Alaska Aces (ECHL)
|Founded||1989 (In the PSHL)|
|Home arena||Sullivan Arena|
|Colors||Black, glacier blue, green, silver, white|
|Owner(s)||Terry Parks, Steve Adams, Al Haynes, Dan Coffey, Rod Udd (d. 2017), Jerry Mackey|
|Media||Root Sports Northwest|
KFQD (NewsTalk 750/103.7)
|Regular season titles||5 (2005–06, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14)|
|Division Championships||8 (2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14)|
|Conference Championships||4 (2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2013–14)|
|Kelly Cups||3 (2005–06, 2010–11, 2013–14)|
- For the Filipino professional basketball team, see Alaska Aces (PBA).
The Alaska Aces, known as the Anchorage Aces until 2003, were a minor league ice hockey team in Anchorage, Alaska. Home games were played at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. The Aces won three Kelly Cup championships, with their last championship following the 2013–14 ECHL season.
The Aces were formed as a semi-professional team in the Pacific Southwest Hockey League (PSHL) in 1989 and became a charter member of the professional West Coast Hockey League (WCHL) in 1995. When the WCHL was absorbed by the East Coast Hockey League in 2003, the team joined the merged ECHL.
In 2017, the ownership group announced that the 2016–17 season would be the team's last, after which the franchise would cease operations. The owners cited the struggling Alaskan economy, and sagging ticket sales among the reasons for the club's financial downfall. In June 2017, the franchise was sold and relocated to Portland, Maine, for the 2018–19 season.
Early semi-professional days (1989–1995)
The team was established in 1989 as the Anchorage Aces. They were originally a semi-professional club in the Pacific Southwest Hockey League organized by Dennis Sorenson, as a senior men's ice hockey team to compete against the established Alaska Gold Kings in Fairbanks.
The Aces played four unofficial games during in the 1989-90 season. During the 1990–91 season, Keith Street led the team on a 22–game schedule, which included 20 games against teams registered with USA Hockey. The 1990–91 season ended with the Aces winning the Senior Men's Open National Championship held in Fairbanks. In 1993 and 1994, they won the National Amateur Championship. They finished second in 1992 and 1995.
The Aces joined the Pacific Northwest Hockey League (PNHL) for the 1991–92 season, playing six of their home games at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage and eight at the Central Peninsula Sports Center in Soldotna. The Aces finished second in the PNHL with a 16–12–2 regular season record, and were the runners-up in the national USA Hockey tourney after a 0–4–1 tourney run.
In the 1992–93 season, new head coach Mike Ashley led the Aces to a 19–3–0 regular season record. In the USA Hockey Senior Men's Open Tournament, the Aces finished second for the second year in a row after compiling a 4–1 record in the tourney, losing the tiebreaker to the Chicago Chargers. Ashley resigned following the season.
For the 1993–94 season, the Aces played as an independent team. Steve Gasparini took over as head coach, and led the Aces to a 22–9–1 regular season record. The Aces also won their second championship in the USA Hockey Senior Men's Open National Tournament with a 5–0 run highlighted by the 6–0 rout of the Fresno Falcons. In 1994–95, the Aces joined the Pacific Hockey League (PHL), formed by a merger of the PSHL and PNHL. The team went 27–9 and lost in the championship game to the Gold Kings.
West Coast Hockey League (1995–2003)
The PHL folded after only one season. After an unsuccessful attempt to form a new Pacific Rim Hockey League, the Aces joined the new West Coast Hockey League (WCHL) for the 1995–96 season. Mike Cusack, Jr. became sole owner of the franchise following the 1995–96 season.
In the 1996–97 season, the Aces initially lost in the league playoffs to the Fresno Falcons, three games to one. The WCHL commissioner determined that their 2–4 loss in game four would be changed to a 1–0 victory due to forfeit by the Fresno Falcons, when they failed to meet the minimum roster requirement due to injuries and suspensions. The Aces won the deciding fifth game 5–3 and advanced to the Taylor Cup finals, but were defeated by the San Diego Gulls.
In the 2000–01 season, Stirling Wright was brought in to serve as assistant coach. He was instrumental in bringing in former NHL players when the Aces signed former NHL goalie Vincent Riendeau and right wing Kevin Brown. The Idaho Steelheads defeated the Aces 3–0 in the first round of the playoffs. Overall, the Aces finished in third place with a 34–30–4 record and advanced to the semifinals, only to be ousted by the Tacoma Sabercats in three games.
In 2001–02, Wright was promoted within the franchise and began serving as the new General Manager. He hired former NHL coach and player Butch Goring as the team's new head coach. In effort to revamp the team, Wright only extended the contracts of four players from the previous season. The Aces additionally signed five former NHL players, including defenseman Jim Paek, goaltender Scott Bailey, wingers Todd Harkins and Daniel Goneau, and center Clayton Beddoes.
Clayton Beddoes retired just a few games into the season due to a previous shoulder injury. The Aces promoted a "Guaranteed Win Night" where if they lost the game, the fans in attendance would receive free Aces tickets.
After a 10–18–4 season start, Aces' owner, Mike Cusack, fired Goring and Lou Corletto, who served the franchise as Vice President of Business Operations. He brought back former head coach, Walt Poddubny. Stirling Wright stepped down as general manager, due to his disapproval of the owner's decisions. The Aces went on to win only a few more games and the mass exodus of players soon followed, after Wright left the team. The team itself was making a profit, but the owner's other financial ventures continued to drain the team of its revenue.
In May 2002, the team owner filed personal bankruptcy. Cusack included his ownership of the Anchorage Aces franchise in the filing. According to the filing papers, the team was almost $2 million in debt.
In June 2002, Cusack put the team up for sale on eBay. The club's owner, Cusack, accepted a $1.862 million bid from Duncan Harrison, owner of Alaskan Automotive Distributing in Anchorage, but U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Donald MacDonald converted the Aces' bankruptcy case to Chapter 7, which allowed him to reject the Harrison bid.
The listing was withdrawn when it was discovered that a US$2.3 million bid was a college student's prank.
The club was eventually sold for $1.05 million to a seven-member group. As of 2015 the Aces and Idaho Steelheads were the only former WCHL teams still playing in their original markets.
The Aces joined the ECHL for the 2003–04 season following a merger between the WCHL and the East Coast Hockey League. They were renamed the Alaska Aces after the league switch, and unveiled a new logo and new uniforms.
The team gained national prominence in 2004 when it signed New Jersey Devils all-star and Alaska-born Scott Gomez during that season's NHL lockout. Gomez went on to lead the ECHL in scoring and win league Most Valuable Player honors.
In 2006, the Aces became only the second team in ECHL history (joining the South Carolina Stingrays of Charleston, SC) in winning both the Brabham Cup and Kelly Cup championships in the same season. In 2008, the Cincinnati Cyclones became the third team to accomplish this feat. In 2011 the Alaska Aces did it again, becoming the first team to ever do it twice.
In 2006, Alaska won the ECHL Kelly Cup title in five games over the Gwinnett Gladiators. This was the first professional sports title won by an Alaskan team since the Anchorage Northern Knights won the Continental Basketball Association championship in 1980. Mike Scott received the ECHL Kelly Cup MVP award after the Aces' 4–3 win over the Gladiators in game five of the series.
In 2009, the Aces stormed through the first three rounds of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, winning in five games against both the Utah Grizzlies and the Victoria Salmon Kings in the first two rounds, and sweeping the Las Vegas Wranglers in the National Conference Finals. They were in the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time since their championship season in 2006, but they lost 4 games to 3 to the South Carolina Stingrays.
In 2010–11, the Aces dominated the entire season, winning the Brabham Cup by earning the best record in the league, as well as leading the league in points scored. Wes Goldie lead the league in goals scored. In the Kelly Cup Playoffs, they swept the Idaho Steelheads and Victoria Salmon Kings, and then won the Kelly Cup Championship over the Kalamazoo Wings in five games. The Aces won a third Kelly Cup in 2014, defeating the Cincinnati Cyclones in the finals four games to two.
In 2014–15 the Aces defended their Kelly Cup championship playing in the Pacific Division of the ECHL's Western Conference, but failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the team's WCHL days. They would miss the playoffs again in 2016.
The Aces were the northernmost and westernmost team in the ECHL, located 2,731 miles (4,395 km) from their closest geographical rival, the Idaho Steelheads. As a result, the team spent over $300,000 in travel-related costs during the 2014–15 season despite playing road games in only six different locations. In 2017, co-owner Jerry Mackie stated that the ownership was considering ceasing operation upon the completion of the 2016–17 season due to the mounting financial losses, the recent sagging Alaskan economy, the aforementioned high travel costs and dwindling attendance. On February 23, the ownership officially announced the 2016–17 season would be its last.
On April 8, 2017, the Aces played their final game in a 3–2 loss to the Idaho Steelheads in front of a sold out Sullivan Arena.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime losses, SOL = Shootout losses, Pts = Points, PCT = Winning percentage, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes.
Records as of 2016.
|Season||GP||W||L||T||OTL||SOL||Pts||PCT||GF||GA||PIM||Standing||Year||1st round||2nd round||3rd round||Finals|
|1995–96||58||24||29||0||5||0||53||0.414||271||299||1758||5th of 6, WCHL||1996||—||Did not qualify|
|1996–97||64||41||18||0||5||0||87||0.641||349||260||2142||2nd of 6, WCHL||1997||—||W, 3–2, FRE||L, 0–4, SD|
|1997–98||64||36||20||0||8||0||80||0.562||308||261||2075||2nd of 4, WCHL North Div.||1998||—||W, 3–1, IDA||L, 0–4, TAC||—|
|1998–99||71||46||22||0||3||0||95||0.648||332||260||1759||2nd of 4, WCHL North Div.||1999||—||W, 2–1, COL||L, 0–3, TAC||—|
|1999–00||74||31||34||0||9||0||71||0.419||272||334||1828||3rd of 4, WCHL North Div.||2000||—||L, 1–3, COL||—||—|
|2000–01||72||27||41||0||4||0||58||0.375||264||324||1820||4th of 4, WCHL North Div.||2001||—||L, 0–3, IDA||—||—|
|2001–02||72||19||44||0||9||0||47||0.264||222||350||1573||4th of 4, WCHL North Div.||2002||—||L, 1–3, IDA||—||—|
|2002–03||72||21||46||0||5||0||47||0.292||210||327||1926||6th of 6, WCHL||2003||—||Did not qualify|
|2003–04||72||38||28||6||0||0||82||0.569||220||210||1648||4th of 7, ECHL Pacific Div.||2004||W, 3–0, SD||L, 1–3, IDA||—||—|
|2004–05||72||45||19||8||0||0||98||0.681||233||187||1389||1st of 8, ECHL West Div.||2005||W, 3–2, BAK||W, 3–0, LB||L, 3–4, TRE||—|
|2005–06||72||53||12||7||0||0||113||0.785||289||168||1786||1st of 6, ECHL West Div.||2006||W, 4–0, UTA||W, 4–2, LV||W, 4–3, FRE||W, 4–1, GWT|
|2006–07||72||49||16||7||0||0||105||0.729||270||176||1972||1st of 5, ECHL West Div.||2007||W, 4–2, VIC||W, 4–0, BAK||L, 1–4, IDA||—|
|2007–08||72||41||26||0||4||1||87||0.604||245||249||1319||3rd of 5, ECHL West Div.||2008||W, 4–0, IDA||L, 1–4, LV||—||—|
|2008–09||72||45||24||1||2||0||93||0.646||232||181||1537||1st of 5, ECHL West Div.||2009||W, 4–1, UTA||W, 4–1, VIC||W, 4–0, LV||L, 3–4, SC|
|2009–10||72||36||28||0||4||4||80||0.556||232||240||1566||2nd of 4, ECHL West Div.||2010||L, 1–3, STK||—||—||—|
|2010–11||72||47||22||0||2||1||97||0.674||241||174||947||1st of 4, ECHL Mountain Div.||2011||BYE||W, 4–0, IDA||W, 4–0, VIC||W, 4–1, KAL|
|2011–12||72||43||18||0||3||8||97||0.674||224||172||929||1st of 4, ECHL Mountain Div.||2012||BYE||W, 4–1, STK||L, 1–4, LV||—|
|2012–13||72||49||15||0||4||4||106||0.736||228||172||1086||1st of 4, ECHL Mountain Div.||2013||W, 4–1, SF||L, 2–4, STK||—||—|
|2013–14||71||45||19||0||3||4||97||0.683||243||164||989||1st of 4, ECHL Mountain Div.||2014||W, 4–0, LV||W, 4–1, IDA||W, 4–2, BAK||W, 4–2, CIN|
|2014–15||72||35||30||0||3||4||77||0.535||237||233||1211||5th of 7, ECHL Pacific Div.||2015||Did not qualify|
|2015–16||72||27||38||—||4||3||61||0.424||189||237||1171||5th of 5, ECHL West Div.||2016||Did not qualify|
|2016–17||72||32||30||—||3||7||74||0.514||219||230||1154||6th of 7, ECHL Mountain Div.||2017||Did not qualify|
|D. J. King||LW||5|
|B. J. Young||RW||144|
- Steve Gasparini, 1995–96
- Walt Poddubny, 1996–2000, 2000–01, 2001–02
- Bob Wilkie, 2000 (12 games)
- Derek Donald, 2000 (3 games)
- Steve MacSwain, 2000 (1 game)
- Butch Goring, 2001
- Rod Davidson, 2002–03
- Perry Florio, 2003
- Davis Payne, 2003–07
- Keith McCambridge, 2007–09
- Brent Thompson, 2009–11
- Rob Murray, 2011–2017
|8||Keith Street||C||1991–92, 1993–2001|
- "Alaska Aces to Cease Operations at Conclusion of 2016-17 Season". KTUU-TV. February 23, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
- "Portland lands a pro hockey team for the fall of 2018". Portland Press Herald. June 15, 2017.
- Pacific Hockey League (1994-1995) history and statistics, hockeyDB.com. (accessed 11 June 2015)
- Stott, Jon C. (2006). Hockey Night in Dixie: Minor Pro Hockey in the American South. Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd. pp. 180, 182. ISBN 978-1-894974-21-9.
- "Flames, Heat announce affiliation with Alaska Aces". Calgary Flames. August 21, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
- "Annual ECHL Board of Governors Meeting concludes", ECHL, June 24, 2014. (accessed 24 June 2014)
- Woody, Doyle. "Aces' 2015-16 schedule: Diversity and distant travel", Alaska Dispatch News, April 27, 2015. (accessed 11 June 2015)
- "Alaska Aces ownership considering ceasing operations". KTVA. February 17, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-02-22. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
- "Both sweet and sorrowful: The end of the Alaska Aces". Alaska Dispatch News. 2017-04-09. Retrieved 2017-04-09.
- "PORTLAND, MAINE TO JOIN ECHL IN 2018-19 SEASON". ECHL. June 15, 2017.
- "Anchorage Aces season statistics and records 1995–2003". Hockeydb.com. 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2012-03-05.
- "Anchorage Aces season statistics and records 2003-Present". Hockeydb.com. 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-02.
Media related to Alaska Aces at Wikimedia Commons
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