Juneau's hockey season closes with a bang this weekend with the annual King Salmon Classic tournament at Treadwell Arena.
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Six teams will battle for the title before Treadwell Arena's ice is put away for the spring and summer.
"I hope the tournament continues to grow and happens every year," said tournament co-director Jens Hinderlie. "The whole idea obviously is to bring more of the game to the city, more awareness of what the game is like. In Canada and Fairbanks, they know how to play. Here in Juneau, a lot of people are sort of sheltered."
Hinderlie was one of the town's top players in the Juneau Adult Hockey League's Tier A last year. He moved to Appleton, Wis., this year to play in an elite checking league based in the Midwest and to complete his college education.
He came back, however, to play with his former Island Pub teammates and keep the tournament going.
While Hinderlie helped get the teams in town, co-director Marieke Cormier secured sponsors and donations for the King Salmon Classic.
Hinderlie credited Cormier's effort with making the tournament special.
"Treat people how they should be treated and make them feel special," Hinderlie said. "If we're going to do it, we're going to go big."
Teams are treated to banquets and some salmon fishing while in town.
As far as the product on the ice, fans can expect to see some of the most skilled hockey of the year.
The six teams competing all participate in elite adult leagues and feature top talent.
Representing Juneau, Island Pub won the JAHA title and features Jim Sheehan, who played NCAA Division I hockey at Clarkson University.
The Fairbanks squad boasts former University of Alaska Fairbanks athletes while three teams from Whitehorse and one from Dawson City will compete for the title.
There also will be a skills competition at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, featuring a fastest skater, fastest shot, shooting accuracy and goalie competitions.
Most of all, it will be an opportunity for one last celebration for Juneau's hockey community and those who want to see the game played at a high, intense level.
"I think people just love it because you go hang out, you can do something you love, get treated well and hang out with a bunch of buddies," Hinderlie said. "That's really the best aspect. That's why I wanted to come back here."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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