Anchorage youth hockey teams manage mandates to stay on the ice

Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 8:20 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Outdoor ice rinks in Anchorage are in high demand with city health mandates cutting off competition indoors and restricting how teams can practice through December. This led youth teams like the U19 Alaska All-Star girls to practice outside.

“It doesn’t bother me,” All-Stars head coach Cristy Hickel said. “We can still do our drills, shooting, passing, skating it’s all here.”

Even though Hickel’s team is outdoors they are still required to wear masks and consider their team a social bubble. At first, Hickel said her players had to adjust to playing outdoors, but it’s no longer a big deal to wear a few extra layers of clothing.

“There isn’t bad weather, just bad clothes,” All-Stars assistant captain Kaylin Garner said. “It’s a great opportunity because we are really the only state that can do this with maintained rinks outdoors”

The mantra Hickel preaches to her players is “happy, healthy and focused.” She felt the circumstances surrounding this season are a chance to teach her team resilience as they chase their goal of winning a USA Hockey national championship and playing in college.

“It’s a choice to have a good attitude, it’s a choice to be happy,” Hickel said. “I’m teaching these kids to choose that.”

A national championship is not a guarantee due to the pandemic, but Hickel said she’s encouraging her players to press on positively. This determination to keep players on the ice is shared by Team Alaska head coach Dennis Sorenson who continues to have his team practice indoors.

“We spend less time on the whiteboard going over plays and going over things in groups,” Sorenson said. “We space them out for some of our drills, and make sure they are never near a teammate for a second or two.”

Players and coaches have to wear masks when they play indoors in Anchorage and no spectators are allowed to watch at the rink.

“It’s really important to stay fresh on the ice,” Team Alaska’s Darshan Mautiyal said. “It’s a lot about working together as a team.”

Across the country, youth hockey teams have battled to stay on the ice with many states pausing seasons to combat rising rates of coronavirus. In October, Anchorage had a coronavirus breakout at a youth hockey tournament. The Alaska State Hockey Association has continued to update its policies regarding COVID-19.

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