The man that started it all may be gone but his dream continues strong.
For the first time in the history of the George Stepanovic Memorial hockey tournament, a new Grand Junction team formed this year won the tournament Sunday at Glacier Ice Arena. The Grand Junction Oilers, a team consisting mostly of players working in the oil fields, defeated Crested Butte 4-3 in a shootout.
“Guys are coming out of the woodwork to play,” Grand Junction Beer Bellies goalie Kenny Walters said.
“There is a tremendous amount of youth players good enough to play with the adults.”
The Grand Junction Beer Bellies, originally the Grand Junction Jaguars, took third place with a 9-6 victory over Aspen.
Stepanovic moved to Grand Junction from Ouray and was a big supporter in building an ice rink in
Grand Junction, Grand Valley Youth Hockey Association Director Curt Maki said.
“He was Mr. Hockey in Grand Junction,” Walters said. “He would organize games. He’d call me and say,
‘I’ve got a game set up in Craig.’ He would put on a this tournament every year in Aspen.”
Stepanovic started the tournament in Aspen in 1999 and had it every year, but died in 2005. The tournament remained alive and was changed to the Stepanovic Memorial tournament and moved to the Glacier Ice Arena in October 2006, just a few months after Stepanovic died.
“This tournament is the kickoff to the season for a lot of associations,” Maki said. “Some of them don’t have indoor rinks, so it’s the first time they get to step on the ice.”
Now, there are men’s league games played twice a week, drawing larger crowds.
Walters, 53, plays in the leagues as well.
A few hours after helping the Beer Bellies take third place, Walters hit the ice again for a men’s league game. It was his fifth game in 48 hours.
“I love to play,” he said. “I’m very fortunate I can play at a competitive level.”