After a 20-game season of traveling and competing against each other, 11- and 12-year-old hockey players on club teams from Cheyenne, Casper, Gillette, Sheridan and Laramie are competing in the Wyoming Amateur Hockey League’s State Championship tournament through Sunday in Laramie. While only one team will walk away the champion, the tournament provides an opportunity for boys and girls to compete in the sport they love while adding boost to Albany County tourism efforts.
The first games began Friday at the Laramie Ice & Events Center, with the Laramie Outlaws facing off against the Cheyenne Capitals. Seth Becker, a forward for the Laramie Outlaws team, said his favorite parts of playing hockey are “scoring goals and winning.”
“My mom was into [hockey], and she taught me how to skate,” Seth Becker said. “Our hopes are to win.”
Carrie King, parent of a player and one of the organizers of the tournament with Laramie Amateur Hockey Club, said the sport helps a team become more like “a hockey family.” She added it was especially true because of the literal family involvement; they rely on parents to get the 145 total participants to and from the games around the state.
“We do a lot of traveling … so, there’s a lot of time to spend together when you’re in hotels and doing dinner,” King said.
Having the “home-team advantage” as hosts of the tournament is something Outlaws coach Laré Hamilton said he was excited about, especially after a long season of traveling.
“Teaching them hockey, teaching them the game is a passion I have,” Hamilton said. “I love it.”
Many cities submitted bids for the tournament, with the Wyoming Amateur Hockey League ultimately choosing Laramie for the A division tournament and Cody for the B division.
As hosts, the Laramie Amateur Hockey Club had to find ways to fund the tournament, especially securing the ice time. Marnie Becker, mother to Seth Becker and one of the lead organizers for the event with LAHC, said the club reached out for different grants and support around the community.
Marnie Becker applied for and received a $2,000 grant from the Albany County Tourism Board to help mitigate some of those costs and to use to help advertise the tournament to families and fans around the state.
“Having all those players and probably their fans and families stay in our hotels, it puts heads in beds; we get the lodging tax dollars for that,” said Mike Gray, assistant director for the Albany County Tourism Board and Laramie Area Visitor Center. “Some of these types of tournaments, it’s almost a no-brainer to help give them money, because … it just helps everybody in the end.”
The lodging tax dollars from hotel and lodging bookings go to the Tourism Board to help market Laramie and Albany County to surrounding states and countries.
Other groups in town were involved with the tournament as well. Marnie Becker said the goody bags going to each player had resources encouraging families in town for the tournament to explore Laramie between games.
“We got our goody bags from the [Laramie Chamber] Business Alliance, and they put in their brochures of all the businesses,” Becker said.
The first games of the round robin-style tournament began Friday, and the state champion will be named Sunday.