As the weather continues to grow colder, the differences between living in South Korea and living in interior Alaska grow more apparent…as if they weren’t already incredibly apparent! One of the biggest adjustments for us living at Fort Wainwright is how small everything seems. Which, honestly, is pretty wild considering just how large Alaska is. We wanted a nice, close-to-home activity for our family this weekend, and we discovered there was a UAF Nanooks hockey game in town. And, even better, it was military appreciation night!
Our First UAF Nanooks Hockey Game
For those unfamiliar, UAF is the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Nanooks are their men’s collegiate hockey team. We quickly learned upon arriving in Fairbanks this summer that hockey is life in Alaska. Local kiddos start early and, while this is Porter’s first year on the ice, many kids have played hockey or been on the ice since they could walk.
The UAF sports mascot has always been a polar bear and, in 1963, they became known as the “Nanooks,” which is the Inupiaq word for polar bear. Located here in Fairbanks, the “Nooks” (as the locals call them) split their time between training at Patty Ice Rink on the UAF campus and at the Carlson Center where they play their home games. Our first UAF Nanooks Hockey Game was at the Carlson Center, and there were more than 4,000 people in attendance – the most they’ve had there since 2014!
The Alaska Governor’s Cup Series
The funniest thing about living in all these different places is that you learn – inadvertently – all sorts of random facts about life and living in the local area. For example, Alaska apparently has a Governor’s Cup each year for hockey. Did you know that? I certainly didn’t.
The Alaska Governor’s Cup competition is an annual rivalry between the Nanooks and the Anchorage Seawolves and is awarded to the team that wins the most games between the two teams during the season. The tradition began in 1994 and continues to this day, solidifying a pretty epic rivalry between the two D1 college teams…even though they actually compete in separate conferences. The game we went to was the second match of the season, and the Nanooks won the game 5-4 in a pretty awesome game.
Why You’ll Love a UAF Nanooks Game
So, here’s a fun fact for you; despite being a hockey-fanatic state, Alaska doesn’t actually have its own NHL team. Seems a little backwards, right? Alaska doesn’t actually have a city large enough to support an NHL team, as Anchorage only has about 400,000 residents and is the largest metropolitan area in all of Alaska. So, instead, locals favor the college and amateur teams.
For the Fairbanks area, that leaves us with the UAF Nanooks and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, which are part of the North American Hockey League. The college hockey scene is fun and extremely competitive, and the NAHL league is known to host rowdier local crowds which, thinking of it now, might be just as fun! If you’re bringing young kids though, you can’t go wrong with a college game like this because there’s all the fanfare, music, and atmosphere of a large-scale game right in your “home”town.
Tips for Going to a Nanooks Hockey Game
Carlson Center Address: 2010 2nd Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701
Where to Buy Nanooks Tickets: Tickets are available on Stubhub here, or they can be purchased in-person at the Carlson Center on game nights.
Ticket Prices: Adults average $15/ticket, Children are $12, and those under 4 years old are free.
Tips: Parking gets pretty crowded, but there are several overflow lots, so there is plenty. Be aware you might have to walk about a quarter of a mile if in one of the overflow lots. Get there early to find GA seats if yours aren’t reserved, and plan time to visit concessions before the pre-game fun begins!