Hockey officially came of age in Juneau when the first herring skidded across the ice.
John Bohan had just scored the game's first goal to put the Juneau Aces ahead of Dawson City, Yukon Territory, in Sunday's championship game of the Rainforest Classic Old-Timers Hockey Tournament, so someone threw bait onto the Treadwell Arena ice to celebrate.
It wasn't as legendary as the octopi thrown onto the ice at Detroit Red Wings playoff games, or even as time-honored as the salmon that get chucked over the glass whenever the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves score a goal at Sullivan Arena. But it was a sign that Juneau is starting to build a hockey tradition.
"If they're throwing herring on the ice, I guess this means there's not going to be a shortage this year," Juneau's Tom McKenna said after the game, as the Aces celebrated their 3-1 victory in the locker room with a couple of frosty, cool beverages. The Aces talked about the herring almost as much as they did their second straight title in the 2-year-old tournament for players age 32 and older.
"Guys, we're getting to an age where we might not wake up in the morning, so thanks for the highlights," Dale Erickson said to his teammates.
The three-day tourney featured eight teams from Alaska and the Yukon, and the level of play was significantly better than it was in last year's inaugural event. Last year's tournament helped christen Treadwell Arena, which is the first indoor ice rink in Southeast Alaska, so most of the players were still getting used to the facility. Last year there were four teams from Juneau, with a lot of novice skaters.
"This year we've probably got 30 to 40 games under our belts, and we've already had a fall season," Aces goalie Chip Verrelli said. "Last year I think we had about seven or eight games before the tournament."
This year there were two teams from Juneau - the Aces and the Sourdoughs - as well as a Southeast All-Star team with players from Juneau, Petersburg, Wrangell and Sitka. There also were teams from Anchorage and Fairbanks, plus Yukon teams from Dawson City, Whitehorse and Mount Lorne. The Fairbanks, Dawson City and Whitehorse teams were new to the tournament this year.
"We're trying to start building up the tradition," Charlie Davidson of the Sourdoughs said. "There's a rivalry when it's Anchorage vs. Fairbanks, and someday we want it to be Juneau vs. Anchorage vs. Fairbanks."
"When Fairbanks came down, it increased the intensity," Sourdoughs player Todd Young said.
For the most part, the teams were pretty even. Dawson City went through the round-robin portion of the tournament with a 3-0-0 record, while Whitehorse went 0-3-0. But, as round-robin play was wrapping up on Saturday, at one point there was an outside chance that as many as six teams could tie with 1-1-1 records.
The Aces ended that problem with a 10-1 victory over the Southeast All-Stars. That victory gave the Aces a 2-0-1 record - their tie (3-3) came against Fairbanks earlier on Saturday - and a spot in the A final against Dawson City. Fairbanks, one of four teams to finish with 1-1-1 records, beat Mount Lorne 5-2 in the B final (or consolation game) Sunday morning. Anchorage and the Juneau Sourdoughs also had 1-1-1 round-robin records, but lost out on tiebreakers.
"Dawson was a tough team. They won the Junction tournament (in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory) something like three out of five years," Verrelli said. "I think we might have ended that streak in 2000."
"This was a good game because they played the same style as us," Art Hughes of the Aces said. "They play hard-nosed hockey with a little dump-and-chase, and they use the same breakout we do."
The Aces struck early, as Bohan scored seven seconds into the game on an assist from Steve Woods, who won the opening face-off. Late in the first period, Woods and Bohan combined on a second score as Bohan fed Woods. Hughes made it 3-0 just 45 seconds before the intermission when he scored on assists from Erickson and Alaska Sen. Ben Stevens.
"That was a major jump start for us," Bohan said of his goal.
"John took three guys with him, and their goalie, I could see him shifting," Woods said of his feed from Bohan on the Aces' second goal. "That was the nicest pass ever in Treadwell Arena. We know this team, and they're true sportsmen. They took it to us in the second."
Dawson City scored its only goal early in the second half - due to time constraints each game featured two 22-minute (running time) periods instead of the usual three 15- or 20-minute (stop-clock) periods - when Dave Procee scored on a rebound after a shot by John Flynn 32 seconds into the period. Dawson City outshot the Aces 11-5 in the second period, but Verrelli was able to keep the puck out of the net. Verrelli made three big saves in the final minute of play, when Dawson City had pulled its goalie for a sixth attacker.
"We got that early goal in the second and we thought we'd be able to take it. But they shut us down," Procee said. "They had the early one and the late one in there, but we thought we could come back. We had fun. Absolutely, we'll be back."
In the B final, Tim Sonnenburg scored two goals and had two assists, while Jimmy Gibson scored two goals and Togie Weihl added another to lead Fairbanks over Mount Lorne. Dan Drummond and Steve McGrath scored the goals for Mount Lorne.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
Scores from the 2004 Juneau, Alaska, Rainforest Classic Old-Timers Ice Hockey Tournament held Friday through Sunday at Treadwell Arena in Douglas.
Friday's round-robin scores - Juneau Sourdoughs 2, Southeast All-Stars 1; Anchorage 5, Mount Lorne 4; Dawson City 4, Fairbanks 2; Juneau Aces 4, Whitehorse Select 0.
Saturday's round-robin scores - Mount Lorne 2, Juneau Sourdoughs 1; Dawson City 5, Whitehorse Select 2; Fairbanks 3, Juneau Aces 3, tie; Juneau Sourdoughs 2, Anchorage 2, tie; Mount Lorne 5, Southeast All-Stars 5, tie; Fairbanks 10, Whitehorse Select 3; Juneau Aces 10, Southeast All-Stars 1; Dawson City 4, Anchorage 2.
Sunday's championship scores - A final: Juneau Aces 3, Dawson City 1. B final: Fairbanks 5, Mount Lorne 2.
JUNEAU ACES 3, DAWSON CITY 1
Sunday's A final game from Treadwell Arena
JUNEAU ACES 3 0 - 3
DAWSON CITY, Y.T. 0 1 - 1
First period - 1. Juneau Aces, John Bohan (Steve Woods), 21:53; 2. Juneau Aces, Steve Woods (John Bohan), 3:23; 3. Juneau Aces, Art Hughes (Dale Erickson, Ben Stevens), 0:45. Penalties: None.
Second period - 4. Dawson City, Dave Procee (John Flynn), 21:28. Penalties: Juneau Aces, 1 for 2 minutes; Dawson City, 1 for 2 minutes.
Shots on goal - Juneau Aces 14-5 - 19; Dawson City 10-11 - 21.
Goalie saves - Juneau Aces, Chip Verrelli 10-10 - 20; Dawson City, Henry Procyk 11-5 - 16.
FAIRBANKS 5, MOUNT LORNE 2
Sunday's B final game from Treadwell Arena
MOUNT LORNE, Y.T. 2 0 - 2
FAIRBANKS 2 3 - 5
First period - 1. Mount Lorne, Dan Drummond (Craig Allen), pp, 18:45; 2. Mount Lorne, Steve McGrath (Pete McPeak), 9:23; 3. Fairbanks, Jimmy Gibson (Tim Sonnenburg), 6:38; 4. Fairbanks, Jimmy Gibson (Tim Sonnenburg), 3:48. Penalties: Mount Lorne, 1 for 2 minutes; Fairbanks, 2 for 4 minutes.
Second period - 5. Fairbanks, Tim Sonnenburg (Tim Lee), sh, 16:00; 6. Fairbanks, Togie Weihl (Ed Sanford), 12:30; 7. Fairbanks, Tim Sonnenburg (Rex Snyder), pp, 4:31. Penalties: Mount Lorne, 1 for 2 minutes; Fairbanks, 1 for 2 minutes.
Shots on goal - Mount Lorne 11-9 - 20; Fairbanks 10-11 - 21.
Goalie saves - Mount Lorne, Mario Perez 8-8 - 16; Fairbanks, Mike Bentley 9-9 - 18.