Fairbanks Ice Dogs make anticipated Big Dipper debut Thursday
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The night Fairbanks Ice Dogs fans have been waiting 411 days for finally takes place when they junior hockey team carves Big Dipper ice Thursday against the Janesville Jets. After playing the first 39 games of their season on the road, the Ice Dogs - and its fans - are more than ready for the team to skate in front of Fairbanks for the first time in over a year.
“From the people of Marshall, to the community here helping support us and getting us through some hard times, we are now hoping that we brought a team back to this community that they can be proud of,” head coach Trevor Stewart said at Wednesday’s practice.
The Ice Dogs return to Fairbanks at the optimal time, winners of seven of their last eight games. On the flip side, the organization hasn’t competed in nearly three weeks following the rescheduling of their series with the Kenai River Brown Bears that was set for last weekend.
“They looked fresh, which they said should be,” Stewart mentioned of the time off. “I actually think it hurts us a little bit, just not being battle tested. But the guys should be excited, being at home for the first time after a 40-game road trip, we are just excited to be back playing in front of our fans.”
While the Ice Dogs are officially back, the game is expected to look a little different at 50 percent capacity, rather than the 2,000+ fans blowing the roof off of the Big Dipper. All spectators must be masked outside of eating and drinking, with social distancing measurers in place. Every other row of seating is marked off, while seating is arranged for there to be two empty seats on each side of a spectator’s group.
“You will see all of our concessions, beer stands, everything will be open like a normal game operation,” General Manager Rob Proffitt said. “We are just excited to make it happen. We, as a community, were able to rally together to keep things around that is important to them and we were lucky to be a part of that. From a hockey side, it is getting the guys back home playing. It means the world to me to open these doors on Thursday evening and say thank you to sponsors, thank you to the community.”
For the rookies, they will finally get a chance to experience what veterans like Andrew Garby have described to them about playing at the Big Dipper.
“It is unlike any other place in this league,” said the three-year veteran.
Garby, a defenseman from Canton, Michigan, was recently voted as captain by his teammates, the highest honor of respect among his peers and coaches.
“It means a lot, there has been some great captains I have had the last two years, so for them to vote me in and have that trust really means a lot.” he added.
Just a few weeks prior to donning the ‘C’ on his sweater, Garby committed to Army West Point’s Division I hockey program. Despite not having any family members in the military, it was his recent experience playing hockey in Fairbanks that was part of his influence to join Army.
“My billet family this year and last year they were in the Army,” the defenseman said. “It is a great place with great coaches, can’t go wrong there. I couldn’t be more thankful. There are a lot of fans here in the military, Air Force and Army, and to be able to play here every night for them and then be able to do what they do, it really means a lot.”
The Ice Dogs (20-17-1-1, 42 points) welcome the Midwest Division leading Janesville Jets (25-9-2-0, 52 points) to Fairbanks for a three-game series that begins with puck drop at 7 p.m. Thursday. Though tickets to the remaining seven home games were sold out within 24 hours, there is still a chance to score a pair of tickets through KTVF’s Photo Contest. Follow the link for directions. The organization has also tabbed Fender’s Restaurant and Oasis Restaurant and Lounge as ‘Little Dippers’ where fans can view the game. Continue to watch KTVF Channel 11 at 6 and 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday and monitor webcenterfairbanks.com for updates on the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
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