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Ice Dogs settle into temporary home, begin training camp

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 7:38 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -

As many have adjusted to life in 2020, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs too had to make alterations if they wanted to have a season at all.

The Ice Dogs staff and 30 players have arrived to their “Sister City” of Marshall, Minnesota, where they will be hosted to begin their 2020-21 season.

“They’re putting all the bells and whistles together to make the experience, most importantly, for the players, the best they possibly can and as well as for our staff," said Ice Dogs General Manager Rob Proffitt of the hospitality. "The rink, the rink staff, the city, the billet families, [they’re] just off the chart, [I] can’t say enough good things about them.”

While many other North American Hockey League teams began training camp several weeks ago, the Ice Dogs hit the ice together for the first time on October 23 to begin camp. There is a short turnaround from acclimation to action, as Fairbanks will begin a three-game Midwest Division Jamboree beginning on Thursday with a familiar foe in the Kenai River Brown Bears.

Their first official game of the season will come on November 5 when the Ice Dogs visit the Janesville Jets. Fairbanks will continue to play on the road, before their first “home” series November 27-28 when they take on the Aberdeen Wings at the Red Baron Arena in Marshall, they’re temporary home. With the new adjustments, head coach Trevor Stewart is confident in his veteran leaders to get the team in the right mindset.

“As opposed to years past where they kind of take over at the end of the year, they’re taking over right from the beginning and we expect that from them and I think everybody understands in the locker room right now that is what needs to be done.” Stewart said, who enters his 10th season at the helm.

COVID-19 precautions are implemented not just at the rink, but throughout the Ice Dogs experience in Marshall, Minnesota. The players are separated into groups, they don’t eat out at restaurants and are expected to return to their billet families immediately after hitting the ice.

“For the first time in my life I am promoting video games because that is about all there is,” Proffitt said with a laugh. “It is constant masks, the guys are separated in the locker rooms, they’re social distanced in the hallways, masks from the minute they get here, temperature taking, symptoms, it’s a full meal deal here.”

Fairbanks was sitting in first place of the Midwest Division with 52 points before the season was canceled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a sizable amount of returners, they are looking to pick up right where they left off last season.

“They’re excited to be here, excited to start a season and they know they’ve got a big task in front of them,” said Stewart. “They were super excited to compete against each other the last couple days and now on Thursday, we get to see what the competition looks like, so super excited and super jacked for Thursday when we play Kenai River.”

The Ice Dogs will play over 20 out-of-state games through November and December before they look to make their Fairbanks debut January 21, 2021 against the Jets at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

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