KCHS senior Owen Dukowitz announced as first to sign with new Kenai River Brown Bears at fan rally.
The new Kenai River Brown Bear hockey team held their first fan fest last week at the Soldotna Sports Center. This fall the Sports Center will be home ice to the new NAHL hockey team. According to Scott Sakoff, marketing manager for the team, the purpose of the event was to introduce Peninsula hockey fans to the Brown Bear’s owner and some of the players, “It was a great turn out and we hope the event encouraged some player prospects to come to our summer camps and try out for the team,” Sakoff told the Dispatch.
Barry Schoenly, owner of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Kenai River Brown Bears had promised to recruit for his new Junior A team locally and from Alaska. Schoenly made good on that promise Thursday night when he announced that the first player to be signed to his new team was Kenai Central High School senior Owen Dukowitz, “This is going to be quite the experience, I haven’t played this level of hockey yet and I’m looking forward to jumping into it,” said Dukowitz, who played center for the back to back state champion Kenai Kardinals.
“We are thrilled to have Owen on board. I asked my director of hockey operations that as soon as he could name someone who would be the key to our new team to let me know, and we couldn’t have been happier when he came up with Owen Dukowitz to be that player. Owen is a perfect match for us, he not only is a great player, but comes from a great family and that was important to us,” said Schoenly.
The North American Hockey League was founded in 1975 when the Michigan Junior League and Wolverine Junior League formed the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League. In 1984 the name changed to the North American Junior Hockey League, and was later modified to the current North American Hockey League. “It’s been a great couple of days, the people’s response from fans to sponsors to city officials has been just over the top and better than anything I could have anticipated. I’ve lived in Alaska for 35 years and only been down here to fish, but I already feel like this is home. I can promise you some of the most exciting hockey you’ll ever see. These teams are playing on the edge of their dreams, the pros, college scholarships, or careers, and they hold nothing back, its action, action, action,” said Schoenly. According to Schoenly last year 6 out of the top 10 NHL draft picks were selected out of the NAHL.
The 2006-07 campaign marks the 31st season of NAHL competition, making it the oldest Junior A hockey league in the U.S. The NAHL for players under 20 years of age has grown as hockey has grown, from a Detroit-based league in the upper Midwest to one which today spans west to Alaska, east to Ohio, and south to Texas and New Mexico. The League currently has17 activemembers in threedivisions.
Marketing Manager for the Brown Bears, Scott Sakoff, says home game tickets are already available and a fan club organized, “Our fan club is called the Bear’s Den and each member who joins will receive two free tickets. A variety of season tickets and packages are already available for the season which will start in October. We are shooting for 1,500 fans for our opening night,” said Sakoff. The office for the Kenai River Brown Bears is located at the Soldotna Sports Center and more information may be obtained by calling Tara Contino at 260-3073.
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