The first big hockey game of the year at the Soldotna Sports Center will be directly tied to one of the biggest news events on the Kenai Peninsula this summer.
On July 21, a fire destroyed the Anchor Plaza strip mall in Soldotna and sent six businesses and organizations looking for new homes.
Among the displaced was Central Peninsula Special Olympics, which lost nearly all of its sports equipment and office supplies in the blaze. Katherine Wilusz, the area director for the organization, said $35,000 worth of supplies and equipment were lost in the fire.
Making matters worse, Central Peninsula Special Olympics did not have fire insurance.
"We're starting from scratch," said Wilusz, who now operates Central Peninsula Special Olympics out of her home.
The Kenai Kings over-35 hockey team is just one of a number of parties in the area that have stepped forward to offer assistance.
The team will attempt to satiate the hockey appetite that area fans have built up over the course of the summer with a contest on Oct. 28 at 7:15 p.m. against a group of high school all-stars from the area.
The game will benefit Central Peninsula Special Olympics, which works with about 60 athletes.
"It's at a primo time because it's on a Saturday night," said Brian McIntosh, who is organizing the game. "It's going to be the first big hockey game of the year at the sports center."
The fact that high school coaches like Brian Gabriel Sr. and Pat Nolden will take the ice against some of their charges guarantees some spicy action.
Thus far, Wilusz said Central Peninsula Special Olympics has raised $15,000 from businesses and individuals. Thanks to those donations, the organization has gotten its bowling program up and rolling, but there is much more to replace.
Fortunately, some skis and snowshoes were at a coach's house during the blaze, so the two athletes that will represent the central peninsula at the Special Olympics World Games 2001 in March in Anchorage were able to keep training.
But Wilusz said the organization still needs things like equipment for basketball and uniforms for a number of sports.
"It tugs at your heart to look at these kids and realize they don't have anything," McIntosh said.
The cost at the door will be $6 per person or $18 for a family ticket that is good for up to five people. Advance tickets are available at the Soldotna Sports Center front desk for $5 per person or $15 per family. There also will be a puck chuck and split the pot.
Wilusz said any donations for Central Peninsula Special Olympics can be sent to P.O. Box 248, Soldotna, AK, 99669. Anybody wishing to volunteer for the organization can call 260-3364.
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