By: Shawn O’Brate

RIVERTON – This past Saturday there was yet another golf tournament taking place at the Riverton Country Club, but instead of participants and golfers donating to help a charity or to raise funds for Central Wyoming College student-athletes the tournament was to help the ever-growing youth hockey league. 

The second annual youth hockey league golf tournament took place with 25 teams of four crowding the immaculate golf course to help put the youth of Fremont County on a chilled ice rink for more than just a few weeks during the season.

“Unfortunately for use we practiced six weeks last year, the rest of the state practiced six months,” Brandon Romer, president of the Riverton Youth Hockey Association said.

The Riverton Youth Hockey Association does not specifically cater to Riverton children though, despite the name.

“We got kids from all over, from Pavillion, Shoshoni, Lander,” Romer said, “It’s a Fremont County team under the name Riverton.”

“We even get a few kids from the reservation,” Josh Green, a youth hockey coach and board member added in.

Kelly Davis smiled as she chipped toward the ninth hole, knowing every shot she took was only benefitting the youth hockey team and their desire to have a chilled ice hockey rink they can use more than six weeks a year.

With 110 kids from all over Fremont County ready and willing to play hockey this year the only goal for the youth hockey association is their ice rink, something that they have been fundraising for over the course of the past couple years.

“We’re the only association in the state that does not have chilled ice, we don’t have an indoor rink so our ice time is very limited to the elements of mother nature,” Green said before teeing off on Saturday, “We typically start practicing in late December where most association start practicing in late October, so we’re behind the curve.”

The stadium that the youth hockey association does have, off Smith Road by the baseball fields, is a great facility for the small time it is usable but it is causing the team and young, future hockey stars to fall behind even though their play doesn’t necessarily represent that.

“Even with the lack of ice every one of our teams was competitive at their level and that just shows the grit and the heart of our athletes,” Romer said, “I just keep telling people [to] keep grinding and we’ll continue to represent Riverton and Fremont County very well.”

That representation is not undersold by Romer either.

“We have several state championship teams,” Green said about the youth hockey association in Riverton, “we had a second place finish in the squirts last season but we have five or six state champions under Fremont County over the years.”

So, to help continue the success that the Riverton Youth Hockey Association has sustained over the years, the golf tournament was put on last year for the first time and repeated this year with even more golfers than the first year.

“There were probably three or four more teams this year,” Riverton golf pro, Collin Hopkins, said about the tournament, “They’ve done an outstanding job in their first two years.”

The tournament came with cheats, like many tournaments that are for fun and charity do, with mulligans and shorter tees available for purchase before beginning.

Hopkins, who has seen his fair share of packed tournaments so far as Riverton’s golf pro, did not have much hockey experience growing up other than playing for fun at the City Park ice rink in Lander as a kid. But, even without hockey in his life, he was excited to see how many people care about the sport and the kids in Fremont County that participate in it.

“I’m very happy to see so many people support a youth sport in Riverton, especially one that’s played in the winter time,” Hopkins said, “and golf and hockey are very closely related anyways. A lot of hockey players become very good golfers.”

With all the support that was given over the course of Saturday, whether it be through the tournament and the cheats or through the silent auction inside the 307 Bar & Grill, it’s easy to see that this upcoming season will have plenty of funding which is great because of the sheer number of young hockey players that have already signed up for the season.

“We haven’t had a full roster of teams for the past four years, we’ve only been able to field three teams,” Romer said about the previous teams, “this year we’re going to have teams from the U6 level all the way to high school that is truly Riverton teams…we’re very excited and I think the future with our young athletes is going to keep growing and maintain that level of teams in all the division.”

So much support over the span of one golf tournament is hard to come by, especially when the sun was beating as hard as it was, but the number of golfers playing to help hockey in Fremont County was no surprise to the people that were there last year.

“The community is great,” Romer said, “it shows out for all youth activities, not just hockey. This community is just awesome, not only Riverton but Lander, Pavillion, Shoshoni, Dubois…all of them, they’re great.”

Stay on the watch for more news and information about the Riverton Youth Hockey Association in future editions of Fremont County Sports in the Ranger and Lander Journal.