In what’s become an instant wintertime tradition for the local community, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs will showcase their third annual outdoor game on Saturday when they take on the Wenatchee Wild.
The game, which will take place on the field next to the Big Dipper - the Ice Dogs’ home arena - will again assume a carnival-like atmosphere with snow bleachers, a hot tub, heated beer garden with live entertainment, outdoor bowling and a chili feed highlighting the event.
The game itself will feature two of the best teams in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
“It really is amazing how this game - in no time at all, really - has become such an important part of our city in terms of celebrating and embracing our winter tradition and all its has to offer,” said Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt. “It’s going to be another great day for our organization, the NAHL and the Fairbanks community.”
The festivities will mark the end to the Wild’s six-game swing through Alaska, and it can’t wait to brave the outdoor elements.
“As a group, we’re really looking forward to participating in such a fun event,” said Wild head coach John Becanic. “It’ll be a great way to cap off a long road trip.”
For Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge, who’s been behind the bench for the team’s first two outdoor games - in 2009 against the Alaska Avalanche and last season against the Wichita Falls Wildcats - the weekend signifies one of his favorites on the schedule.
“It’s something else,” Hauge said of the spectacle. “The energy surrounding the entire event is contagious, and it’s obviously a neat experience for the players, too.”
Weather forecasts are calling for a high of 16 degrees on Saturday with a low of 7 - ideal conditions for hockey as it’s brought back to its outdoor roots.
“The fact that it’s against Fairbanks - a team that we have great respect for and that’s clearly the class of our division - will pose a challenge in itself,” Becanic said. “I know we’ll be embracing all that the day has to offer and we’re looking forward to an intense, competitive game.”
The first game held in 2009 marked the first-ever USA Hockey-sanctioned outdoor junior game in history.
Faceoff for Saturday’s contest is set for 7:30 p.m. local time.