TPH Center of Excellence Hosts 1st Annual Colorado Winter Classic
Over 70 student-athletes from TPH Center of Excellence Denver and Superior took to the pond this past January to compete in the first annual TPH Colorado Winter Classic. The tournament was a joint venture between the two Center of Excellence locations and was developed to allow TPH student-athletes to experience the game of hockey how it was meant to be played: outside.
With fun in mind, the TPH Winter Classic allowed the student-athletes to take what they have already learned and apply it to a free flowing version of the game. Memories were forged that will last a lifetime as the student-athletes skated around the frozen surface of Lake Evergreen. As Lester Patrick stated in 1950, “The foundation of hockey isn’t really hockey at all. It’s shinny, a wild melee of kids batting a puck around, with no rules, no organization.”
But this was no ordinary game of shinny. There was no blindfolded stick shuffling, no harsh ice conditions, and no rushing to get home before the streetlights came on. This was a flawlessly executed round-robin style tournament that took place on 15 of the most well manicured mini rinks that Colorado had to offer.
In order to get the full pond hockey experience, student-athletes were challenged to play with teammates they had never met before. Teams were based on age, and each roster featured a mix of student-athletes from both Denver and Superior. Over the course of the day, family members and Center of Excellence staff cheered as a handful of NCAA Division 1 commits came to play with each team competing in 6 games.
The priority of the TPH Colorado Winter Classic was focused on having fun and providing a unique experience for everyone in attendance. “This was an excellent opportunity to bring the TPH family and the Colorado hockey families together,” mentioned Jordan Pietrus, Executive Director of TPH Colorado. “This was all about having some unstructured fun, getting exercise, and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. We’re thrilled to have been able to bring the game back to its roots and host this amazing tournament for our student-athletes.”
Take the next step and register for the upcoming National Virtual Open House; discovering new levels of potential for your student-athlete at a Center of Excellence near you!
(Nashville, TN – December 15, 2021) – TPH is excited to announce Alan Keeso as its new Chief Executive Officer, effective January 1, 2022. Having served as Strategic Advisor to TPH over the past 5 years, Keeso brings in-depth knowledge of TPH and its Center of Excellence (CoE) academy model, its team members, and culture.
“We’re so excited to have Al lead our team going into our next 20 years at TPH,” said TPH founder Nathan Bowen, who will move out of the CEO role and into the Chairman role, remaining heavily active in TPH. “Having celebrated TPH turning 20 years old this year, we are absolutely pumped about what’s to come as we strive to lead the world in positively impacting the lives of student-athletes. Al is the leader to help us scale that impact.”
In addition to consulting for TPH in recent years, Keeso has helped dozens of small and medium-sized businesses grow for over a decade as a management consultant, independently, as well as through Grant Thornton and BDC. When asked early in 2021 by Bowen and his Investing Partner Taso Sofikitis to work more closely with TPH, Keeso decided to make the move with his family to Nashville.
“TPH to its core is a purpose-driven organization, with an outstanding team of committed professionals,” said Keeso. “It’s an honor to have this kind of confidence from Nathan and Taso to take TPH to new heights, and the responsibility that comes with the CEO role to the TPH team and our student-athletes is something I take very seriously. We’re a team that’s poised for growth through our Center of Excellence Study/Train/Play academy model, association management, camps and clinics, The Prospect Exchange, prospects teams, and events, now featuring Champions League Hockey in partnership with World Hockey Group. All of these efforts and their growth will enable us to positively impact the lives of a greater number of student-athletes, not only at our current locations, but also at many new locations to come. The future is bright at TPH.”
Keeso’s own journey as a student-athlete, and ensuing career, lend perspective to what Bowen believes will continue to differentiate TPH to prospective partners as well as families weighing the incredibly important decision on where to have their children develop as students, athletes, and people.
“Al has not only been an aspiring elite student-athlete, who reached levels in hockey that many TPH student-athletes are working towards daily, but he also exemplifies to our families what the bigger picture can be when lessons learned from sports are applied beyond the game,” said Bowen. “That’s what TPH is all about, and that’s what we feel differentiates us; we prepare our student-athletes not only for the next level in their sport, but also mentor them on habits that will help them experience wild success on the ultimate journey – life. With Al’s leadership, that differentiator will only get stronger. He has lived the ups and downs the game can throw at you and is an incredible role model for young aspiring student-athletes, because he never quit and he has used those tough times as motivation and lessons learned to prepare for the next challenge in life and hit it head on in pursuit of the next success.”
In addition to a successful business career, Keeso has earned two master’s degrees – an MBA and an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management – from the University of Oxford. At Oxford, he also published a working paper, took to the TEDx stage, and was goaltender for the university’s historic ice hockey team, becoming the only men’s player in the club’s history to have earned an Extraordinary Full Blue, the highest honor in sports at Oxford. Keeso also served as an infantry officer in the armed forces reserves and ran in a federal election.
A native of Listowel, Ontario, Keeso played hockey in his hometown before joining the Huron-Perth Lakers AAA organization and continuing on to Jr hockey with the Listowel Cyclones, Strathroy Rockets, and Sarnia Blast of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOHL). He then went to Boston to study at Wentworth Institute of Technology, where he was a goaltender for the varsity NCAA Division III hockey team and graduated with a BSc in Technology Management with honors.
“Having grown up in the game of hockey, I understand the opportunities for growth that youth sports provide for young people, on and off the ice, field, and court,” said Keeso. “Team members at TPH are deeply committed to the holistic development of student-athletes, knowing that the skills and habits learned extend well beyond the game to many other arenas of life. As a result of Nathan’s leadership and an all-star team of people, we have a great foundation in place as we head into ‘The Next 20’ at TPH.”
If you are interested in learning more about our #StudyTrainPlay model at the TPH Center of Excellence, Alan and other key members of our team will be participating in a Nationwide Virtual Open House on January 10th at 8:00 PM EST. Register for free here!
Ricci, a former University of Denver Pioneer and current Philadelphia Flyers Skills Coach, has over 2 decades of coaching experience. Ricci is currently the Executive Director for the Colorado Thunderbirds Tier 1 Hockey Club and is also the Founder of Ricci Hockey Consulting.
A graduate of Brown University with an MBA in International Business from Coventry University, Pietrus has no shortage of achievements including being named to the ECAC All-Academic team, voted a finalist for the Ivy League Student-Athlete of the Year, awarded NCAA Hockey Humanitarian Finalist, and awarded the 2010 NCAA Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award. While competing for Coventry in the EIHL and pursuing his MBA, Pietrus served as a lecturer in Undergraduate and Masters levels courses at Coventry University.
After wrapping up a nine-year professional playing career that in ECHL (South Carolina, Trenton and Elmira) and overseas (England, Poland and Denmark), Pietrus led the charge inlaunching the first TPH Center of Excellence west of the Mississippi River. After one year at our Denver location Pietrus has stepped up to help lead all of our Colorado locations. The Winnipeg native has now made Colorado his home with his wife and daughter.
Sprague has walked the path that most CoE students would like to take, preparing him perfectly to lead the student-athletes at TPH-Denver. Sprague attended and played hockey for IMG Academy before moving on to a Junior Hockey career in the USHL. Sprague earned an athletic scholarship at Michigan State University where he was a member of the 2007 NCAA National Championship team. After finishing college, Jay went on to play professionally in the ECHL and CHL before he eventually decided to transition from a career as a player to a career as a coach and mentor.
As the Head of Academics, Jentz brings 16 years of experience teaching in Middle and High School in Fargo (ND), Littleton, Douglas County, and Elizabeth Public Schools. He has a BA Secondary Social Studies Education from Concordia College (MN) with a Special Education Endorsement from the University of Colorado Denver. Jentz is also a 2x Apple Award Nominee, eInstruction CPS Engaging Kids to Learn Grant Recipient, Disney Teacher of the Year Award Nominee, and Intel Teach to the Future Grant Recipient.
What really makes Jentz a perfect fit for the TPH Center of Excellence is his experience with sports. Jentz played NCAA Division III hockey at Concordia College. Following his playing career, Jentz went on to a 24 years Youthockey Coach in North Dakota and Colorado/ Rec Hockey Director AYHL which includes 7x State Champion Coach, 3x RMD Finalist, 2x National Championship Qualifier.
A native of Littleton, Colorado, Michael Anton played for the Colorado Thunderbirds for seven years. As someone quite familiar with the area and sport, Anton enjoys working with TPH Denver student-athletes as they train to become elite.
In his free time, he enjoys creating graphic design edits of hockey players from various levels.
Cole grew up in Highlands Ranch, CO playing defense for the Colorado Thunderbirds and Rampage programs. Following youth hockey, Cole went on to play 2 years of junior hockey in the NAHL and WSHL, followed by graduating from Miami University with a degree in Marketing and Business Analytics before getting into coaching. Starting at the youth level in 2017 with the Colorado Rampage, Cole has since continued skill development with skaters and goalies at the TPH Center of Excellence and also as the Co-founder of Elite Edge Athlete.
Massa is a Littleton, CO native who manned the pipes in the Colorado Thunderbirds and Rampage programs before going on to play two seasons in the NAHL and USHL with Bismarck and Fargo. Following junior hockey, Massa attended the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he played four seasons which led to two seasons in the Toronto Maple Leaf’s organization with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. Additionally, Massa is the co-founder of Elite Edge Athlete.
Coach Dylan Strom joins TPH Denver as a Player Development Coach and Mentor. Strom is a 14-year veteran of the Air Force and active member of the Air National Guard. He currently lives in Fort Collins, and comes to TPH Denver from Michigan State University where he served as a volunteer assistant coach. Prior to that, he served as head coach at Fort Collins High School for three seasons where he compiled a 39-6-3 (.844) regular season record. He led Fort Collins to the state semifinals in all three seasons he was behind the bench, and to the championship game in 2020 and 2021. He was named the league’s coach of the year in 2020. Strom also worked alongside former Spartan assistant coach George Gwozdecky for two seasons as an assistant with Team Colorado.