Anchorage hockey players taking up lacrosse to find cross-over skills

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska’s athletes are probably best known for their winter pursuits – skiing, hockey, and even basketball, which draws players and fans indoors while the wind blows snow and arctic temperatures across the state. Now, a group of hockey coaches is trying to bring a summer sport – and an outdoor one at that -- to their players.

Barrett Heisten is one of the Anchorage Hockey Association coaches who wanted to find something for his young athletes to broaden their skills, and turn away from intense one-sport specialization that can lead to burnout and injury. He started a lacrosse camp to do just that.

"They always talk about making the athlete before the hockey player, and that's exactly what this is," Heisten said on the field during one of the camp's sessions.

“In the world of sports specialization we live in, it’s sad, kids can only do things on one side of their body because of the sport and how they do it,” said Matt Thomas, former UAA hockey coach, who's volunteering with the camp. “The cool thing about lacrosse is it’s both sides of your body.”

Though the muscles used are different—in hockey, a player’s bottom hand does all the work, and in lacrosse, their top hand controls most of the stick action -- Heisten says it will benefit them as hockey players as well, with their hand-eye coordination and other skills.

He wanted something other than hockey for his players to do in the summer, and lacrosse, a fast-growing sport in the Lower 48, seemed like a good fit.

“We wanted them to put down the hockey stick, unplug, recharge their batteries, but do something that’s the same,” Heisten said.

Devlin Thomas, one of the young players participating in a Lacrosse camp at Ben Boeke ice arena earlier this week, says he’s having a lot of fun trying a new sport.

“It’s a fun sport to be learning. We don’t get to do it here much because it’s not warm here really often,” Thomas said.

There’s no league yet in Alaska, but Heisten is hoping to start one by next spring.

The hockey association is hosting another lacrosse camp starting June 11. You can find the details on the organization’s web site.

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