Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion                                 Brown Bears fans celebrate Luke Radetic’s goal in the third period by throwing the customary fish on the ice Friday, March 24, 2017, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion Brown Bears fans celebrate Luke Radetic’s goal in the third period by throwing the customary fish on the ice Friday, March 24, 2017, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Brown Bears prep for October launch

General manager says team has many issues to address

The North American Hockey League, which includes the Kenai River Brown Bears, said Monday that its season will start Oct. 9.

In a press release, the league said it is committed to playing a full schedule. That schedule will be released by Sept. 1.

Chris Hedlund, general manager for the Brown Bears, said the start of the season is being delayed three or four weeks.

“The delayed start will give us all a better chance to make sure all teams are functional and able to have fans,” Hedlund said.

The 27-team NAHL is the second-best junior hockey league in the United States, behind the United States Hockey League. The NAHL has teams in 16 states with a presence in Alaska, the Midwest, the East Coast, and Texas and a few of its bordering states.

“We have spent a lot of time discussing return dates and are excited to be moving forward at this time,” said Mark Frankenfeld, NAHL commissioner and president, in a released statement. “Our number one priority remains returning to the ice this fall in the safest manner possible for everyone in our hockey community and we believe October 9th is a good date to achieve that goal.

“Between now and the schedule release we will be communicating with the NHL, USA Hockey, and the USHL, to develop the most current return to play guidelines as possible.”

Hedlund said the announcement of the start date is a positive for Brown Bears fans.

“It tells people that the league and the teams want to be on the ice,” he said. “They want to get back into their communities and be on the ice.”

The general manager said there will be many issues that have to be addressed for the Oct. 9 start date to happen, but he said setting that date now gives a precise time frame to address those issues.

Hedlund said the biggest unknown is what track the new coronavirus will take in the United States between now and the start date. In mid-March last season, the NAHL suspended its season due to the virus, leaving the Brown Bears eight games left to play in their 13th season.

The general manager said the first two orders of business for the Brown Bears are figuring out how difficult it will be for the Bears and their opponents to travel into Alaska. The Bears also must figure out how they will operate at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex this season.

Currently, those traveling into Alaska must complete a traveler declaration form and do one of the following:

Arrive with a negative COVID-19 test.

Get a COVID-19 test when arriving in Alaska and self-quarantine until results arrive.

Self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of stay.

Follow a work plan filed with the state by the employer.

Hedlund also said the Brown Bears will have to find out how the city of Soldotna plans to operate the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex this winter. Teams around the league will have to figure out the same thing with their respective home arenas.

“The league can’t function without fans,” Hedlund said. “Most teams need fans to pay the bills.”

Once he has that information, Hedlund said the Bears can begin contacting sponsors, host families and fans with a better idea of what the season will look like.

The NAHL’s announcement of a start date for the season came on the same day when it was announced 14 members of the Miami Marlins’ traveling party, including 12 players, had tested positive for coronavirus. Three Major League Baseball games were postponed as a result.

Like the NAHL, MLB is traveling to its normal stadiums and playing games there. MLB is playing without fans.

“I think today’s event with the Marlins makes you wonder, ‘Is October going to be too early?’” Hedlund said.

He added, though, that there are positive signs. From July 10 to 12, the Bears teamed with two other NAHL teams to hold a pre-draft camp in Hudson, Wisconsin. Hedlund said there were almost 400 players present.

Parents also could come to the rink and watch, as long as they were masked and socially distanced. There were other protocols in place, like temperature checks for everybody coming into the building.

“So far, we haven’t heard of anybody having problems after that camp,” Hedlund said.

The general manager also added some schools will welcome students back between now and October. The success or failure of that could go a long way in determining how comfortable NAHL arenas are with accepting fans.

Hedlund said there is a lot that could happen with the virus between now and October, so it’s important the league gets a start date out there. Hedlund said a schedule will allow even more planning to take place.

“They’re planting that flag when they’re going to try to start,” Hedlund said. “Now we can have tangible discussions, where before we were just talking about ideas.”

More in News

Members of the community attend the first part of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska’s Food Security and Sustainability Series in August 2022. (Photo courtesy Challenger Learning Center of Alaska)
Challenger Learning Center workshop focuses on food sustainability

Gathering, growing and preserving food in the form of plants, fish and other animals will be discussed

Examples of contemporary books that have been banned or challenged in recent years are displayed on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at the Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library hosts Banned Book Club

Books have been challenged or banned for their content nationwide.

Nikiski Middle/High School Principal Shane Bostic stands near a track and field long jump sand pit on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. The track is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election next month. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Nikiski athletes await upgrade

Funding for long-delayed school projects on Oct. 4 ballot

Lars Arneson runs to victory and a new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
A speech, a smartphone and a bike

Circumstances lead Arneson to Kenai River Marathon record

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
Alaska judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge Jack McKenna on Thursday ordered elections officials to delay certifying the result of that particular race

An image purportedly from the computer screen of a digital media specialist for Gov. Mike Dunleavy shows numerous files and folders of campaign advertising. A complaint filed against the governor, plus other individuals and organizations, claims administrative staff is illegally doing paid campaign work on behalf of the governor. (Screenshot from complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission)
Dunleavy faces more accusations in campaign complaint

Governor calls it “specious and unfounded.”

A recent photo of Anesha "Duffy" Murnane, missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
A 2019 photo of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, who went missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
Calderwood indicted for murder

Indictment charges man accused of killing Anesha “Duffy” Murnane with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20 of that year. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council gives Triumvirate more time to build theater

The Kenai City Council voted last summer to conditionally donate a 2-acre parcel of city land near Daubenspeck Park and the Kenai Walmart

Most Read