‘Hockey Week in Fairbanks’ cancels anticipated event

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 6:58 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Hockey Week in Fairbanks, an annual celebration of the city’s most participated sport, announced the cancellation of the 2021 event earlier this week. While they held out hope, organizers could not overcome the obstacles imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including ice availability, social gatherings and lack of competition to observe and celebrate.

“We have been monitoring the situation in the community, to include our local rinks,” Co-director of HWIF Anna Culley said in the release. “We are deeply saddened to take a break in our 14 year tradition, but we have already started brainstorming on how we can come back bigger and stronger in 2022. We will miss all of our hockey friends this year, but know this is the right decision to make.”

What started as ‘Hockey Day in Fairbanks’ in 2006, spearheaded by current Co-director Randy Zarnke, has flourished into a week-long ceremony of the sport, featuring games, a contest for best backyard rink, hall of fame inductions, among other festivities. Over time, the event branched beyond the frozen waters of a hockey rink.

“It dawned on me after the first couple of years that we could have just a fun event and people would enjoy it, but it would be even more meaningful to provide some service for the community,” Zarnke said. “One year I was driving down Airport Road and drove passed the Blood Bank and the old phrase came to mind that used to be said in kind of a negative, or derogatory, way towards the sport of hockey and that phrase is: ‘Give Blood, Play Hockey’. I said, ‘this is a case where you can take lemons and turn them into lemonade and so we have been doing a blood drive for the past, I’d say, probably close to 10 years now.”

Highlights of recent HWIF events include a Stanley Cup appearance, the “Hanson Brothers” from the hit hockey movie ‘Slap Shot’ came to town and the celebrity games.

“For a year or more afterwards, I would be at the grocery store and somebody would slap me on the back and say, ‘thanks for bringing the Cup to town.’” Zarnke added.

Although the 2021 edition of the event is canceled, Hockey Week in Fairbanks says they are looking forward to a strong return in 2022.

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