GREELEY — The North American Hockey League has approved the addition of the Colorado Grit, a hockey team that will begin operations in late 2023 and play at the Greeley Ice Haus in downtown Greeley.
The new NAHL team is owned by Colorado Sports Partners LLC, an entity formed in March last year by Bob Bowden, Casey Bradshaw and David Clarkson. The team will compete in the South Division.
The team will be the second non-high school or college team to play at the Ice Haus. The Northern Colorado Eagles Junior “A” Hockey franchise also plays there; that team is licensed by the Colorado Eagles and is considered amateur with players 16 to 21 years of age. It’s in its seventh season and is part of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL).
The NAHL, an amateur organization designed to feed plays to higher levels, is the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II Junior league, with 29 teams in 17 states across North America. The NAHL is part of the USA Hockey National Junior Development Model, which includes the USHL and the U.S. National Team Development Program.
“Colorado Sports Partners LLC ownership group and key personnel all have a passion for hockey and helping players develop and pursue their hockey goals,” the organization said in a press statement. “Besides a great passion for hockey, the group has a strong financial background, strong business experience, nine years of junior hockey experience, more than 20 years of high-level coaching, recruiting, and player development experience at the Junior, Professional, and AAA/Tier I levels.”
CEO Bowden is the founder and owner of B2B Builders, Bowden Properties and Bowden Custom Homes in Aspen. He also serves as executive vice president of Sencore Inc., an electronic testing device manufacturer. Bradshaw, president, is the founder and owner of Certified Prosthetics & Orthotics and Certified Orthopedics/Adaptive. He previously served as president of Mountain States Youth Hockey and vice president of Northern Colorado Youth Hockey. Clarkson, vice president, played in the NHL for 12 years and has spent the past five years as a youth coach, in addition to volunteering as a coach for the Colorado Warriors Hockey team, a disabled hockey team based in Colorado Springs.
The Greeley Ice Haus has a 1,200-seat capacity, boxes, concessions, built-out locker rooms and offices, all situated at 900 Eighth Ave. downtown.
“We are excited to grow the NAHL toward the west with like-minded owners interested in putting the players and the community first,” Mark Frankenfeld, NAHL commissioner and president, said in a press statement. “The Colorado Grit will be the NAHL’s first-ever team based in the state of Colorado and will create natural rivalries with those teams in the Western part of the South Division. In addition, the team is in close proximity to three, high-level NCAA Division I hockey programs, which will bring more eyes on every player who plays in the South Division.”
The Colorado Grit will be the ninth team in the NAHL’s South Division. The South Division has eight teams, including: Amarillo (Texas) Wranglers; Corpus Christi (Texas) IceRays; El Paso (Texas) Rhinos; Lone Star Brahmas from North Richland Hills, Texas; New Mexico Ice Wolves from Albuquerque; Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes; Oklahoma Warriors of Oklahoma City, Texas; and the Shreveport (Louisiana) Mudbugs. Five of the past 10 Robertson Cup National Champions have come from the South Division.
“As a group we are excited for the opportunity to join and be accepted into the NAHL. With the great reputation of the NAHL coupled with this great Colorado opportunity, there is no doubt a successful organization can be built,” Bradshaw said in a written statement.