Delta ninth-grader Sami Cassel is into hockey. With no place to play organized hockey locally, Cassell must travel to Grand Junction to skate.
Cassel has been playing for some time and is a member of the Grand Junction Bantam B boys team.
During her first contact practice (the Bantam division is the first year players are allowed to have contact) a medical problem was discovered. Cassel's parents, Carl and Gina Cassel, were quick to have Sami examined. "We found out there was a problem with the kidney draining properly. Surgery was scheduled in Montrose to repair it."
After the surgery failed to remedy the situation, a stent was inserted to allow drainage. This allowed Cassel to continue playing hockey during part of last season.
"We saw a specialist at Children's Hospital and rescheduled the surgery. She had successful surgery last March which allowed her to play up until the final tournament," stated Cassel's mother.
A member of the Grand Junction hockey club, Jason Peters, is the fundraising chair for the team and had contacted the Colorado Avalanche about fundraising opportunities.
The Avs said they wanted somebody who had overcome adversity and exemplified the spirit of the game. Peters immediately thought of Cassel. Cassel's mother had knowledge of at least three other youths who had surgery last season, plus one other who was battling Crohn's disease. Not wanting to bypass those other hopefuls, Mrs. Cassel contacted the club's board to make sure all had concurred with Sami's choice.
Sami's recognition of overcoming her adversity came on Nov. 26 at the Pepsi Center with Denver's Colorado Avalanche on the ice with her.
According to Cassel's mother, "Sami is very passionate about the game. She attends summer camps and skates year round. Her club's season lasts from October to March and there are 17 regular season games and two tournaments scheduled. She will practice three times a week in Grand Junction and usually goes on weekends."
Cassel plays defense and is the team's backup goalie. Her intentions, for now, are to continue playing hockey knowing she will most likely have to play goalie as long as she is with the boys' team or switch to a girls' team which involves even more travel to either Eagle Valley or Aspen.
"She would like to play collegiate hockey ... so we will see," notes Cassel's mother.
The time spent traveling is another thing, and it isn't an issue. "The car always needs gas and new tires. We try not to count the miles. Most games are in ski-towns where there are ice rinks. It's a lifestyle for the family."
Delta's second annual "Kickoff to Christmas" takes place Saturday, Nov. 25. This event is sponsored by the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce and First Colorado National Bank.