Stanley Cup is guest of honor at the 2011 Hockey Week in Fairbanks

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The fourth annual Hockey Weekend Across America — a nationwide celebration of hockey — is less than a week away. Here in Fairbanks, we may not have a National Hockey League team, but there is no shortage of fans in the Golden Heart City. In fact, we love hockey so much, we put the three-day nationwide Hockey Week to shame with our 10-day extravaganza of sports-minded Fairbanksans. Last year, the USA Hockey organization named Hockey Week in Fairbanks the second best among all of the hockey celebrations in the country. And we’re pretty sure we’re a skate-in for the 2011 competition, as the guest of honor at this year’s event is none other than the Holy Grail of hockey — the Stanley Cup — making its way north in the very capable hands of former Alaska Nanooks player Jordan Hendry. Hendry is on the roster of the Chicago Blackhawks, who claimed the Stanley Cup in the 2010 NHL Championship.

The 34.5-pound Stanley Cup will arrive at the Big Dipper Ice Arena on February 13. Organizers hope to draw a big crowd and take a group photo of Fairbanks fans with the cup, followed by opportunities for individual photos.  So grab your favorite hockey jersey (preferably blue and gold) and head on down to the arena to get your picture taken with the Stanley Cup.

The fifth annual Hockey Week in Fairbanks is scheduled for February 10-20. The week kicks off with the unveiling of the event’s official ice sculpture, followed by Fairbanks Ice Dog and Kenai River Brown Bears hockey games Feb. 11 and 12 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. Celebrity games have become one of the highlights of Hockey Week in Fairbanks. Some of the games are dueling old rival teams, such as the “guns and hoses” game, pitting the local police department against the fire department. There are at least five celebrity matches already planned.

Another traditional event of Hockey Week is the Backyard Rink Contest, drawing attention to the number of well-manicured rinks around Fairbanks’ neighborhoods. Other returning traditional activities include a 3-on-3 youth hockey tournament, Hall of Fame induction ceremony and “Wear your jersey to school day.”

Last year, Skate the Lake was added as a great family-oriented event. Participants can skate on a track plowed around the perimeter of a local pond. The event returns this year to conclude Hockey Week on Feb. 20 at King’s Pond and includes a fundraising skate-a–thon for the Breast Cancer Detection Center. There will be a bonfire and hot chocolate to keep everyone warm and marshmallows to roast.

So grab your skates and head to Fairbanks next month. Don’t worry if they’re dull, select stores will be offering free skate sharpening. If you’re coming from out of town, base your Fairbanks Hockey Week adventure at Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge.

For more information on events and the schedule for the 2011 Hockey Week in Fairbanks, visit the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame on Facebook.