Homecoming was a big deal in high school. Between dress-up days and football games, the week that preceded the ultimate dance party was the highlight of fall.
When college comes around, the euphoria that goes hand-in-hand with high school homecoming fades. Everything — the who’s who that determines royalty and the excitement of face-painted pep rallies — ceases to hold an existential power over students. Especially when your school, as the University of Alaska Anchorage does, lacks a football team.
Don’t get me wrong; college homecoming can still commence without football. UAA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College are just a few schools nationwide that still hold perfectly functional existences without turf. At schools like UAA, hockey season kicks off the season for school spirit and the beloved American tradition of bundling up to watch the game lives on.
“I liked homecoming in high school, and it’s kind of a bummer that UAA doesn’t have a football team,” UAA student Stephanie Stewart said. “It’s nice, though, that the athletic department compensates with a hockey homecoming. It’s kind of an unexpected twist to the tradition.”
Hockey has been an integral part of UAA student and campus life since the 1980’s, when the Anchorage Community College and the University of Alaska Anchorage merged to become a single institution. Due to the sudden freezes that plague the state of Alaska starting in late September, establishing a traditional college football team is nearly impossible.
“It doesn’t make any sense for UAA to have a football team,” UAA student Mason Wick said. “It gets so cold so quick that nobody would ever go to the games. I think hockey is a nice alternative to a bad football environment.”
Hockey is an integral part of Alaska culture. The ice sport has captured the hearts and minds of local youth and adults alike. Children as young as 10 can join competitive teams that travel all over the United States and Canada and adult leagues are prevalent in many ice rinks. Alaska is home to the Wasilla-based Alaska Avalanche, an NAHL competitive league, and the Alaska Aces, the 2006 ECHL champions.
Homecoming is a piece of college life that unites the student body and welcomes each and every student into the melting pot of a contemporary campus. It makes sense for the University of Alaska Anchorage to embrace this local favorite as an essential piece of their homecoming week. It makes such perfect sense, that it almost seems okay to have homecoming without football. Almost.