Ice Dogs’ season paused following Minnesota’s Executive Order

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 7:30 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In an effort to ensure a season, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs worked with Marshall, Minnesota as a “Sister City” to host the Tier II Junior Hockey team. After settling into their temporary home, the Ice Dogs were four games into the season before the Minnesota Department of Health and Governor Tim Walz implemented new COVID-19 restrictions this week. Executive Order 20-99 states, “all in-person organized youth and adult sports activities--including practices, workouts, games, tournaments and competitions-- are paused and not allowed during the four weeks from Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. through Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.”

The latest development has forced the Ice Dogs to pause their season for five weeks, with the hopes of returning after Christmas. All teams within the North American Hockey League’s Midwest Division will put their season on hold until at least the conclusion of the Executive Order, with the expectation that the season will be extended for a month.

“I mean you can get as negative as you want to let your mind to get, but I have already clicked in my mind the guys are reporting after Christmas,” said Ice Dogs General Manager Rob Proffitt. “Speaking of that, I don’t know many hockey players that have gotten to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with their families. Both of those holidays? I bet you not very many of them have spent both of them since they were four, five, six years old playing this game. There’s lots to come of it in the positives, it’s all you want to make of it like anything in life and we are just going to keep charging forward.”

The Ice Dogs were originally scheduled to make their Fairbanks debut at the Big Dipper Ice Arena on January 21 against the Janesville Jets. With the potential extension of the season, the Ice Dogs likely won’t make their first appearance in Fairbanks until February or March, where home games could be played through the end of May.

“It makes me smile just thinking about it,” said Proffitt of returning to Fairbanks. “Ice Dogs Nation, the fans, the supporters, the volunteers, the sponsors have been unbelievable. We have not played a game at the Big Dipper and they are still supporting. We can’t wait to get home and I just thank the community as a whole for continuing to support us through these challenges.”

Through the twists and turns of the season, Proffitt has always found a way to put a positive spin on the situation, as he has with the latest development.

“They’re just bumps in the road compared to what a lot of other people have,” he added. “It could be a lot worse with what Luke Ciolli is going through, what people all around our community are going through, some people don’t even have jobs.”

Prior to the start of the season, Ice Dogs Captain Luke Ciolli was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a type of cancerous brain tumor. He underwent a procedure last month to remove a fluid cyst and a hard mass located on his cerebellum. For Ciolli, who has committed to play Division I hockey for Army West Point, his recovery continues, but the Ice Dogs are with him in support every step of the way.

“We miss him greatly, the guys had his jersey in the four games that we’ve played, they had it hanging in the locker room. He’s with us and we are with him,” said Proffitt.

“In the meeting we had with the players when we paused the season, everyone’s heads dropped down a little bit. At that point, I talked about, ‘you guys think you’re having a bad day? What do you think Luke Ciolli right now?’ and their heads perked up,” he added. “We’re still trying to make hockey players but we’re trying to continue to help create better human beings for our society. When we’re thinking we have a bad day, we’re really not in the big picture of things like other people are.”

Ciolli scored 15 goals and tallied 24 assists in 52 games played with the Ice Dogs in 2019-20.

Best case scenario for the Ice Dogs, the Executive Order will expire on December 19 and the players will report back to Marshall, where they will continue the first portion of the season in Minnesota as planned. While a return schedule is pending, continue to monitor for updates.

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