With hockey games running from 4 p.m. until midnight, the Juneau Adult Hockey Association ended its third season Sunday with championship contests at Treadwell Arena.
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Since launching the league in February 2003, JAHA and hockey itself in Juneau has exploded in popularity among youth and adults.
"We've actually grown significantly," said JAHA vice president Jens Hinderlie.
He added that the three-year-old league started with just nine teams. Now there are 23 teams competeing in six different divisions.
Hinderlie estimates that there are nearly 300 adults playing hockey on competitive and recreational teams with JAHA, which organizes different leagues.
There are currently six tiers, or levels, of adult hockey in Juneau. There are four coed divisions, ranging from the highly competitive A league to the beginner's D league. In addition to the four coed divisions, there are two women's leagues.
The tiers are equally divided by skill level and teams are made as competitive as possible via a draft system.
"All the talent levels are distributed evenly so it's not a drastic difference in the game," Hinderlie said. "That makes for a more competitive league."
Hinderlie said the majority of growth has come in the developmental tiers where rookies learn how to skate and play. He said most of the teams in JAHA play on the C and D levels, reserved for novice players.
"It's funny, I played hockey my whole life and love it," said Hinderlie, a Robinsdale, Minn., native. "At the same time, these people are addicted to it. They can't get enough. They're at every pond hockey, every open skate.
"It's sort of one of those things, if you never skated and never did it, it's so challenging at first but you can improve dramatically in a short amount of time. That's sort of what I think people are looking for."
In addition to playing in the JAHA leagues, players have participated in tournaments throughout Alaska and Canada.
Recently, the Capital City Seablazers, comprised of local women's hockey players, won a tournament in Anchorage while select men's teams have participated in tournaments in Whitehorse and Watson Lake in Yukon Territories.
On April 28, Treadwell Arena will host an A league men's tournament featuring teams from Canada, Fairbanks and a pair of Juneau teams.
The Juneau squads also will play in a charity hockey game at 6 p.m. April 25 with proceeds benefiting the Juneau Douglas Ice Association, which oversees youth hockey.
As for the championship round, Doc Water's Pub defeated the Island Pub 6-3 for the A Division title on Saturday.
More results will be printed later this week.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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