Part 2: Aces get paid to play & transition to life on the road

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Read Part 1 of our three-part series on the Aces here.

In the fall of 1995, the Aces officially become a professional hockey franchise joining the West Coast Hockey League. Turning pro also meant the team would look a lot different than the senior men’s amateur team for which it was known from 1990-95.

“There was more on the line, guys getting traded, guys getting moved around, picked up, you kind of knew you had to perform or get traded,” said former Aces center Keith Street.

The former Univ. of Fairbanks standout, Street was one of a handful of players who would remain on the Aces as they made the transition to professional hockey.

“We had the two-week road trips,” said Street. “The longest one we had was 28-days that’s a long time to be away from your family, and it was tough for some of the local guys with jobs.”

Longtime Aces public address announcer Bob Lester recounts the ‘early days’ of Aces of hockey comparing it to the 1970’s hockey movie ‘Slap Shot’.

“It was great hockey,” said Lester. “College Hockey is a totally different animal, that’s fine, it’s not Aces hockey, and I think that’s what they (Aces) were able to market.”

Lester felt the quality of hockey - plus fighting and beer - fueled the early popularity of the team.

On the ice, the team was built around centers Keith Street and Dean Larson, from 1996-99 Street would register three straight 100-point seasons, and Larson would post similar stats records four 100 point seasons from 1996 to 2000.

In part three of our series Friday we follow the team’s rise from Bankruptcy to Kelly Cup Champions.

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