Anchorage, Alaska may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of hockey, but the city is home to one of the most successful and memorable minor league hockey teams in North America – the Anchorage Wolverines. Since their founding in 1986, the Wolverines have had their fair share of historic upsets and wins that have cemented their place in hockey history.
From underdog victories over powerhouse teams to record-breaking wins, the Wolverines have continuously defied expectations and captured the hearts of fans in Anchorage and beyond. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the most unforgettable moments in the Anchorage Wolverines’ history.
The Early Years: Building a Strong Foundation
The Anchorage Wolverines were founded in 1986 and joined the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHL), a minor league that has since become known as the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The team’s name was chosen to reflect the fierce spirit and tenacity of the animal it was named after.
In their inaugural season, the Wolverines finished in third place in the PCHL and made it to the playoffs. Although they didn’t end up winning the championship, their strong debut season set the tone for what was to come.
Over the next decade, the Wolverines continued to establish themselves as a formidable team in the PCHL. They consistently made it to the playoffs and in 1996-1997, they captured their first league championship, defeating the Fresno Falcons in a nail-biting series.
But the Wolverines’ biggest moment came in 1999 when they joined the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL). The team immediately made a splash, winning the regular season championship and sweeping the playoffs to capture their second title. This was the start of a new era for the Wolverines, and they quickly became known as a team to watch out for.
Underdog Victories Against the Big Leagues
One of the most thrilling things about minor league hockey is seeing the underdogs come out on top against major league teams. The Anchorage Wolverines have had several such victories in their history, earning them a reputation as giant killers.
In 2011, the Wolverines made headlines when they faced off against the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League (AHL) in an exhibition game. It was an intense game, and the Wolverines were considered massive underdogs, as the Wolves were a top team in the AHL.
But the Wolverines refused to be intimidated and put up a spirited fight, eventually winning the game 4-3 in overtime. This win not only showcased the Wolverines’ skill and determination, but it also put Anchorage on the map as a city with a serious hockey team.
In 2015, the Wolverines once again pulled off a major upset when they faced the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League (NHL) in a preseason exhibition game. Despite being outmatched on paper, the Wolverines put up a strong fight and ultimately defeated the Sharks 4-2.
This was a historic moment for the Wolverines, as it marked the first time a minor league team had ever beaten an NHL team in regulation time in an exhibition game. It was a proud moment for the Wolverines and a true testament to their skills and determination.
Record-Breaking Wins and Unforgettable Moments
Throughout their history, the Anchorage Wolverines have set numerous records and achieved many milestones. In 2017, the Wolverines made history by winning their third WCHL championship. This was a record-breaking fourth consecutive season making it to the league finals, showcasing their consistency and dominance in the league.
But perhaps the most memorable moment in Wolverines’ history came in 2018 when they achieved something no other minor league team had done before – a perfect season. The Wolverines won all 72 of their regular season games, setting the record for the longest winning streak in minor league hockey history.
This remarkable feat was achieved through grit, determination, and a never-give-up attitude that is characteristic of the Wolverines. It was a moment that will forever be etched in the minds of fans and players alike, as it represented the team’s unwavering commitment to excellence.
Another unforgettable moment came in 2020 when the Wolverines faced off against the Colorado Eagles in the Kelly Cup Finals of the ECHL. In a back-and-forth series that went to Game 7, the Wolverines emerged victorious, winning their first Kelly Cup and completing their journey from underdogs to champions.
Looking Towards the Future
As the Anchorage Wolverines continue to make an impact in the minor league hockey world, fans eagerly await what the future holds for this storied team. With a strong foundation and a history of success and determination, the Wolverines are sure to continue making their mark in the world of hockey.
So, whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, keep an eye on the Anchorage Wolverines for more historic upsets, record-breaking wins, and unforgettable moments in the years to come.