PUBLISHED: 11:38 AM on Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Ice Age
Hockey players, skaters keep Treadwell busy

Photo by Beth Leschper
  Finn Sinclair, a 6-year-old first grader, dons his skates at the Treadwell Arena with a little help from his dad, Ed Sinclair.
Build it and they will come.

While that line is most often associated with the sport of baseball, it could also be said of ice skating in the capital city. Since the Treadwell Arena first opened in February 2003, it has become one of the most popular recreational destinations in the area, attracting hockey players and figure skaters of all ages.

"We're so busy that we're running out of room," said Ice Rink Manager Greg Smith. "The success of the rink since it opened has been really amazing; you generally see enthusiasm like this in the beginning, but it often wanes. Here, people are waiting to get in the door from 6 a.m. on."

Those people include members of the Juneau Douglas Ice Association, who sponsor the youth hockey league, the Juneau Adult Hockey Association and the Juneau Skating Club. This year the arena will also welcome Juneau's first high school hockey team, which will play its first games this winter.

Photo by Beth Leschper
  "Our season starts up on Wednesday," said Juneau resident and hockey player Daria West (front), who skates at Treadwell Arena. Karen Blejwas was also on the ice on Monday.
"For the past three years, we've had youth hockey in Juneau, and it seemed like a natural progression to turn a youth club sport into a high school sport, just like football, soccer or baseball," said Tom Rutecki, who spearheaded the effort to create a team. "At first we won't be incredibly competitive, so we're planning to play some of the smaller schools-we're not yet ready for teams from Anchorage. But as the kids play more, I expect we'll become fairly competitive. We've got some pretty good kids coming up in the ranks."

The JDIS provides some funding for the new team. Players will also pay a fee and hold fundraisers to raise money for rink rental and transportation, though they will not be traveling in their first year.

"We also expect to raise money at the gate," said Rutecki, who is working with teams from Healy, Houston, Glen Allen and Delta to schedule games for the season.

In the next week, a team coach will be selected and practices, which will be three times a week at 6 a.m., will begin on Oct. 17. The team will play its first public games against Tri-Valley on Dec. 9-10.

Photo by Beth Leschper
  Juneau resident Peter Ord (above) said he tries to "do the free sakes, but I love playing hockey."
In addition to the 30 players who will make up the high school hockey team, Treadwell ice will also be filled with 180-200 youth hockey players this year, ranging in age from four to 17.

Lance Miller, president of JDIA, said that the league has grown since its start in the 1990s.

"We've definitely seen an increase in players, especially since the rink opened up three years ago," he said. "While some people would argue that we're maxed out because there's no more ice for more teams, I think it's good to have more players. I think we should let the market demand what's needed-and that might be another rink."

Youth hockey supports 10 teams, two in each age group. This includes Mites, ages 8 and under; Squirts, ages 9-10; Pee Wees, ages 11-12; Bantams, ages 13-14; and Midgets, ages 15-17. There is also an Intro to Hockey class for children ages 4 and up.

"What's great about a game like hockey is that it is really a team sport," Miller said. "It teaches discipline, sportsmanship and how to behave. It teaches kids to control themselves, even in intense, heated situations. And it's just fun!"

Adults are also having fun on the rink as members of the Juneau Adult Hockey Association, which includes a Women's League.

"The adult league is wildly popular-especially the women's league which has over 100 players," Rutecki said. "A lot of them are between ages 40 and 60, and have never played a sport in their lives. Yet they've become passionate about hockey."

"The only drawback is that most of the players are still too polite," he laughed. "They knock someone over, and then stop to say 'excuse me.'"

For those skaters looking for a little less rugged form of the sport, Treadwell Arena also hosts figure skating classes for youths and adults, including a Learn to Skate program. "The Juneau Skating Association is also offering synchronized skating this year, and is working to develop talent along those lines," Smith said.

With all of the people wanting to spend time at Treadwell Arena, the only problem seems to be a lack of space.

"Of course expansion has been talked about, but there are a lot of other capital projects out there, so it will probably be down the road," Smith said. "We might be able to extend our hours a little more in the morning and at night, which isn't the best option, but it's the only one we have right now.

"I remember playing in a league where our games were at one or two a.m.," he added. "If people are willing to do it, maybe we can squeeze a few more hours out of each day."