Unveiling the inaugural class for their Hall of Fame, the Alaska Aces on Thursday celebrated four players – two prolific scorers from the franchise's professional roots and two players who helped seize the hockey club's first championship chalice -- and two men who are off-ice fixtures.
Centers Keith Street and Dean Larson were dynamic centers and linchpins for the Anchorage Aces of the now-defunct West Coast Hockey League -- that club was the forerunner of the current Aces of the ECHL.
Center Kimbi Daniels bridged the transition from the Anchorage Aces to the Alaska Aces and along with winger Mike Scott helped spearhead the drive to the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2006.
Also picked, in the "special honorees'' category, were long-time public address announcer Bob Lester, who has spent nearly two decades bringing Sullivan Arena crowds to a frenzy, and Bobby Hill, a season ticket-holder and the team's most recognizable fan.
The Aces picked the inaugural class from nominations submitted by season ticket-holders. The club will induct the class of six between periods of its Hall of Fame Weekend games against the Utah Grizzlies on Feb. 20-21.
Street and Larson have both previously been honored by the Aces, who more than a decade ago retired their numbers. Street's No. 8 sweater and Larson's No. 18 hang on the east wall inside Sullivan Arena, next to the Aces' myriad championship banners.
Street and Larson played for rival college programs -- Street torched goaltenders for UAF and Larson remains UAA's all-time leading scorer. Their college careers did not overlap, but after stints of professional hockey elsewhere they joined forces to torture defenses for the Anchorage Aces.
Street's 135-point season in 1998-99's 71-game season delivered the WCHL single-season record for points and marked the second straight season he led circuit in scoring. He also owns the WCHL record for assists in a season (90 in 64 games, 1997-98) and shares the record for most short-handed goals in a season -- he twice furnished eight shorties. Street generated 184-323—507 totals in 308 games over six seasons and owns the WCHL record for longest point streak at 30 games.
Larson, who like Street possessed sharp skills, an uncanny sense of time and space, and abundant imagination, is the WCHL's all-time leading scorer with 258-525—783 totals in 520 games. He also owns the all-time record for assists in a league that lasted from 1995 to 2003, and owns the record for consecutive seasons of 100 points or more with four.
Just 5-foot-8, playing in an era when hooking and holding were staples of the game, Larson was Exhibit A that size did not always matter -- you can't hook what you can't catch.
Daniels, a former NHLer, played for both the Anchorage Aces and Alaska Aces in a pro career that spanned 18 seasons. He too was a prolific scorer -- Daniels furnished the Anchorage Aces an 89-point season and the Alaska Aces an 81-point season. His 5-15—20 totals in the 2006 playoffs helped spur the Aces to the first of the franchise's three Kelly Cups in the ECHL.
And in that 2006 playoff run, Daniels twice produced a feat so rare it does not have a specific name like a hat trick. He twice scored short-handed when his team was down two men -- call it a "Kimbi.''
Scott's game was equal parts scoring and sandpaper. He possessed a cannonading shot and strong skills, and supplemented those with a fiery temperament. Maybe 170 pounds after a buffet, the former UAA winger nonetheless played a body-banging game and occasionally shed his gloves to settle a disagreement. He never racked fewer than 144 penalty minutes in his four seasons with the Aces and generated almost exactly a point per game in that span.
Scott produced 11-11-22 totals in 22 games in the 2006 playoffs and was named the Kelly Cup Most Valuable Player. He captained the Aces in 2006-07, his last season.
Lester, who hosts a popular morning radio show in Anchorage, has served as the Aces' public address announcer for nearly two decades and has become a face of the franchise. He riles up the crowd, launching it into chants. He judges the work of referees -- "Two minutes for…holding?''
And each game he gives a specific shout-out: "What time is it?! It's Bobby Hill time!''
Enter Hill, a Special Olympian and die-hard Aces super-fan. He places a hockey stick between his legs like he's riding a horse, and gallops along in front of the lowest row of the north stands to the strains of "William Tell Overture'' while the crowd erupts.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing