LITTLETON, Colo. — There are only so many hours in a day, and Columbine hockey uses as many as they can. The Rebels are only given three hours of ice time each week to practice, so they have to get creative with their preparation.
"The time is pretty limited, so whatever we have together, we try to make the most out of it," head coach Matt McGregor said.
The team starts with an off day on Monday, before a grueling three-day training schedule. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the same: one hour of practice on the ice after school, followed by an hour of study hall, finishing up with an hour of weights. It's a tough turnaround from the 7pm finish on Tuesday to the 5am start on Wednesday, but they'll take whatever ice time they can get at Edge in Littleton.
"Efficiency is key. We're very systematic," McGregor said. "We kind of know our roles and everyone in the locker room kind of knows their place on the team on and off of the ice."
The lack of ice time isn't particular to Columbine; it's a problem faced by most high school hockey teams. Their solution, however, is quite unique.
"A few weeks ago at the school, we all had sticks and gloves and just a bunch of tennis balls," senior co-captain Luke Juergensen said. "We were just going back and forth working on stick handling."
His co-captain Shjon Kern recalls another creative practice.
"We went to play roller hockey one time at Cornerstone Park. That was a lot of fun, but it's a lot different," he said.
McGregor utilizes his two captains to lead practices whenever some creativity is needed.
"Sometimes just put it on the boys and see what they want to do and I kind of just stand back and push the pucks and let them show that accountability," he said. "That's a good way to spread that love a little bit."
The second phase of practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays is in the classroom. The boys meet in a study hall room, bring dinner, and bring their homework. Kern and Juergensen are responsible for keeping track of the struggling students and ensuring the entire team makes eligibility.
"We're trying to focus this year and make sure everyone's ready to play because we need our whole team to be able to perform the way we want to," Kern said.
Leave it to the captains to show that major improvements are also made by tiny movements in the weight room. That's the third phase of the Tuesday/Thursday schedule.
"I think that being a good role model is really crucial," Juergensen said. "Showing the team that you're willing to put in the work."
"You're never really entitled to anything," Kern added. "Coach has been talking about that all year, so you've just got to keep working hard."
Working hard to earn every moment, when time is a currency they can't take for granted.