Anchorage Wolverines announce head coach and plans for inaugural season
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s been years in the making, and Wednesday the Anchorage Wolverines took another step toward hitting the ice next fall. The new North American Hockey League expansion team announced a head coach along with plans to play at the Sullivan Arena next October.
“It’s been full speed ahead since we were officially accepted as a member of the North American Hockey League,” Wolverines President and Co-Owner Kai Binkley Sims said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of time to enjoy it yet. But the community support we’ve seen, and the excitement has been amazing.”
On Wednesday the Wolverines named Mike Aikens the head coach of the franchise. The former University of Denver hockey player said talks originally began when Wolverines Director of Hockey Operations Keith Morris reached out to him to recruit players from the Rochester Grizzlies, a North American Three Hockey team he is currently coaching for. The talks progressed from recruiting his players to recruiting him to coach.
“The biggest thing is I wanted to make sure is that my family was ok with it,” Aikens said over Zoom on Wednesday.
Aikens returned home to Rochester, Minnesota after coaching in the United States Hockey League for the Omaha Lancers from 2010-12 as an assistant and 2013 as a head coach. The move home for Aikens was a chance to spend more time with his two daughters. With both of his children heading off to college in the next two years, Aikens felt it was the right time to become a head coach again.
“I feel real comfortable about jumping in at the NA (North American Hockey League) level,” Aikens said. “We are going to be really high on getting character kids.”
Aikens is one piece to a bigger puzzle the Wolverines are in the process of putting together. Since being accepted to the NAHL they have begun to acquire players. The junior hockey team will consist of players ages 16-20 and is not a professional franchise, so players are not paid.
The Anchorage Wolverines will join the Kenai River Brown Bears and Fairbanks Ice Dogs as the third team from Alaska in the NAHL. Sims said the ownership group felt the financial model for a junior team and having other teams already established in Alaska made it the right fit.
“It’s a lot easier to handle than the professional model,” Binkley Sims said.
Sims said the team plans on playing at the Sullivan Arena next October. The arena used to house former pro hockey franchise the Alaska Aces along with the University of Alaska Anchorage hockey team until 2019-20 when they moved back on campus. Recently the arena has been used as a homeless shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know the Sullivan Arena is serving a different purpose in our community, and we’ve been in touch with the municipality,” Binkley Sims said. “We plan to play at the Sullivan and will eventually be at the Sullivan. We hope it’s in October but were also looking at backup plans if that’s not an option.”
The organization also announced during their launch video that they will hold a futures camp from May 21-23 in Anchorage for players born from 2006-2007. They will have a pre-draft camp from June 25-27 also in Anchorage for players born from 2001-2005.
Copyright 2021 KTUU. All rights reserved.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information about the hockey program.