When the Fairbanks Ice Dogs opened the season with a 10-game road trip, they did a lot more than just play hockey.
After playing in September’s NAHL Showcase Tournament in Blaine, Minn., the Ice Dogs went on a showcase of their own.
While playing in Minnesota and Michigan, the team toured seven college campuses - five Division I and two Division III schools.
The Ice Dogs toured each campus, visited the varsity locker room and weight room, spoke with the college coaches and practiced on the school’s home rink.
“Last year, we played very few games east of Washington, so college recruiters didn’t get many opportunities to scout our players,” Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt said. “I felt that we needed to do something to put our guys in front of college coaches this season, so I began setting up this tour last spring.
“Not all of our players have spent time on a college campus. It was good for them to get this kind of exposure.”
Todd Knott, an assistant coach at Minnesota State in Mankato, said the tour was a win-win situation.
“Half of recruiting is getting to meet players,” he said. “With this visit, we had an entire team come to us. We were able to show them a day in the life of a college hockey player.”
Rich Metro is an assistant at Lake Superior State where former former Ice Dog Eric Kraft is a freshman for the Lakers.
“Krafty enjoyed seeing some of his former teammates,” Metro said. “I’m sure that he was able to tell them things about our program in a more effective manner than we as coaches could accomplish.”
Ice Dogs players Will Aide and Josh Nelson deemed the tour a “great experience.”
Having the college coaches watching the Ice Dogs practice made things “a little more intense” on the ice, they said.
“On the bus trips between schools, we talked about the pros and cons of each school,” Ice Dogs forward Jared Larson said. “I don’t think that anybody made any final decisions about where they want to go, but it sure gave us more information to help with that process.”
Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge was brimming with enthusiasm after returning to Fairbanks.
“The tour went really good. The coaches were happy to accommodate us, and our players certainly benefited,” he said. “We’ll do it again, if the opportunity arises.”
One of the goals of the program is to move players along to the collegiate level. The recent tour was designed to aid in that objective. The players and coaches agree that the tour was beneficial.
Only time will tell if it leads to desired matchups between college programs and departing Ice Dogs.