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Anchorage Classic highlights Alaskan hockey passion

09/06/2017, 9:15am MDT
By Dave Pond

For the last 16 years, the Anchorage Adult Classic has attracted teams from across America’s largest and northernmost state, as well as the lower 48. Sixty teams compete across eight divisions, which include men’s, women’s and mixed teams at all levels.

“This is one of the largest USA Hockey-sanctioned indoor adult tournaments in the country,” said Darryl Thompson, an Anchorage-based attorney and the president of the Alaska State Hockey Association. “It caters to various age groups, with men’s, mixed and women’s teams, all at various skill levels.”

But even before the actual tournament begins each year, the competition begins with a flurry, as teams race to simply get their applications in.

 “I’ve played many years in the Adult Classic and, one year, we won our division,” said Thompson. “But, frankly, each tourney has become one of my favorite memories – it’s a time where, for five days, everyone suspends their regular day-to-day lives, and just has a blast sharing the sport we love.”

Thompson said the Classic could easily be expanded to 80 teams or more, which would allow more than 1,000 skaters to compete within a region defined by the sport and its familial feel.

“For many Alaskans, hockey’s not just a sport, but a way of life,” said Thompson, whose eight children also play. “Our passion and love for the game is passed down from one generation to the next, as well as from those who have come to the Last Frontier to play college or pro hockey in Alaska, fall in love with the grandeur and beauty of Alaska, and stay to raise their family and become a part of the local community.

“Alaskans who have grown up playing this great game, or were introduced to it later in life, continue to carry on the love and passion even into their twilight years,” he continued. “We have thriving adult leagues, even the ‘49ers,’ the skilled old buzzards.”

Most Alaskan adults who play hockey play all year long; many schedule consistent ice time on weekdays and take off time from work to meet lifelong friends at the rink. At the youth level, the real measure of success of a coach or a program is not wins and losses, but to create healthy, happy adults who, in turn, continue playing and give back to the sport. 

Proceeds from the recently held Coach Mac Cup, an adult 3-on-3 tourney, helped provide a special bed for a local player paralyzed in action, while the Alaska State Hockey Association board regularly helps fundraise for any number of national teams. And, when the Classic ends, the feeling and pride of family – by blood, uniform, or just the game itself – continue to grow and thrive throughout the state.

“The rugged individualism, work ethic, and risk-taking – all trademark Alaska characteristics – are consistent with the spirit of the game of hockey,” Thompson said. “That’s part of what the Adult Classic is, the end-of-season celebration for all the adults who, in one way or another, give themselves to the game throughout the year.

“We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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