By Doug Hare EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – On Saturday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m., a ceremonial puck drop at Town Center Rink will break the ice for a hockey match between the Bozeman Stingers and Sun Valley Suns. The game will be free to the public, and will include music, a drink garden and a youth skate with the Stingers from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The event will mark the first time that Big Sky has ever hosted teams from the Black Diamond Hockey League, comprised of mostly ex-junior, collegiate and professional players. The league is made up of the Jackson Hole Moose, Sun Valley Suns, Park City Pioneers and the Bozeman Stingers, with games typically attracting hundreds to thousands of fans.
“The Stingers have been around for about 12 years. In 2014, we became a non-profit. We’ve been playing around ski towns in the Northern Rockies for a while now,” said Justin Cook, president of the 501(c)4 organization and a player on the team as well. “We thought Big Sky would be a great venue to bring the team. This is the first time, I think, any team in the league has done an outdoor game. We’re treating this like the NHL Winter Classic.”
According to Cook, the Stingers and Sun Valley Suns have the longest running rivalry in the league, although he also noted that the competition is intended to be a relatively amicable affair that will draw attention to Big Sky’s new and improved ice rink as well as the quality of BDHL hockey to Big Sky residents that have never attended a Stingers game.
“We’re thinking futuristically about this match. This is something that we would like to be an annual event in Big Sky, something that can continue to grow in upcoming years” said Tony Randall, head of operations for the Stingers. “We really want to draw attention to how special this venue is and hopefully show off the highest level hockey being played in Wyoming, Montana or Idaho.”