By Doug Hare EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – On Jan. 12, red and white Detroit Red Wings jerseys flooded the Town Center ice rink on a crisp, sunny Saturday. At noon, a team of Big Sky youth took on challengers from Bozeman, the first “home game” ever for local youth hockey players.
“Fantastic day. It was great to see 50 kids out there competing. It reminded me of my youth spent playing hockey outside in Canada,” said Marty Pavelich, former Red Wings legend and the namesake of the event. “When I first moved out here there wasn’t anywhere to play hockey, so I’m thrilled with this development.”
A newly acquired, used Zamboni machine resurfaced the rink before two teams of local adult hockey players took to the ice for a friendly exhibition match marking the ninth annual Pavelich Invitational Hockey Game.
Pavelich has been impressed with the rink’s improvements since last year—including a new refrigeration system and a new location that was leveled for less gradation end-to-end than its predecessor—noting that efforts from volunteers like Ryan Blechta and Gary Hermann have been essential to the recent progress. But the former NHL star also predicts more enhancements in the future.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a stadium here one day. The current location and lighting are great, but I can picture a stadium that could hold 5,000 people and host different events throughout the year,” Pavelich said. “I’ve seen it done before. They did it in Vail. It would be a great place to build community in this town.”
Pavelich said he hopes that one day a Big Sky athlete will be able to get an NCAA scholarship to a school with a strong hockey program. “That would make all the effort worth it,” he said. “Who knows? They could even make it all the way to the NHL.”