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NAHL’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs to temporarily relocate to Marshall for part of season

Team to spend first two months of season at the Red Baron Arena & Expo

Photo courtesy of Nolan Schaeffer Nolan Schaeffer awaits a face-off during a 2018 game for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The Ice Dogs will temporarily relocate to Marshall for part of the 2020-21 season beginning in October.

MARSHALL — This fall, there will be a new face in town at the Red Baron Arena & Expo. At least temporarily.

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs hockey team of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) announced Tuesday it will relocate their team to Marshall for the first two months of the 2020-21 season.

After the remainder of their 2019-20 season and postseason was canceled in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fairbanks and general manager Rob Proffitt anxiously waited for news on their upcoming season. But with the travel ban and a closed home arena, they were forced to improvise for the beginning of their schedule.

That’s when the City of Marshall, Visit Marshall, the Marshall Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) and the Red Baron Arena & Expo stepped up. Proffitt said they are extremely grateful for the willingness of the Marshall community to lend a helping hand and keep their program going.

“The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are so appreciative of this partnership with the City of Marshall, Visit Marshall, MAHA and the Red Baron Arena & Expo,” Proffitt said in a press release. “At such a difficult crossroad in the Ice Dogs future, the whole community of Marshall is coming together to keep the program moving forward as well as forge many new relationships in our new Sister City.

“At such a difficult time, being able to work with Cassi (Weiss), Josh (Johnson), Cody (Mellenthin), Scott (Vandermillen) and their respective groups, has been nothing short of amazing. Their willingness to help us get back to Fairbanks long-term while in the shorter bringing something exciting to Marshall has been humbling to say the least.”

The Ice Dogs will begin their 24th season in October and spend roughly two and a half months on the road to start. Fairbanks will practice as well as play two weekend “home” series at the Red Baron Arena & Expo on the weekends of Nov. 26 and Dec. 4.

“This is a great opportunity for the City of Marshall, The Red Baron Arena & Expo, as well as Marshall Amateur Hockey Association. The state-of-the-art Red Baron Arena & Expo was made for events like this,” Red Baron Arena & Expo facility manager Cody Mellenthin said. “What a great opportunity to show off our venue to another large crowd of hockey fans.”

Prior to their arrival in Marshall, the Ice Dogs already have created a strong relationship with the community. Marshall native Nolan Schaeffer spent two seasons with Fairbanks from 2016-18 while former Tiger players Mason Plante and Kaleb Welvaert are currently on the team. Plante played 48 games for the Ice Dogs this past season, scoring 12 goals and recording 18 assists while Welvaert appeared in one game.

In a group press conference over Zoom on Tuesday that included Proffitt, Weiss, Johnson and Cody Mellenthin, Johnson said they’re looking forward to interacting with the team and providing an opportunity for their youth players to learn from others at a higher level.

“Marshall hockey is excited to welcome these players and coaches into our community and into our homes,” Johnson said. “This is such a great opportunity for Marshall hockey players, for our players to see their dream, right in front of them.”

Weiss added it just means a lot to their community and they’re ready to root on the Ice Dogs.

“I think it means everything to us. Not only is our rink made for a team like this but our community is made for a team like this,” Weiss said. “We really rally around every team, from high school to college in every sport and we’re just so grateful and excited and ready to become Ice Dog fans.”

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