Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 7:32 PM on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spirit of Bell reflected in rink's last weekend

When the top of the world meets the end of the road, it's a celebration on ice

By Lindsay Johnson
Staff Writer

The fourth annual Kevin Bell Day was everything a party should be.


The initials of the late Kevin Bell were painted in the 2010/2011 ice in honor of his contributions to Homer hockey.

Held last Saturday at the Kevin Bell Arena, the celebration of life, sportsmanship and family fun highlighted the multigenerational, multicultural, actively growing community that is Homer Hockey Association.

HHA registrar Kim Duggar said that 48 people, one quarter of the number registered for the 2010/2011 season, signed up for next season that day. The association's men, women, boys and girls range in age from 3 to nearly 60, and included residents from across the greater Homer area.

Last season was the first that high school players from the Russian Old Believer schools could play on the Homer High School team, a hard-earned step that only strengthened Homer hockey.

In the rink kitchen, Afanasia Sanarov, Leeza Reutov, Julie Kuzmin, Klaudia Kuzman and Mary Martushev turned out trays of piroshkies along with cole slaw and desserts for the crowd of hockey enthusiasts.

"It's just a treat we all enjoyed. It was really special and I think it's a neat tradition," Duggar said.

John Butcher Sr., who more than 20 yeas ago coached the first Bantam C State to win the state trophy, presented the prize to Homer's 2011 winning team, of which his grandson is a part. A new banner to hang in the building was unveiled in recognition of the Bantam's accomplishment.

Larry Bell, Alaska business manager for IBEW, and a handful of other IBEW members, including rink manager Domenic Cordle, were on hand for a public presentation of the new electric Zamboni, which is sponsored by IBEW.

Hockey also brought people from the far end of the state to town.

"Barrow bypassed Fairbanks, Anchorage, the Valley and Soldotna," Cordle said.

A contingent of 21 players and seven adults made the trip from Barrow. The team played 17 games over four days with Homer Squirts, Pee Wees and girls and Kenai Pee Wees.

"If they hadn't opened the door for us to come we wouldn't have been able to travel out this year. That would have been a great disappointment. Travel is pretty important to these guys. After playing each other all year long ... they want to get out and play other teams," said Barrow Coach Darryl Serino.

The Barrow Hockey and Curling Association has approximately 55 members, including 15 high school players and 13-14 adults.

Serino started coaching youth hockey in Barrow in 2006. Most of the traveling team, aged 6 -12 years old, has been playing three years or less. Serino and his wife pick up the players from school, help them with their gear, coach, maintain the ice and bring the kids home.

A handful of parents raise funds year-round so that the team can travel or bring others up to play. They make about $30,000 annually with weekly laser tag and bounce house sessions at the city gym.

Fundraising organizer and hockey parent Jeff Patterson said the job isn't always easy, but the motivation is strong.

"We're not in a league, we're up there all by ourselves. It's 30 below. The kids really want to play. It's nice to have somewhere we can bring 'em where it's warm. It's good for the kids to get to play in a real rink in a building."

Patterson also was impressed with Homer's hospitality.

"This is by far the best we've been treated, the easiest it was to come in here," he said.

Barrow, a city of about 5,000 people, has had a tent-covered rink since the late 1990s.

"There's no heat in it but it's out of the wind. We play outdoors basically except for the fact that it's covered," Serino said.

Serino jumped on the opportunity to play inside with Homer's adult co-ed crew for Saturday's final event.

Three teams of men and women played the night away, and topped it off with a dessert contest.

While Barrow's ice will be frozen for another month or so, the ice at the Kevin Bell Arena is gone until September.