First hockey game in Big Sky in over two decades
By Rebecca Baker
The sun shone on the brand new sheet of ice in Big Sky on January 2. The temperatures were in the single digits, but that didn’t stop over 25 hockey players playing in the inaugural game for the Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association (BSSHA) and Alpine Ice Rink at Town Center. The ice looked pristine in the afternoon sun, and with Lone Peak and the surrounding mountains looming in the background, it was a great setting for the First Annual Pavelich Invitational hockey game.
The Rotherham Construction warming hut was packed with excited players getting ready for the game, many who were lacing up their skates for the first time this winter (one for the first time in 10 years!) to play in the Invitational. Other players had skated together previously, and all were anxious to step onto the Alpine Ice Rink for the first time. The teams were made up of players from Big Sky and Bozeman, and they were invited due to their contributions to hockey in the area, both past and present.
After a brief warm-up, the teams lined up for the National Anthems – both the United States and Canadian National Anthem, keeping with hockey traditions, were performed beautifully by Carmen Wooldridge and renowned musician Jim Salestrom, respectively. Former Detroit Red Wing and four-time Stanley Cup Winner, Marty Pavelich was on hand to drop the puck for the ceremonial face-off. Pavelich stayed to watch the game and cheer on the players, and was as excited as the skaters to see hockey played in Big Sky for the first time in 23 years.
Taking the ceremonial face-off were BSSHA board members Griffin Kilby and Ryan Blechta, both of whom spent many nights at the rink building the ice and ensuring it was ready for the New Year’s Day event. Kilby opened the scoring for the black team with a goal early in the first period. There was no scoreboard and no referees, only a timekeeper, and the players kept track of the score. The game was played “shinny” style, an informal way to play the game without referees, which many had played on backyard ponds growing up.
The black team scored two more goals before the white team responded, and the black team went on the win the game 15-12, taking the first annual Pavelich Cup. After the game, the festivities continued with food from the Hungry Mexican, open skate and music until sundown.