The news hit with the force of a huge punch to the stomach. The obituary only made that feeling worse.
Pieter Kollen is gone.
Most likely, you never heard of him. And that's too bad. Because if anyone sat down and made a list of the most influential people in Colorado Springs' ice-sports history, meaning hockey as well as figure skating, Kollen would rank in the highest group even though he left here 20 years ago to help another city, Indianapolis, develop its place in the skating world.
He lived in the Springs for nearly a quarter-century, from 1964 to 1987, touching and impacting countless lives in so many ways. Until earlier this year, he had been skating director at the Indiana/World Skating Academy, continuing to have the same kind of influence there.
At 68, he was still active as a teacher, leader and innovator, not to mention role model. Then he was suddenly stricken on Aug. 2, and three days later he was gone, leaving fellow coaches, present and former pupils, and thousands of friends feeling empty.
All of those groups include people in Colorado Springs, many of whom had known the former U.S. pairs champion since he retired from competition in 1963 and soon landed on the staff at the old Broadmoor World Arena. He helped coach the likes of Scott Cramer, three-time U.S. men's national medalist who narrowly missed the 1980 Olympics and later won the world professional skating title (he's now a chiropractor in the Springs); Lisa-Marie Allen, a highly popular Olympian and World Team member; and Tim Wood, the 1971 world men's champion, among many others.
Kollen assisted in putting together programs for hundreds of Broadmoor ice performances, not just the popular summer shows and December Pops on Ice, but also innumerable others for convention groups staying at The Broadmoor. Not content just to work on choreography, he would take the ice himself for many group numbers, along with other members of his family.
During his latter years in the Springs, Kollen also helped nurture the skating program at Memorial Park's Sertich Ice Center.
But it wasn't just about skating. Kollen was a brilliant creative presence in other ways, such as physiology, technology and training. He was on the cutting edge of analyzing the elements of jumps, showing skaters how technique and jumping height affected their success.
Even in the 1960s, he developed power-skating methods to help hockey players with strength and endurance. Those methods earned him enough respect that he worked with the U.S. Olympic hockey teams of 1976 and 1980 (the Miracle on Ice bunch), and he continued directing power-skating camps until the end of his life.
After moving to Indiana, Kollen added another title to his rsum: inventor. He conceived the K-Pick and parabolic design for skating blades, both of which have made a difference for skaters everywhere.
There isn't room here to talk about our friendship, which spanned years of watching ice sports and sharing predictions on what would happen next in the worlds of skating and hockey. The last time we saw each other, when he called several years ago during a vacation in Florida, it was just like always. He still looked at least 10 years younger than his actual age.
He never stopped caring about Colorado Springs and its illustrious sports history. It always seemed to me that his heart was still here, where he and wife Bonnie also raised their children, even though he carved out such a special niche in Indianapolis.
That's why it's important to make sure Pieter Kollen's obituary isn't the last word. It said, simply, he was a skating coach. As anyone who ever knew him would confirm, he was so much more than that.
So long, Pete. This one's for you, dear friend.
Bits and pieces: Last year's most disruptive rules change in college football has been undone. Once again, the clock will remain stopped after every change of possession or kickoff until the next offensive snap. In 2006, unbeknownst to coaches, the NCAA decided to start the game clock in all those situations as soon as the referee started the 25-second clock. That change shortened the typical game by an average of 14 plays and 60 offensive yards, but it also affected everything from timeout strategy to aborting many last-minute comebacks. Only rarely is a rule totally reversed just a year later, which tells you how ill-advised this one was.
Another new college rule for this year actually will add excitement to the game, as the colleges now will kick off from the 30-yard line (same as the NFL) instead of the 35. It will open up the chances for more returns, and college coaches are indicating it also will likely mean using more of their first-team players on kick-coverage special teams (at least early in the season). ... Also, any timeouts that aren't TV commercial breaks now will be shortened from 60 seconds to 30.
Even if you aren't a Dallas fan, it's a lot easier to put up with America's Team with ex-Denver coach Wade Phillips in charge. It's a promising situation for Phillips replacing Bill Parcells, who didn't leave the cupboard bare. Denver plays at Dallas on Saturday (6 p.m., Channel 11).
You know it's a different kind of Colorado baseball season, with fans paying attention into August, when you see the Denver Nuggets being a sponsor with promotional commercials during Rockies telecasts.
Attack the mountain Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon this weekend; watch the marathon finish in Manitou around 10 a.m. Sunday.
Before you know it: National Hockey League training camps start in three weeks.
Worth watching: Little League World Series, through Aug. 26, afternoons and nights, ESPN and ESPN2.
See the headline? Denver Nuggets' Nene will play for his native Brazil in Olympic men's basketball qualifying tournament.
Falcon fever: Air Force coach Troy Calhoun and some assistants will talk about the football season, 1 p.m. Saturday at Falcon Athletic Center, open to fans.
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