PALMER LAKE – There is something about outdoor hockey and the freezing cold that can really bring a community out in full force. The cold temperatures and lessons from last year’s event provided quite the stage for the 2023 Palmer Lake Outdoor Classic.

A foundation event sanctioned under CHSAA, the games featuring Chaparral, Cheyenne Mountain, Lewis-Palmer and Pine Creek didn’t technically count in the standings, but they certainly counted in the minds of the kids skating, passing and scoring on the surface of Palmer Lake, which sits just northwest of the town of Monument.

Chaparral edged Cheyenne Mountain, the defending Class 4A state champion, 4-3 before taking down L-P 5-4 after winning a shootout.

The two wins put the label of event champions on the Wolverines, which is just one of several reasons why the journey down south was worth the trip.

“This brought back some memories,” Chap forward Luke McCall said. “My family is from Saskatchewan and we used to play pond hockey when it was minus 40.”

With the championship game tied at the end of the 30-minute running clock regulation period, the Wolverines and Rangers were tied 4-4. McCall scored the lone goal of the shootout to give Chap the win. His celebration only lasted a moment because he knew the Rangers had a shot to tie the game. So all attention turned to goalie Peter Burke.

“I was just hoping that Peter was going to make the save,” McCall said. “I wasn’t thinking about my shot at all.”

From a standings perspective this game has no impact, but the experience and the bond the team created can certainly provide a benefit to the players moving forward this season.

“It’s something different so when you’re in a different atmosphere it forces you to grow,” Chap coach Ryan Finnefrock said. “Our team did that here and it was fun.”

The experience was great for the kids, but it also brought value to the community. Between the two rinks, Lewis-Palmer coach Scott Bradley estimated that over 1,000 fans showed up to take in the atmosphere and cheer on the players through the course of the night.

The novelty of an outdoor atmosphere and a community feel is what Bradley attributed to the turnout. It’s something that he loves to see from the notoriety but he also wants the event as a whole to maintain a small-town feel.

“We don’t want this to be a Winter Classic or a Stadium Series,” Bradley said. “Maybe some fireworks would be awesome, or a fly-by. We want to grow it but we want to maintain the feel of coming to Palmer Lake to watch a hockey game.”

If the weather can cooperate like it did this year, the Outdoor Classic provides a unique experience for high school athletes that takes them back to the very roots of the game they love.

The 2023 version grew from what it had been just a year earlier and if that trend continues, it could become one of the marquee winter sports events in Southern Colorado.