FAIRBANKS — The brothers Giani — 5-year-old Simon and 4-year-old Sam — were men of few or no words Thursday night at the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame in the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Their smiles and nods more than spoke for the enthusiasm of receiving new hockey equipment, which was the prize for the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame placing third in a contest sponsored by USA Hockey, the national governing body of the sport, and Total Hockey, a Missouri-based retailer of hockey equipment.
The contest determines which communities across the country do the best job of celebrating the sport of hockey. The Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame was recognized for its Hockey Week in Fairbanks last January.
“It’s a testament to the hard work of volunteers and the support and participation of the community,” said Randy Zarnke, president and founder of the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame.
The hall also received a certificate from USA Hockey, and it was the contest runner-up in 2009 and 2010.
Ten sets of hockey equipment, valued at nearly $4,000, were presented Thursday to the Fairbanks Amateur Hockey Association for players in two age-group divisions — 8 and under, and 6 and under. The younger division includes the Giani brothers, who play for the Ice Dragons (ages 4-6).
Total Hockey provided the equipment, which consisted of helmets, gloves pads, pants and bags. The donation also helps youngsters get involved in hockey, said Jim Culley, president of the FAHA board of directors and head coach for its mites (ages 7-8) and Ice Dragons teams.
“The littlest kids are always the first ones, and it’s hardest for the parents to get involved,” Culley said. “For soccer, they can just go buy a soccer ball and a pair of shoes, and they’re good to go. For hockey, you’ve got to buy everything and they don’t know what they’re doing, what they’re buying and what sizes.
“So this way, we can give them a complete set of gear, which fits the kid, and they can play hockey for the first year, second year or whatever” he added. “They can try it out (equipment) and hopefully, they like it and we can keep them with the sport.”
The 8-U and 6-U are the largest groups for FAHA, consisting of more than 100 players.
Zarnke, after the hall received the equipment, checked with area hockey organizations to determine any needs.
“It turned out everyone had what they needed, except the FAHA people,” Zarnke said. “We asked them what they needed, and they said they wanted the stuff for the littlest players.”
The equipment wasn’t the only donation FAHA received Thursday from the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame.
The organization was presented a $10,000 check as part of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which promotes individual skill development for players and coaches.
“(ADM) says that kids need to have team structure, but more importantly, they need to develop individual skills — shooting, passing, all those sort of things,” Zarnke said.
The ADM began last year in Fairbanks, and it involves organizations having one practice per week for their different age groups to work on individual skills. The practices took place at various rinks in the area.
Older age groups (10-U to 18-U) were involved last year, and the 8-U and 6-U groups will participate this year.
Zarnke said this year’s funding came from local donors, H&H Equipment Rentals and a person who asked to be anonymous.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.