Two Anchorage youth hockey teams are trapped in a Texas town paralyzed by a brutal and unprecedented winter blast, and Alaska Oilers coach Merit Waldrop doesn’t want to hear another word about how the Alaskans brought the cold weather.
The teams are in Austin for a showcase tournament, a trip that everyone thought would be a change from winter. Fourteen-year-old Liam Lierman of the Alaska All Stars picked up shorts, T-shirts, a pair of pants and, coincidentally, two sweatshirts.
I thought it would be in the 70’s, he said.
It was about 25 degrees in Austin last Thursday when the Alaska teams arrived, and things only got worse. Sunday, with temperatures nearing zero and snow and ice making the roads treacherous, the hockey rink and just about everything else was shut down, leaving the Alaskans in the dark.
We stayed in a 12-story hotel with no heating, no electricity, and no power, Waldrop said. It is warmer outside than inside.
… Every shop and gas station is closed. Pumps don’t even work. The entire electricity grid has failed.
Waldrop spoke while on one of the hired teams, a place to charge cell phones. He was cold, hungry, tired, and a little touchy because of the weather blaming him.
I’ve been texted, called, Instagrammed, and Facebooked about a hundred times by people saying, you brought this here. This is your fault. It was getting a little old, he said.
At least two other Alaska hockey teams were trapped in Dallas on Tuesday, an U16 team from the Anchorage North Stars and an U16 team from the Eagle River Blue Devils. Their Sunday games were canceled when the city was pushed into freezing cold, as were their flights back to Alaska.
The Benefit: When Texas outdoor pools freeze, Alaskans know what to do. They shoot pucks at it, which the All Stars did outside their hotel on Tuesday.
Almost everyone will be rebooked on flights later this week. The teams in Austin each have 16 players, ages 13-14, and the Dallas teams have roughly the same number of players ages 15-16.
The Austin teams have been looking for food for the past few days.
Recently, a few dads and I drove an hour to find cheese quesadillas, said All Stars coach Chris Heisten. We tried to do some grocery shopping today, and it was a 3 1/2 hour wait and the store was searched.
For lunch on Tuesday, Heisten and a parent went to a drive-thru taco place with a limit of $ 20. They waited an hour for 16 tacos.
Waldrop and the Oilers hit the jackpot when they found a pizza place willing to cook for them.
We got lucky, he said. Last night it was chips and beef jerky.
The scene was wild in a Target store where the Oilers stocked up on non-perishable food, which was the only one the store would sell, Waldrop said.
It was a pandemic, part two, he said. A thousand people in line.
The elevator still works in the hotel where the Oilers stay, but nothing else. You walk into the hotel room and you can see your breath, Waldrop said.
The All Stars had it even rougher at what Heisten jokingly called the Ice Coffin Hotel. They were without power from Monday 2:00 am to Tuesday noon, and on Monday dinner was tuna out of a bag.
The team played charades and cards to pass the time, Lierman said. We ate peanut butter and jelly for a day and a half, he said.
Between the power cuts and the improvised meals, there was real hockey. The All Stars went 5-0-1 and the Oilers went 6-1-2 at the tournament.
A few other teams were still in Austin on Tuesday, so each Alaska team played one last game before scoring against each other. They got the extra Ice Age at Chaparral Ice because the rink manager is Adam Powell, who played college hockey in Fairbanks and is an old friend of Waldrops.
On Tuesday night, the Oilers and All Stars dined together at a steakhouse that agreed to stay open late for the Alaskans. It was staffed by a manager, a cook, and a server, Lierman said, and everyone ordered steak.
It looks like now, Heisten said as he waited for his first meal of the day (all tacos went to the kids). The kids were able to bond, and they’re all very cheerful, which is actually great.