NA Now: Colorado Grit | North American Hockey League | NAHL
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NA Now: Colorado Grit

August 13, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.

Colorado Grit

Head Coach: Steve Haddon (1st season)

2022-23 record: Did not play

2022-23 leading scorer: Did not play

2023 Playoffs: Did not play

2023-24 Division: South

First regular season game: Friday, September 8th vs. El Paso Rhinos

Home opener: Friday, September 8th vs. El Paso Rhinos

On January 6, 2023, the Colorado Grit officially became the 30th member of the North American Hockey League. Backed by owners Bob Bowden and David Clarkson, the Grit will be the ninth team in the NAHL’s South Division. “Our group is very excited for the opportunity to join the league and provide great NAHL hockey to the Greeley community.  We intend to provide the resources for long-term success and intend to establish a program both the Colorado Hockey Community and the NAHL will be proud of,” stated Bowden.

Behind the bench for his first season in the NAHL, will be head coach Steve Haddon. The native of Sarnia, Ontario, Haddon has been a Head Coach and General Manager at the Junior level for the past ten seasons.  During his coaching career Haddon has a record of 315-177-78. In his ten seasons he has helped over 100 players move on to the NCAA and professional levels. Prior to his coaching career, Haddon played nine years of professional hockey in the Northern Colorado community with the Colorado Eagles of the ECHL. He has been fortunate enough to have won championships at every level: junior, college and professional.

Home for the Grit will the Greeley Ice Haus in Greeley, Colorado, located 60 miles Northwest of Denver. The Ice Haus lends itself well to house a NAHL team with 1,200+ seat capacity, boxes, concessions, built out locker rooms, and offices all situated in a downtown backdrop with bars, restaurants, and hotels within steps of the facility. Greeley is in Weld County with a local population over 300,000 and is considered the fourth fastest growth area in the United States. The team will be the first in the NAHL from the state of Colorado.

“The response from the community has been great. There is a lot of buzz in town, and I think people will enjoy this brand of hockey. We sold out the arena for our All-Star Game at tryout camp, so you know they are ready to see what the Grit are all about and the level of hockey, which will be totally new to this area,” said Haddon. “We are extremely excited and happy that the season is right around the corner. It has been a long and extensive process to get the team to this point and now we are just ready to play some hockey. Our ownership (Bob Bowden and David Clarkson) has been amazing and given us everything we have needed to build a team. We have had a lot of support and help in building this team. We are growing as a group every day.”

Watch: NA Now video interview with Steve Haddon

The Grit, who had the #1 overall pick in the 2023 NAHL Draft thanks to winning the draft lottery, sent a very clear message with their draft picks. They went very heavy on offense, as 12 of their first 13 picks were forwards. In addition, eight of the 13 picks were playing junior hockey last season, which was a clear message that the Grit were looking for players with experience that could put pucks in the net.

“We must have the right culture. We have to match where the game is at right now and that’s playing with a lot of pace and speed. We are totally starting from scratch, so you have to have guys that have the character to want to be a part of that because it’s not for everybody,” said Haddon. “As a new team, you really have to take things one day at a time. I think things can get overwhelming if you look at the big picture, so we are just trying to focus on the day-to-day leading up to our first game and the NAHL Showcase.”

The Grit will be tested early in the season, with a rigorous schedule from the start as they open the NAHL regular season on Opening Night with their inaugural game on Friday, September 8th at home against the El Paso Rhinos. After three games against El Paso, it is off to the NAHL Showcase for four games in four days against Springfield, North Iowa, Fairbanks, and Danbury.

“We are in a tough division and we have to be ready to go. We play seven games in the first nine days of the season, so it’s not going to be easy,” said Haddon. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and move players onto the next level. We have three NCAA Division I schools in the state, so there is some additional exposure there being the first NAHL team in the state of Colorado. The bottom line is being competitive in every game.”

Next Up: Corpus Christi IceRays

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