The Kenai River Brown Bears don't play another game in the North American Hockey League until Dec. 10, but they will be on the ice today to face a team in a league of its own.
The Bears square off against the Rusty Blades All-Stars at 7:30 p.m. today at the Soldotna Sports Center in a contest that will pit the peninsula's current Junior A hockey players against their more experienced counterparts, many of them former players and most of them peninsula residents.
Both squads are asking fans to bring canned food, to be donated to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. Those who bring canned food will be eligible to win an official NAHL jersey. Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for students. Children under 4 get in free.
Brown Bears coach Oliver David said the team spent the past week going to door-to-door across the community, asking people for canned goods as part of a pre-game effort to gather more food for the food bank.
Team Rusty Blades is made up of recreational hockey players who will get their shot at upending the Bears, who are in second place in the NAHL West Division.
The entire Bears squad will suit up for the match, except Chris Rial, Erick Ware and Doug Beck. The trio is in Boston with coach David for the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, featuring the league's top players. David will coach the West team along with Josh Hauge, who coaches the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
Although David won't be on the bench to coach the Bears against the Rusty Blades, he expects his squad to play hard.
"Our guys better have more wind than their guys," he said.
This is the first time the Bears have faced the Rusty Blades, but Kenai River General Manager Nate Kiel said he hopes it becomes a tradition.
"We'd certainly like to make it an annual thing," he said.
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