Inside look at the split of Fairbanks Youth Hockey Organizations

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - After working under the Hockey Club Fairbanks Banner for nearly two years, there is once again a split in Fairbanks Youth Hockey. The Arctic Lions and the Northern Alaska Hockey Association will be fielding their teams under their own banner this year as they had in the past. According to Arctic Lions Representative Bruce Haas, Concerns about the number of players participating, Ice Time, and Association Patches for international Teams all factored in to the decision, but the biggest factor was different approaches for developing hockey players. Once it became apparent that these requests wouldn't be met, the Lions and NAHA did not renew the memorandum that kept the organizations together.
"We really worked right up until the end trying to find some things to work with them on. It finally came back that it wasn't going to happen so we just had to make the decision that we were going to break away and focus on our programs the way that they're run and put our focus back on establishing comp hockey and growing comp hockey," said Bruce Haas, Arctic Lions Hockey Club.
All organizations will still be following the American Development Model which is a very detailed, layed-out, step by step process toward developing on-ice skill. This model was developed by Team USA and has the support of many coaches at the college and pro level. Even Alaska Nanook head coach Erik Largen voiced his approval for the Model and how it has been put to use by Hockey Club Fairbanks. NAHA, as they have since they were founded, will be focusing more on the comp side of the game, allowing players who already have the skill-sets to compete at the 6u, 8u, 10-18u with the Arctic Lions and 10-12u with the AK Grizzlies. While these two sides may have different approaches to player development, they both want what they feel is best for the forward progress of Youth Hockey.
"One program following a model that has been developed by USA Hockey with the Finnish; it's been working and that seemed like a great opportunity. I think we've kind of gotten of course from that, a little bit. At this point I hope we can pull together as a community and find ways to help the kids," said Ben Roth, President - Hockey Club Fairbanks.
"I think the thought behind Hockey Club Fairbanks... The idea was really great. The idea of trying to grow the sport of hockey in Fairbanks and try to make it united, I think was really great. I just think that, in doing so, there's different focuses," said Haas.
Public reaction to the split has seen much concern from families and members of both organizations about the reasons for the split and what this may mean for youth hockey in Fairbanks moving forward. However, these organizations survived as separate entities from 1991-2016 when they joined forces under the HCF Banner. Those involved in the organizations hope that any conceived bad blood between the entities is resolved and youth hockey can continue to flourish in Fairbanks.
"The stigma around it about us breaking off and it looks like a competition and that things were going on that weren't right for the development of hockey in town. I really think that overall it's going to be beneficial," said Haas.
"There is definitely some things that have been said and you don't get to take back what you've said if you say something that's not nice. Yet at the same time, I think that there are a lot of people who think that what's been happening is still a transition that's got an opportunity for something that's really good," said Roth.
One of the main reasons these organizations all joined together was to bring better hockey at a lower cost for the community. And while they may be separated for now to focus on the different aspects of the game, they will still be focusing on what is best for their players and for youth hockey in Fairbanks.
"Really, the goal is the same for us. We want kids to come out and play hockey and have fun at whatever level they have fun at. You want them to play at the highest skill level as if they're still having fun. I think if they stay together and focus on growing that side of hockey, it'll be great they can grow their side and we can focus on growing the competitive hockey here in town and I think overall it will be best for everybody," said Haas.
"I hope that the rift and the things that are going on now settle and I hope at some point people look back and have cooler heads. And the frustration has calmed a little bit and there's a discussion that happens going forward that still takes the focus of the kids, and families, and the coaches and keeping costs down. And development of players at all levels, both girls and youth players, but again, I think time will tell. And I'm hopeful," said Roth.