‘Fill the barn’ for the Brown Bears

The Kenai River Brown Bears Hockey team are in the NAHL playoffs once again. Their opponent this year the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The club from Fairbanks won the NAHL regular season in points and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Although being dominated by the team from the Interior 13 games to 3 this season, the Bears took one game this weekend in Fairbanks and now have the home ice advantage.

The series’ games 3 and 4 will be played at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex this Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. For Tuesday night’s game there is a planned “White Out”: all fans are asked to wear something white and the first 1,000 fans will get get a Brown Bears rally towel thanks to Alyeska Tire!

I have talked with Jaime Schwartzwald, sportscater from the CBS television affiliate in Fairbanks, many times over the years. He mentioned to me “that the sports center’s atmosphere would just be unbelievable if we ever filled the barn!” I have yet to see that happen. My thought is that if many of the parents dropping off their kids for the games would actually join them at the games and make the game a family outing, we could actually do this.

The Brown Bears have yet to win a first round series since their inception, but what if our local team overcame the odds and actually won? During the first round games last year, the Brown Bears pushed the Fairbanks squad to a fifth and deciding game after playing 2 games here in Soldotna. The bad thing was, had our home team won the last one at The Big Dipper, they would have no ice here for the next series and would have been relegated to playing all games at the opponent’s barn. The local ice had been pulled up for the Home Show and was not being planned to put it back if the possibility arose.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself here, but what does this year hold in store for our team if they do the unthinkable and knock off the regular season champs this series? By winning three games in the best of five the players get to leave their winter home and possibly play the next 5 games on the road in Wenatchee or Cloquet?

I would think that the City of Soldotna might make some concessions to the local team that hold events there on 30 evenings every year. I know when the Home Show is held, but it is a one weekend event and the ice is removed for it. I would think the city should try and accommodate a 15 weekend per year client should the Bears need a place to play. I am not sure if the city and team management have come to an agreement if the need arises this year, but I am only assuming the worst after the events of last year.

One last comment to all of those that have never been to a Brown Bears game, please try to make it to these next two games and see these kids playing the game they love. There are players from all across the country, as well as three from Europe. The NAHL is called “the League of Opportunity” as many of these players are trying to get scholarships to college and they are very involved in volunteer work in our local community. We even have one former team member playing in the NHL for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Find time to make your way out this week and see some of the best junior hockey talent in North America.