It’s been difficult for a lot of folks in Alaska to take—the Alaska Aces will be no more after ownership said last week the team is no longer economically viable. But no one has a connection to the team like current Dimond High School head coach Dennis Sorenson. How could they? He started the team, though not in its current form.
In 1989, following an All-American career at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Sorenson, Brian Kraft and Cory Wright found themselves playing in Fairbanks every weekend for the Gold Kings, a senior amateur team. So he created his own group closer to home.
It’s quite a history lesson, right down to how the team was named and given its logo. A picture from his late mentor Dempsey Anderson helped spark the idea.
“It was an outdoor photo from downtown. You could tell by the overcoats and fedoras. The Aces’ jersey had two playing cards, Aces on the front,” Sorenson said. “He gave me the picture and the photo he told me was about 1938 or ’39, and said, ‘this is what you need to do.’ Dempsey and the late Harry McDonald were a couple of guys that helped me get into coaching and I’m like, ‘Demps, yeah we can do that.’ It was great.”
The then-Anchorage Aces won the senior amateur title of USA Hockey in 1991. They joined the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) in 2003. But by that time, Sorenson was well on his way to establishing himself as one of the premiere high school hockey coaches in the nation. He’s the only coach in Alaska to win more than 500 games.
Now as the Aces sit in the twilight of their existence, the UAA Seawolves Hall of Famer has conflicted memories. His creation is leaving but it could help his other love — UAA, which has also suffered mightily at the gate and barely escaped elimination from budget cuts this year.
“The difficulty I see is the Sullivan Arena is not a great hockey facility. It’s not on campus, they don’t have a good student section and really it’s too big,” Sorenson said. “It would be ideal if the university could figure it out. They have plenty of land to trade in this town.”
And ever the optimist, Sorenson is hopeful that the Aces’ departure is more like a sabbatical.
“I don’t have deep enough pockets, but hopefully it’s a one-year deal,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly spelled Brian Kraft’s name. This has been amended.