With its rugged terrain and harsh winters, Alaska may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about hockey. But for those who know the sport, Alaska holds a special place in hockey history. From historic upsets to unbelievable wins, Alaska has played a significant role in the development of hockey in North America and around the world. In this article, we will take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the most memorable moments in Alaska hockey history.
The Early Days of Hockey in Alaska
Hockey first arrived in Alaska in the late 1800s when Canadian miners and trappers brought the sport to the northern territory. These early games were often played on frozen lakes or makeshift rinks, with players using whatever equipment they could find, including tree branches for sticks and frozen animal carcasses for pucks.
One of the earliest recorded hockey games in Alaska took place in 1898 when a team of Canadian miners took on a team of American miners in what would become a heated rivalry. This game sparked interest in the sport among the native Alaskan population, who would go on to form their own teams and leagues.
The Alaska Amateur Hockey Association
In 1923, the Alaska Amateur Hockey Association (AAHA) was officially formed, bringing together all the different teams and leagues across the state. The AAHA became the governing body for hockey in Alaska, overseeing all amateur hockey activities and organizing tournaments and championships.
One of the most notable achievements of the AAHA was the creation of the Alaska State Hockey Championship in 1925. This annual tournament brought together the best teams from across the state to compete for the coveted title of Alaska State Hockey Champion.
The AAHA also played a crucial role in promoting youth hockey in Alaska, organizing camps and clinics to teach the sport to young players and offering financial assistance to communities looking to build rinks and hockey programs.
The First International Hockey Game in Alaska
In 1932, Alaska made history by hosting its first international hockey game. The Dawson City Nuggets from the Yukon Territory in Canada took on the Fairbanks All-Stars, marking the first time an Alaskan team played against a team from outside the state.
The game was a huge success, drawing a crowd of over 2,000 spectators. The Fairbanks All-Stars went on to win by a score of 9-3, showcasing the growing talent and skill of Alaskan hockey players.
The Arrival of Professional Hockey in Alaska
In 1975, the Alaska Gold Kings made their debut in the short-lived Pacific Hockey League. This marked the arrival of professional hockey in Alaska and brought a new level of excitement to the sport in the state. The Gold Kings would go on to win the league championship in their inaugural season, solidifying their place in Alaska hockey history.
In the early 1980s, the Alaska Aces would also make their mark on the professional hockey scene in Alaska. After joining the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1982, the Aces quickly became one of the top teams in the league, winning the championship in 1983 and 1984.
The Aces continued to thrive, winning seven titles in the West Coast Hockey League before joining the ECHL in 2003. They became a beloved team in Alaska, drawing in crowds of loyal fans and playing a major role in the development of hockey in the state.
Alaskan Hockey Heroes
Over the years, many talented and dedicated players have come out of Alaska and gone on to make an impact in the world of hockey. One of the most famous Alaskan hockey players is Scott Gomez, who became the first native Alaskan to play in the NHL when he debuted with the New Jersey Devils in 1999.
Gomez went on to have a successful career in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with the Devils and playing for teams such as the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, and San Jose Sharks.
Another notable Alaskan hockey player is Brandon Dubinsky, who also played in the NHL for over a decade with teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers. Dubinsky’s father, Larry, was also a well-known figure in Alaskan hockey as both a player and coach.
Honorable Mentions: Historic Upsets and Wins
While there have been many memorable moments in Alaska hockey history, there are a few notable upsets and wins that stand out. In 2012, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League captured the Robertson Cup, becoming the first Alaskan team to win the title.
In 2013, Alaska Anchorage shocked the hockey world when they upset top-ranked Michigan in the NCAA tournament, marking the first time an Alaskan team had beaten a team from the lower 48 states in the tournament.
In 2015, the University of Alaska Fairbanks men’s hockey team made history by beating top-ranked Boston University, marking the first time an Alaskan team had beaten a team from one of the Big Four conferences (Atlantic Hockey, ECAC, Hockey East, WCHA).
Today, hockey remains a beloved sport in Alaska, with numerous amateur and professional teams, including the Anchorage Wolverines and the Alaska Nanooks. The state has also produced more NHL players per capita than any other state in the country, solidifying its place as a powerhouse in the world of hockey.
Alaskan hockey history is filled with numerous historic upsets and wins, showcasing the resilience and determination of the players who have proudly represented the state on the ice. And as new players and teams continue to emerge, we can only anticipate even greater moments in the years to come.