Remembering the first Anchorage Wolverines hockey team
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Wolverines are a new North American Hockey League team coming to Anchorage, but they aren’t the first team by that name to skate in the city.
The original Anchorage Wolverines were a traveling men’s team that played in the 1970′s. They weren’t technically a professional team, but they did travel around the country to play games against other men’s teams. They would play teams like the Seattle Indians, the Vancouver Senators and their arch-rival, the Fairbanks Hurry Kings. When they weren’t traveling, they would play in the building that now houses Arctic Office Supply.
Steve MacSwain, General Manager of the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center, and big-time Wolverines fan said, “I used to go to the old sports arena here on Fireweed, those games were so exciting. These big icicles would be right above you... and then you would stand in line for an hour it seemed like because they were always jam-packed games.”
At the time, the arena was the only indoor ice rink in town and the Wolverines were the only show in town. Meaning that the bleachers would be packed to watch the team lace it up between the chicken wire boards.
“What was kind of interesting was the amount of people that smoked in that area,’ Mike Ashley, a former Wolverine player said. “By the end of the 3rd period, there would be vortexes coming off your helmet. So the smoke would slowly creep down from the ceiling level by the end of a well-attended game. Smoke level would be right about the top of your helmets.”
Times have changed and stories like that one from Ashley don’t happen much, if at all anymore. The Anchorage Wolverines eventually folded, and what was once a bustling hockey arena is now an office supply store and the hay day of men’s hockey in Anchorage has now passed. It is still uncertain at this point if the new NAHL team’s name is a nod to those players on the 70′s Wolverines who helped build the hockey culture in the state. It is certain, however, that players and fans of old are very excited for the new team.
“What if young players could train in Alaska, play for their youth hockey teams in Alaska, play for their Wolverines, Nanooks, Ice dogs,” said MacSwain. “All those other teams. Then you have a player with Alaska blood go all the way through the university ranks and their junior teams and then you sign an NHL contract and get to NHL from the great state of Alaska.”
In the coming weeks, we are set to learn more about the new Anchorage Wolverines. But the old Wolverines will not be forgotten and live on in the hearts of those who spent many nights cheering the team on in the 70′s.
Copyright 2021 KTUU. All rights reserved.