The Fairbanks Ice Dogs will take a trip back in time to open the North American Hockey League season with a historic journey to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
General manager Rob Proffitt is taking the Ice Dogs back to his hometown. The Ice Dogs will play a pair of exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Soo Eagles, one of the new teams in the NAHL this season, in historic Pullar Stadium, where the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings used to hold their training camp.
Pullar also is where Proffitt and many of the former Alaska Gold Kings played youth hockey before heading to Fairbanks to play with the senior men’s team that won five national championships from 1983 to 1995.
“The way the Big Dipper is special to Fairbanks, Pullar Stadium is special to Sault Ste. Marie,” Proffitt said earlier this week. “There’s a lot of history there from the Detroit Red Wings camps to the pipeline that brought players to Fairbanks.”
At least two dozen former Gold Kings players came to Fairbanks from the the Sault Ste. Marie area and 15-16 players from the Gold Kings era still live in the area, Proffitt said.
Those players will be honored between periods of this weekend’s exhibition games between the Ice Dogs and Eagles.
“It’s going to be awesome weekend for my myself and the players as well,” Proffitt said. “I think it will give the players a sense of what hockey means to Fairbanks.”
Pullar Stadium also houses the Soo Hockey Hall of Fame, a model for the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame in the Big Dipper.
The Ice Dogs arrived in the Sault Ste. Marie on Tuesday to begin a 27-day road trip, including two exhibition games and eight regular season contests.
Four of the regular-season contests are at the NAHL Showcase, starting Wednesday in Blaine, Minn. Two more are on Sept. 21-22 against the Janesville Jets in Wisconsin and the Ice Dogs visit the Springfield Jr. Blues in Illinois on Sept. 28-29.
In the showcase, the Ice Dogs will play will play the Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes on Sept. 12, the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Jr. K-Wings on Sept. 13, the Bismarck (N.D.) Bobcats on Sept. 14 and the Michigan Warriors on Sept. 15.
The Ice Dogs finally return to Fairbanks on Sept. 30 and play their first home game on Oct. 5 against the Wenatchee Wild of Wenatchee, Wash.
Fairbanks began training came in late August at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
“Camp was good, we got better every day,” Proffitt said. “I think the two biggest things we have going for us right now is our speed and our hockey IQ.”
Proffitt said this weekend’s games will give coach Trevor Stewart a good chance to pick the 23 players who will be on the roster for next week’s NAHL Showcase.
“It will be a great chance to evaluate the 25 guys we have right now,” Proffitt said. “I don’t think we’re going to set the worlld on fire out of the gate, but I think we have the chance to have a pretty good hockey team as the season goes on.”
Proffitt said the Ice Dogs have added Lukas Zek from the Czech Republic to the roster and he joined the team in Sault Ste. Marie earlier this week.
“I’m sure we’ll have a few more changes (to the roster) before we get back home at the end of the month,” he said.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.