Clarion Calls

Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jeff's call: Arctic Winter Games fail to introduce new sports

The "Voices of the Opinion" piece written by Allan Miller and Joan Miller in the Clarion earlier this week got me to thinking about the 2006 Arctic Winter Games held on the Kenai Peninsula.

By many measures, that week when the peninsula welcomed Northern people from around the world was a success.

The peninsula bonded together with an incredible outpouring of volunteer support which I'd never seen before and don't expect I'll see again.

The games also led to upgrades at facilities like the Homer Ice Rink, the Kenai Multipurpose Facility and Tsalteshi Trails that are enjoyed by community members to this day.

The area where the games failed was introducing new sports to the peninsula.

There are some sports I never expected to catch on, like badminton and table tennis. There were also sports, like speed skating, biathlon and curling, which residents enjoyed so much that I figured we had not seen the last of them.

The key thing about speed skating, biathlon and curling is they are all winter sports. If the peninsula would have carried on with those sports, residents would have had more to do in the winter.

The sports also would have helped with the area's culture, giving area residents a different outlook on winter and the place they live.

Sadly, unless I'm missing something (and if I am I would appreciate it if somebody would let me know) the Arctic Winter Games did not lead to a more fervent pursuit of any new winter sports in this community.

As the Millers point out, biathlon particularly sticks out as a missed opportunity. The peninsula is home to one of the most accomplished Olympic biathletes in history, and another biathlete who just narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics this year.

The Millers have uncommon expertise in the sport and a world-class biathlon range had been constructed right here on the central peninsula. And yet ... nothing. What a waste.

It is disappointing that the Arctic Winter Games did not change the culture when it comes to new winter sports on the peninsula.

Mike's call: Unselfish style

Anyone who follows Soldotna boys basketball knows the name Boomer Blossom. The senior guard leads the Stars in scoring nearly every game.

So when Blossom was held to just six points Tuesday, assuming the Stars suffered a loss would be appropriate. However, SoHi trounced the visiting Homer Mariners by 22 points.

Homer switched to a triangle defense, attempting to limit scoring chances for Blossom and Blaine Carver, SoHi's other potent offensive threat.

Carver and Blossom combined for 19 points. That's no easy task for any defense.

It was SoHi's bench that made the difference in the game.

Ten different players tallied points for the Stars. Several, quick passes were the key to success, SoHi head coach Matt Johnson said.

Johnson was particularly impressed with Carver and Blossom's selfless play.

"I really thought our guys played unselfish," he said. "I thought it was a great team effort."

The Stars kept improving as the game progressed. Eight players scored points in the final quarter. Carver and Blossom had just two points apiece in SoHi's 20-point fourth quarter.

Tuesday's game was a great test, which SoHi aced. With the region and state tournaments coming up fast, the victory shows the Stars aren't reliant on one or two team members, as high school teams often are.

This won't be the last time opposing defenses key in on Carver and Blossom. As the season continues, so too will the constant defensive pressure on SoHi's top players.

But the Stars can handle it. Spreading the scoring around and putting up 70 points -- as they did against Homer -- speaks to the depth of the team.

That type of play will be essential if SoHi wants to make another run at the state title.

Mike Nesper and Jeff Helminiak work in the sports department at the Peninsula Clarion. They can be reached at

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