For those unfamiliar readers this has been a damned interesting year for human/wildlife interaction in the city of Anchorage. This past Friday while cruising down Gambell St. (just past the Sullivan Arena and perhaps the more famous Cal Worthington Ford dealership) a man hit an 800lb, 13 year old Grizzly Bear with his truck. The collision gravely injured the bear but that didn't stop him from snarling and threatening the driver until a couple of minutes or so later when police arrived on the scene. They righteously terminated the poor suffering Yogi.
Humans 2, Grizzlies 0 -- because earlier in the week the ADF&G offed a sow that was the probable culprit in several close calls and two hardcore maulings on a trail in Bi-Centennial Park called Rover's Run. The first notice came when a 15 year old female mountain biker was torn from her bike in the early AM during a 24 hour endurance race. She spent quite a while in Intensive Care and is apparently doing better. Following that incident UAA Seawolf cross-country runner Auston Ellis outran (and outfoxed) perhaps the same marauding grizzly in the park. Then just a couple of weeks ago a woman with her dog was mauled at about the same place (she got out of the hospital last week). In both instances the victim was believed to have come between the sow and her cubs. The Fish and Game fellas were able to trap one of the offending sows progeny (which is now incarcerated at the Alaska Zoo before being shipped off to Indiana for a lifetime of gawking) but last I heard the other Boo Boo was still at large. The local paper and the city are all atwitter (<--- a link to ALL the "bear stories" in the Anchorage Daily News) with the ongoing drama. It's a lot of grizzly action which frankly is not necessarily the usual thing in the middle of this town. I dunno why those bears don't learn that we humans have opposable thumbs; and opposable thumbs can't be defeated.
With the word out that it's time to deal with this ongoing bear threat the UAA Seawolves hockey team will be conducting an unofficial and unannounced team building exercise in Bi-Centennial Park next Sunday August 31st at 8:00 PM. Word is that all drills will be conducted in full gear.
The strategy will be to put the 3 goalies on point immediately followed by the freshman class; with defensemen on the flanks and the forwards in the center. Head Coach Dave Shyiak explained,
"We wanted to give our goalies some experience with taking the fight to the enemy. During the season we'll be depending on these guys to keep the puck out of the net. So, it's defend defend defend for them. This will be the ultimate change of pace."He added, "Obviously, we'll use last years leg pads." Associate Head Coach Campbell Blair added,
"By putting our fleet footed defensemen on the flank we can assure that an Ursus insurgency from any angle can be efficiently deflected. I'd dare any grizzly to bring a full charge toward any of our D guys. They're all just too quick and deadly with their sticks. And with some solid backchecking from the forwards that bear won't stand a chance."Newly hired Assistant Coach Regg Simon has been quietly scouting the Rover's Run area for the last week and will continue to map out any grizzly movements so the team has the best opportunity to find a worthy encounter. Simon explained, "I've spent more time in the woods at twilight than I have at the rink since I got here but hey, I sure do see the benefit of this exercise." In his time coaching in the USHL Coach Simon became a renowned snipe spotter throughout Iowa. "I have the experience and the tools to help make this an excellent team building exercise. I know I can spot em a big one."
Several players (all freshman of course) seemed to question the sanity of this team building exercise but refused to go on the record for this story. But the majority of the players are reportedly psyched for it. Paul Crowder said,
"There was this 4 year vet when I played my first year of juniors and he showed me a wicked move to butt-end someone in the jaw. I'd never use it in a game so I'm looking forward to trying it out on the bear."Jared Tuton added with a laugh,
"In Canada, bears stay in the woods. If it's up to us to send these bears back to the woods with their tails between their legs then we'll damn sure do it (psst ... don't tell my dad I said 'damn')."Kevin Clark seemed especially keen on the idea,
"I hope I can line one up with a nice solid tree. Boarding? You think you've seen boarding before? That bear has a big surprise coming! I'll definitely be leaving my feet!"FWIW, my money is on Jeremy Smith and Trevor Hunt combining for the first kill. After the meeting announcing the exercise, they both sat quietly with big evil grins on their faces. Mat Robinson and Kane Lafranchise talked about their plan to to make a supply of sharpened rocks which they could drop and then use their slap shots to impale the bear at 90mph. "I'm looking for that headshot," explained Robinson, "Boom! I'm pretty certain I can nail one right between the eyes!" Lafranchise followed up almost boastfully, "If that sucker opens his (or her) mouth for one of those intimidating growls, I'll plug that gullet with this here 3 ounces of rock!"
An unnamed player explained poignantly,
"We've got to protect our cross country running team. They don't have the benefit of using a stick in their sport. Since we do then it's only right that we go out after the bear that tried to eat one of them skinny dudes."When questioned about the need for this specific team building event Athletic Director Steve Cobb said,
"We got a saying back home; if grasshoppers carried .45's then birds wouldn't mess with 'em. We're doing a service for the community. We'll teach them danged bears on which side o' the holler they're meant to tread."He walked away adding,
"That might be a bigger cud than I can chew but these guys are all young men. I'm even sure there's a coupla Dan'l Boone's in thar. I just hope they remember that Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulations say that they must salvage the skull and hide."As I understand it, the salvaging of the skull and hide will be a sort of initiation for the freshmen. So um ... good luck to the Seawolf hockey team. I look forward to seeing the survivors at the annual blueliner picnic in September.