Ice Dogs to make Fairbanks debut in April at 50% capacity
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Since the Fairbanks Ice Dogs announced they would be playing most of their season in Marshall, Minnesota, the organization and its devoted fans have been eager for the Tier II Junior A hockey program to make their Fairbanks debut. On Monday, General Manager Rob Proffitt announced via the team’s Facebook page that the Ice Dogs will return to the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska April 22 to kickstart a three-game series with the Janesville Jets.
“We’re coming home,” Proffitt said. “Probably the most important thing is, it is bringing back the team to the community that has supported us and kept us alive.”
In August, the Ice Dogs made the announcement that they will play the first portion of the season in their host city of Marshall, Minnesota, a necessary adjustment if they wanted to have a season at all. At the time, the Ice Dogs were eyeing a late January return to their home ice of the Big Dipper. That date got pushed back to March 12, following a pause in the season. As the Ice Dogs continued to work with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the owner and operator of the Big Dipper, that date was pushed back another two weeks. Months in the making, those involved were able to bring the Ice Dogs back to Fairbanks over a year after their last appearance.
“I am excited to have the Ice Dogs back in town and am extremely grateful to the city of Marshall for their hospitality during the pandemic,” said Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward in an Ice Dogs press release.
“The Parks & Recreation Department is ready and excited to welcome home the Ice Dogs,” added Recreation Superintendent Steve Taylor in the presser. “We look forward to them bringing the heat back to the Big Dipper!”
Ahead of their Fairbanks debut, the Ice Dogs will play their first games in the 49th State April 16-17 against the Kenai River Brown Bears in Soldotna. Following that series, the ‘Dogs will play seven games at the Big Dipper: April 22-24 vs. Janesville, April 30-May 1 vs. Chippewa and May 7-8 vs. Kenai.
The Ice Dogs’ ability to welcome fans into the Big Dipper Ice Arena is dependent upon The Fairbanks North Star Borough’s operational status under its COVID-19 mitigation plan, according to the organization.
“With the current operational status of ‘low-intermediate’ attendance in the Big Dipper would operate at 50 percent capacity, allowing 1,100 fans into an Ice Dogs game,” the press release states. Masks will be required while spectating and social distancing will be “respected”.
Through the changes of dates, delays in the season and moving the entire organization to Minnesota, the Fairbanks community hasn’t wavered in its support of the Ice Dogs.
“I don’t even know if there is enough adjectives and I am not sure the right one that would sum it all up,” Proffitt said. “I will be forever grateful, our whole organization will be, our players will be, so thank you. They have been what the Fairbanks community is; amazing and supportive.”
Further information regarding ticketing will be released at a later date. Until their Fairbanks debut, the Ice Dogs will continue skating at their “home-away-from-home” of the Red Baron Arena and the surrounding area. The ‘Dogs will take on the Brown Bears, a team they split with last week, March 19-20. Two-thirds of the way through their 48-game schedule, Fairbanks sits in third place of the North American Hockey League’s Midwest Division standings at 14-16-1-1.
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