Closeup - Dustin Stolp

Dustin Stolp has been at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for 20 years, working his way up from a barback to bartender and manager.

As a longtime bartender at the Cowboy Bar, a Moose hockey alumnus and a member of the reigning men’s championship Cutty’s softball team, Dustin Stolp has had a storied history in his time as a Jackson resident.

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Stolp discovered that he had a knack for hockey when his mom signed him up to play the sport when he was 6.

“I loved every minute of it, and I started playing all the time,” he said.

Growing up on skates

As Stolp fell in love with the sport, he grew more skilled and began playing on several teams.

“My whole life in Omaha was basically playing hockey every weekend in the wintertime and in Minnesota for big tournaments,” he said. “I was on a citywide travel team, and I was on a Midwest team for my whole region.

“Thank God for my parents for being able to afford it and for sending me out there,” he said.

After graduating from Omaha Central High School, Stolp wanted to keep his skates laced. He was soon part of a Junior A team in North Dakota; in 1992 he was traded to a new team in Jackson.

“I was traded from the Bismarck Express, a Junior A hockey team there, to the Jackson Hole Grizzlies for three guys and a $1,000,” he said. “Only two of the guys showed up there, though.”

He arrived in Wyoming around Christmastime, pleasantly surprised from the first moment he saw the town.

“‘Oh my god,’” he remembered saying, “‘this place is beautiful.’”

Record holder for penalty minutes

Stolp played the rest of the season with the Grizzlies, before his eligibility was up. Grizzlies coach Mike Sullivan helped him secure a spot to play for SUNY Canton in upstate New York. After playing at the college, Stolp returned as Sullivan’s assistant to help coach the Grizzlies until that team folded and the Moose, a Senior A team, was formed. The team is now in its 23rd season.

Stolp, one of the original Moose team members, continued to suit up as a left wing and center for more than a decade.

“I had a lot of good times with the Moose,” he said.

Stolp went to nationals twice, once in Wisconsin and the other time traveling to Florida, where they had a lot of fun on the ice — and after hours in the hotel right on the shore.

“One night there was a scooter involved,” he said, “and somehow the scooter ended up in the ocean.”

The small town and the small world of hockey led to several auspicious reunions in the rink.

“T.J. Thomas was my winger, and I originally met T.J. in Bismarck, North Dakota,” he said. “We were on that same team way back in the day.”

When he met a new teammate for the first time in the locker room, Stolp discovered another person from his early hockey days — Joe Casey, the team captain during years Stolp skated for the Moose. Casey died in 2013.

“I knew him when I was 15 in Omaha, Nebraska, playing hockey. One day he showed up here, and he gave me my old hat from when we were teenagers,” Stolp said. “I still have the hat.”

Stolp was a consistent player, averaging about a point per game with a goal or an assist. But he was really known as an enforcer, racking up time in the penalty box, especially following injuries he sustained, including a broken leg and ankle.

“I would fight almost every weekend,” he said. “I hold the career record for penalty minutes.”

Thomas, who played alongside Stolp from 1998 to 2013, called his time on the ice with his teammate “awesome.”

“He was my bodyguard,” he said.

Connections from the Cowboy

In the late 1990s Stolp started working as a barback at the Cowboy Bar, becoming a head bartender and manager after several years, titles he still holds as he continues to serve libations to the community’s residents and its many visitors.

Hockey and his job at the Cowboy managed to intersect when he saw a man watching a hockey game at the bar.

“He just looked like your normal hockey player, but then he picked his head up and it was Sidney [Crosby],” he said.

Crosby made a stop in Jackson in January ahead of an All-Star game, and practiced at Snow King Sports and Event Center. Stolp talked to him at the Cowboy and was invited to play with the Pittsburgh Penguins star.

“I got to practice with him,” Stolp said. “It was the best thing ever.”

Stolp had become a fan while attending hockey and baseball games in Pittsburgh while visiting the city with his wife, Ashlee, who hails from the Steel City.

“Being from Nebraska, we didn’t have any teams. Penguins are definitely my favorite hockey team.”

Between hockey and tending bar, Stolp found time to join a men’s competitive softball team that won a championship this summer. Two decades later, Stolp is still playing with the team, started by team manager Jim Weaver, a longtime server at the Blue Lion.

“I started out keeping score for them because they didn’t have a spot for me,” Stolp said. “We finally won after all those years.”

Moose teammate T.J. Thomas was also part of the championship team. Now Cutty’s proudly displays a plaque with every team member’s signature and the tournament bracket to honor the 2019 champion team.

‘Here for good’

Ashley Stolp, a managing partner at Cutty’s, married Dustin eight years ago on Thanksgiving Day.

“She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I couldn’t live without Ashley.”

Stolp and his wife left Jackson briefly a few years ago to pursue a business venture in Pennsylvania.

“We built, ran and owned a Jimmy John’s right there on Philadelphia Street,” he said. “We worked until 3 in the morning almost every day. It ended up being profitable, but we missed Jackson big time.

“We’re here for good. We love it here, and we couldn’t even think about living anywhere else. We tried, and we can’t do it.”

As Stolp stepped back from hockey, he picked up new hobbies such as fly-fishing and cross-country skiing with his two labs, Scarlet and Geno. He also spends time with his son Tyson, 21.

“I try to find out as much as I can about fly-fishing,” he said. “That’s another reason I love Jackson so much. There’s always someone that’s an awesome athlete that can teach you all the sports here. You have so many of those people that you can learn from here.

“I have a plan to become the best mountain man I can become,” he said, laughing.

In the meantime you can find Stolp in the Cowboy socializing with regular customers or chatting to new friends.

“I get to meet people for the first time,” he said. “For some people, I get to be the first friend they have in Jackson.

“I’m lucky enough to be busy all the time in the service industry. And I’m lucky to have the great clientele I have. I appreciate it every day, and I just try to get them drinks as fast as I possibly can. I like doing it. And I like being there to serve people.”

Contact Cherise Forno via 732-7076 or valley@jhnewsandguide.com.

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