When a group of Juneau women's hockey players traveled to a tournament in the Yukon last March, the Canadian players skated circles around the Americans.
But the Juneau players didn't get discouraged. They learned so much from the tourney's unique format that they decided to recreate it here.
"It was like a light bulb went on in our heads, and we were like, 'So that's hockey!'" Gen Moreau said.
The first Juneau Women's Hockey Jamboree will be held Friday through Sunday at the Treadwell Arena. Like its Yukon inspiration, the Juneau tourney will assemble teams of equivalent ability on the spot. That means players will get to skate alongside new teammates, and novices will play alongside experts.
Carrie McMullen of Juneau joined Moreau at the Yukon tourney, held in Haines Junction. They were amazed by the hockey skills of their fellow players.
"There were literally 12-year-old players who could outskate us, outhandle the puck," McMullen said.
But the two women, who started playing hockey when the Treadwell Arena opened in early 2003, learned new skills and were determined to start a similar tourney in Juneau.
"Every one of us who went came back a better player," McMullen said. "We had such a good time that we came back and immediately decided we had to do it."
Through last week, about 80 players had signed up for the Jamboree - about 50 from Juneau, and 30 from other towns including Anchorage and the Yukon communities of Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Mayo.
Organizers are seeking more participants to fill out the eight teams, and registration will continue until the first day of the tournament. Check-in begins at 3 p.m. Friday at the arena, located in Douglas. Additional registration details can be found in Sports in Juneau on Page B2.
The three-day Jamboree will run in a round-robin format. Games will start at 5:15 p.m. Friday, with the last game starting at 10:45 p.m. On Saturday, the first game starts at 8 a.m. and the last begins at 4:45 p.m. On Sunday, the first game begins at 6:45 a.m., and the final game of the tournament starts at 10:30 a.m.
The event will "give Juneau women's hockey players the experience of playing alongside some truly excellent hockey players," Moreau said. "You learn so much. It's truly inspiring."
"This is a perfect opportunity for people who are thinking of playing hockey but are intimidated," McMullen said. They can "come and see that it doesn't matter what your ability level is. There is a spot for you in Juneau women's hockey."
In addition to the games, the Jamboree includes a party with music by The Sofa Kings on Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Juneau Yacht Club; a $5 donation is requested. On Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Gastineau Elementary School, the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School Culture Club will host a pancake breakfast fund-raiser for its hockey team. The breakfast is $8 for adults, $4 for children.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.