In addition to wrestling and basketball, Juneau-Douglas High School students will have another sporting option starting this winter.
The Juneau School District approved ice hockey as an organizational activity on Tuesday. That means starting this October, fans can cheer on the Crimson Bears varsity ice hockey team at Treadwell Ice Arena.
Juneau Douglas Ice Association (JDIA) president Lance Miller said high school hockey was the next logical step for this emerging sport.
"It's more of just a natural progression," Miller said. "I think the reason for going into high school, we though it'd be good because it brings it into the community rather than making it a club sport. ... I think in a town like Juneau, a high school team will elevate the level of interest and, yes, it was something that was kind of inevitable."
Though the new team will forgo club status and dive right into varsity competition, there will be several restrictions in the first year.
The team will play all of its games at Treadwell Ice Arena and will not be eligible for post-season play in its inaugurial year. The Bears will not play any games on the road in its first season. According to the JDIA, travel status for the 2006-07 season will be reviewed this November.
Financially, the hockey program will be run similarily to football where an outside organization will provide the funding. The JDIA will cover all hockey-related costs.
"It'll be similar to football and soccer," said Tom Rutecki, the JDIA chairman of high school hockey. "The school district will pick the coach. The school district pays the coach, but the funding for that will come from the ice association. We do get a seat on the selection committee."
The new coach will be subject to the same guidelines as the rest of the JDHS athletic coaches. Candidates in the high school will be given first preference, then district-wide and then outside the area.
Since Treadwell Ice Arena opened in February of 2003, the rink quickly emerged as a popular destination for hockey players and figure skaters.
Miller said ice time is very difficult to secure and youth hockey has exploded in popularity since the introduction of the rink.
"It's growing to the extent that ice time is very difficult to get," Miller said. "Between the fall and spring seasons, there were about 240 youth skaters in the JDIA programs. It's grown tremendously."
Though hockey is a relatively new sport in Juneau, the youth teams have enjoyed a measure of success.
Juneau's Peewee team won the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association's Peewee Championship in March at Whitehorse.
Juneau will be the lone Southeast team to have a hockey program and must court other high school squads to play at Treadwell.
In the 2004-2005 season, there were 26 hockey programs in the state, half which participated at the 4A level. Juneau-Douglas is a Class 4A school.
According to Rutecki, the team will technically be referred to as a boys team although girls are encouraged to come out and play for the Bears.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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