Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

A newly formed team of Fairbanks hockey players, ages 14 through nearly 70, is scrimmaging every week to get in shape for an international hockey competition in Fanano, Italy, next month.

Fanano is a sister city to Fairbanks, a relationship that began nearly 20 years ago based on the ancestry of Felix Pedro, who discovered gold in the Tanana Hills near Fairbanks in 1901. His home village of Trigano is under the auspices of Fanano. Delegates from both cities have visited each other over the years, but this may be the first meeting on the ice of hockey players from both communities.

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Randy Zarnke shows off the Fairbanks Hall of Fame jersey that Fairbanks players will wear during their hockey game with players from Fanana, Italy. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Randy Zarnke, founder of the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame, got the idea rolling initially at the request of Festival Fairbanks.

“The smartest thing I did was ask Warren Moore to get involved,” he said.

Moore is a Fairbanks chiropractor, a lifelong hockey player and coach of the West Valley High School hockey team. He pulled together a group of like-minded players of all ages, and they have been scrimmaging twice a week to get in shape for this international encounter.

“We are going to go have a great experience with these Italian players,” Moore said.

“I think we’re gonna go, enjoy their culture, food, have a good trip and, by the way, we’ll play a hockey game,” Zarnke said.

Zarnke did ask the Fanano hockey team to send a video of one of their recent hockey games. That set Fairbanks organizers on their heels a bit. 

“Whoa,” Moore said. “They’re fast.”

And much younger, apparently. The scrimmages became a little more intense, and Moore lined up young, fast players as their opponents for these practice sessions.

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Some of the Fairbanks team members paused for a group shot after a late-night scrimmage. Kris Capps/News-Miner

The Fairbanks players want this to be a friendly game, but they also want to make sure they are competitive. Most of the players are ages 45 to 55 and play in the Fairbanks Old-Timers Hockey League. They’ll be wearing jerseys that sport the Fairbanks Hall of Fame logo.

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The Fairbanks team includes players from age 14 to nearly 70. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Eight of the players live in Fairbanks. The remaining five have a connection to Fairbanks. They are from all walks of life and include a mortgage broker, a project manager for Global Diving and Salvage, an operations manager for Inlet Energy, deputy director of the Geophysical Institute, a retired civil engineer, a photographer, a veterinary technician and more.

Right now, 25 people are in the group, which includes family members traveling with the players. 

“Our old-timers hope to have at least two games,” said Julie Jones, executive director of Festival Fairbanks.

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The team scrimmages a couple times a week to get in shape for their international hockey game. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Due to unprecedented hot weather in Europe this year, there is some concern that the indoor/outdoor ice may be too soft in early October. If that is the case, both teams will be transported to an indoor rink at the nearby community of Padua.

The two organizers summed it up this way: “We look forward to interacting with them, sharing our love of hockey and further building on the sister city relationship.”

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

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Here are some of the Fairbanks hockey players who are heading to sister city Fanano, Italy next month. Kris Capps/News-Miner

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