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Greeley Grows Grit

Colorado Grit Co-Owner, Bob Bowden, was told he’d never get support for a new hockey team in Greeley from visitors along the I-25 corridor. In the past few months, our community has hosted visitors from Cherry Creek, Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs, alongside various hockey clubs for young kids from all over the state. “There was never a high-level junior hockey team in the area,” Bob says. “Kids had to work hard to find a way to play. If they were good enough to play juniors, they’d have to go somewhere like Boston, Chicago or Minneapolis. This means they’re not finishing high school with their friends and it’s rare that the parents would be able to see the games.” Bob remarked that having something close by allows kids who want to play to live at or close to home, finish up their education at their own high school, and see their friends and family members supporting them in the stands. 

Having a local junior-level team also gives younger kids the opportunity to come and see what opportunities are available. “Every kid needs a dream. Every kid wants a dream. We can be that dream for them," Bob says, who hopes to bridge all gaps utilizing hockey.

Co-owner and retired NHL player, David Clarkson, sees the team as a stepping stone for kids. “We’re helping kids get scholarships, and building this stairway for them to engage in their passions. That might not be hockey, but they’re developing skills to help them no matter what direction they pursue.”

The Grit will offer clinics to local students that help them learn the rules and expose them to hockey. “Creating a spark in a kid is important. We can’t play hockey for them, but we can create the opportunity for a little boy or a little girl to learn and get coaching,” Bob says. “This is showing kids what the next level is all about. They can go watch the semi-pro Eagles, they can go watch the Avs, but this is something that’s so relatable and it’s right there.” 

Bob also hopes the Grit players provide Greeley with “Hometown Heroes,” already witnessing the admiration of the younger kids in line at the autograph table after the games. “Kids will stand there for 30 minutes just to get an autograph from our players. It is magic! Sports can also give a community a sense of pride. We saw it as Colorado watched the Avs and Nuggets bring home their championship trophies. We were all proud Denver residents after that!” Bob hopes to see that same energy from Greeley as they rally around the Grit. “We’re very quickly finding out that the people of Greeley are terrific, and we’re inviting them to join us in cheering for and supporting these kids.”

Not only is the Grit providing Greeley with an official hockey team, but the boys are already starting to get extremely involved in our community. “These boys are not paying us money to play. This is the first level of amateur hockey where tuition is not paid. We get nothing from the kids money-wise, but we do get 25 young men that we want to help shape into good people…being a good person is important to us. We only want people that are going to commit to the whole mission and be a part of the team.” The boys have already served breakfast for Habitat for Humanity, helped with tear-down at multiple community events, are reading to elementary schoolers in District 6, and are teaching ball hockey to kids at the Boys and Girls Club that will culminate in a Ball Hockey Tournament in the wintertime. All of this outreach is teaching the boys what it means to truly serve your community. “Our motto is simple: be on time, always give 100%, and be a good person,” he says.

The Grit strategy is different from a lot of other junior teams. While the player stats are still an important factor, they are equally as concerned about a strong character. “Culture is a huge deal for us,” Bob mentions that while other junior teams will typically go through 90+ players every year to get down to the 25-man roster, the Grit trades players to teams better suited for them. Other teams will just send kids home. ”Our goal is to maintain as many players as we can and help develop them into better players and people, both on and off the ice. We support the team. That means building a culture, developing character and creating a positive environment for our players.”

Bob expressed his hope of the Colorado Grit becoming the "community center" someday. “We want people to look forward to seeing each other and socializing at our games in the dead of winter when there is less to do and fewer opportunities to gather. Well, our games can provide that gathering spot that helps build community” The boys are being pushed to become good people, and that starts with GRIT: the virtue of never giving up. “We want to create the best 25 young men to come through our locker rooms so they go on to be good citizens of the world. Sure, they’ll win championships, but winning is not the lesson. The lesson is learned in trying,” he says. Bob stresses the importance of character development and says he’s already seen major grit happening within the team. “I’m watching these boys band together and never give up, EVER.” These boys are being pushed to play good hockey, take care of each other and serve their community. They were completely washed over with pride when the stands were completely full on opening night. It was thrilling! “But, we cannot do it without you, Greeley. We want to be your team; help us become your team. We’re here. We’re ready. These boys your team.”

The Colorado Grit home games are a great place to take families. General admission tickets are only $10 each and kids under five are free. Season tickets are available as well. Visit ColoradoGritHockey.com for more information. 

“We want people to look forward to seeing each other and socializing at our games..." -Bob Bowden

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