Inside the Gates: Army Alaska hockey team returns to the ice

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:14 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Members of the Army Alaska hokey team have returned to the ice for the first time in nearly two years. They’ve traded their khaki uniforms for jerseys, pads, and skates.

“We’re all really excited to start playing again, especially with all the COVID that hit and we weren’t able to play last year,” said Specialist Brian Skidmore, a first-year member of the team.

The players practice at the Royal Business Systems Ice Center. It’s a relief after the pandemic closed ice arenas, and forced the players to skate wherever they could.

Staff Sgt. Erich Frankiewicz played on the team in 2018 and 2019, so being able to play again this year is a return to familiar team building.

“Guys could still play a little bit of pick up hockey, once USA Hockey opened it back up,” Frankiewicz said. “Beside that you would just have to be playing on the pond here, so, yeah, it feels good to get back to be honest.”

“Our soldiers are vaccinated, we’re getting out and we’re looking forward to putting together a team,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Phil Blaisdell, another member of the team.

Blaisdell said there are some good leaders putting the program together. Hockey provides more than just an escape for the soldiers — it’s also a morale booster. Skidmore said he’s noticed morale is definitely higher lately.

“Everyone has their biggest hobby. For some guys it’s going out and shooting, some guys it’s hiking,” said Sgt. Ben Eddolls. “I like getting hit by pucks, so to be out here and playing hockey again, it’s where I can kind of get away from it all. I think for a lot of these guys it’s a similar situation.”

Eddolls expects to face many pucks this year as he and Army Alaska are on a mission playing hockey — they want to snap a two-game losing streak to their Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson neighbor, the Air Force.

A spokesperson for the Air Force said it’s planning on having a hockey team. There’s no word yet when it could start practice, or when the annual game between the branches of the military will take place.

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