Anchorage will represent the U.S.A. at the Yukigassen World Championships next year. That is, if the Rumrunners team, which claimed the U.S. national championship on Sunday wants to do it and can afford to get there.
Thirty-two teams signed up. By Sunday morning, they had been winnowed down to four men's division teams and two coed teams.
Action started at 11 a.m., with more participants and officials on hand than spectators in the chilly metal bleachers. Two side-by-side courts were set up on the Delaney Park Strip at 10th Avenue and G Street. The men's finals took place simultaneously -- one of many confusing elements at the event.
In Court Two, Big Test Icicles knocked off Granite Construction in two periods, the last of which involved a wild charge in which the two standing Icycles players plunged into enemy territory where they dodged the fire of four opponents and captured the flag.
Meanwhile, in Court One, in the winner's face-off, Rumrunners beat the Undominable Snowmen, in two periods.
The Icicles now had to take on the Snowmen. They got the edge in hits in the first period. The last Snowman tried a charge against the two remaining Icicles but was cut down before he could reach the flag. In the second period the Snowmen waged a strategic battle, capturing an Icicle shelter before moving in to finish the bout. But the Icicles came back in the final period, double teaming the last Snowman.
That set up the championship round with Rumrunners.
By then maybe 200 people were present, though some have may been just walking by or stopping at the snack wagon for hot dogs. (A bargain at $5.24 -- bigger than the $7.50 hot dogs at Yankee Stadium and made with reindeer meat.)
Yukigassen USA organizer Carrie Ferguson addressed the crowd prior to the finale, asking them not to shout out numbers of players they think have been hit, and thus should be off the court. "It confuses both the players and the referees," she said. "I know it's just a snowball fight, but it's a big one."
The 'Runners shattered the Icicles in two periods heavy on defense. Both sides relied more on sniping than barrages. When the Icicles tried to rush the flag in the first period they were nailed.
The second period saw even more caution. But the 'Runners showed the most accuracy and as the final seconds approached had six players left to the Icicles' three. The Icicles attempted another suicide charge, snatching the flag but not before being nailed and hence "out." The remaining Icicle froze at his chateau as time ran off the clock.
"I'm putting this on my resume!" exulted Edwin Stout, a Rumrunners defender.
The Coed championship playoff was arguably the more exciting affair. The Angry Ball Busters had gone through the tournament undefeated. They faced the Yellow Snow Throwers, who, like the Icicles, had come up the hard way, through the loser's bracket. The Throwers lost their first match to the Amish Assassins last weekend, then battled back game by game until they could face the Assassins again, besting them this time.
In the first period on Sunday, two Throwers players dodged several near-misses in a two-player rush into enemy territory. They won the second period as well with a flag capture. Because they'd gone through the loser's bracket, however, they had to play the Busters one more time.
They took the first with a three-player charge at the flag. The second, however, was a war of attrition, both sides laying down heavy barrages without risking concerted expeditions from their home halves of the court. When the time elapsed, there were more Throwers than Busters.
Diane Kaplan, Rondy's Lady Trapper, handed out the medallions and trophy -- which depicts a snow-flinging hand. Thus ended the first ever officially sanctioned yukigassen tournament on American soil.
A great deal of confusion accompanied the event. Misidentifications from the loudspeaker and sometimes erroneous descriptions of what was happening. Many observers and players accused the referees of not seeing strikes and infractions or making up the rules.
But by the championships, there seemed to be plenty of officials on hand and the calls seemed relatively more consistent than earlier. Many in the stands yearned for replay and a Jumbotron, a time clock, or orange-colored snowballs that might be more visible against the white snow under the gleaming sun.
So perhaps changes are in store when competition resumes at the next Fur Rendezvous. In the meantime, Rumrunners has won the right to represent America next February at the Mount-Shinzan International Yukigassen World Championships in Hokkaido, Japan.
Assuming they can get there.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.
USA Yukigassen championship teams
Men's division winning team
Captain: Bob Livingston
Players: Brad Bigelow, Taylor Reed, Justin Bode, Gary Ray, Charlton Ferriera, Edwin Stout, Jeremy Wylie
Coed division winning team
Yellow Snow Throwers
Captain: K.C. Linn
Players: K.C. Linn, Randy Hughes, Rachel Vosburg, Lou Ulmer, Jeremy Guse, Michelle Brittian, Travis Miller
By MIKE DUNHAM