Pure Sole: Girls and boys on ice

Ice flies.


Slivers of it glisten in the air and fall in a cloud around blades of hockey skaters as they brake to a stop, twist, and dig back the direction they came from.

Arms flail, one with a stick and one without, and legs fly out to the right and then the left, as players charge past a red line to a blue one.

Contact is made against an opponent or against the wall as skaters slide through a play on the opposing goalkeeper.

“I just enjoy being on the ice and having fun with all my teammates I grew up with,” high school freshman Emma Kaelke said, her long, blonde hair flowing past her shoulders.

Like many Juneau girls, Kaelke is finding a niche among the male gender, discovering a sport that can be a ticket to a healthy life and a college education.

Kaelke has played the last three years for the comp squad Team Alaska.

She will again join that team and play out of Fairbanks through the fall and winter, flying back and forth between the two towns much like she cruises matter-of-factly from end to end on frozen water.

“I have a goal to make a college hockey team,” the defenseman said. “I want to go as far as I can go with the sport.”

As far as she can.

That trip involves not joining her high school classmates for a freshman year and living with family friends in another town.

“I have met a lot of people through hockey,” she said. “I will miss my friends here but I love to play hockey.”

Out on the Treadwell Arena Ice on Wednesday, hockey players of both genders competed in the same skills and development drills that the visiting Rocky Mountain Hockey School instructors brought forth.

Players were from the Juneau Douglas Ice Association Capitals, the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears and a few undetermined skaters.

“I like playing on the team,” eighth-grader Kaleah Haddock said. “We are a big family. It is really fun. I like other sports but I am more experienced in hockey.”

It wasn’t hard to spot the top JDHS Crimson Bears players as they refined their hockey blades to the familiar rink.

“We are pretty excited about this year,” senior Shane Moller said. “I think this is going to be one of the school’s best teams.”

Moller is small in stature but big in play and speed.

His heart is pulsating with a passion for the game and it seems to tow the less experienced youth across the ice behind him.

It is the culture of the sport in Juneau: older players rub off on the younger ones.

The established players often watch from the boards, peering through the glass as players from the JDIA Capitals teams pirouette, sometimes planned and many times not, across the ice in pursuit of a hard black slab of rubber that is often times faster than they are.

In front of the crease bodies collide.

“I like the challenge,” 8-year-old goalie Jaxson White said. “I like trying to stop them from scoring.”

A stick sends a black streak across the ice.

Tongue out, the swinger of the mighty blast has time to almost catch his shot.

“It is fun,” Sonny Monsef, 8, said. “Hockey is fun. I like the Rocky Mountain camp. I like playing with my friends. Hockey is fun.”

Indeed, hockey is fun. And fun to watch, too.

“It is a fun sport because I get to know more people,” seventh-grader Jaimie Hort said.

Soon she too was on the ice, skating past figures bigger and stronger, making contact, briefly pausing and then unflinchingly moving forward, like a highlight reel on a black and white movie projector.

“I want to play at a higher level,” Hort says.

Is it sexist to ask if Barbie Dolls come in full hockey gear?

Or if G.I Joes have figure skating combat outfits?

It is apparent that the youth in Juneau have made some significant strides in athletic equality.

Sure we have a long way to go.

We have a long way to go in many things.

Eventually, our top girl skaters may have their own girl’s team and will not travel away.

But if they do, then God Speed!

Lace up your blades and rocket down that ice for all your Juneau fans cheering you on!

Juneau Figure Skating Club 10-year-old Kara Hort spins across the ice.

The lights reflect off her attire.

Hort can stand on one skate, point the other past her head and do something called a Waltz Jump and a Salchow.

Today, however, her outfit has shoulder pads, thigh pads, masked helmet, skates with no toe picks and a long curved club that Tonya Harding probably never thought of wielding.

Hort dashes, stops, twists, and flies.

Ice flies.

Her hockey stick raises and falls and a black rock finds a bit of web freedom past a male defender.

“I am a figure skater and a hockey player,” Hort says with a matter-of-fact bravado. “I love playing hockey because it gets my mind off figure skating and I still get to be active.”


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