Given college hockey’s freshly-minted national champion, Matt Carle couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a warm-up act Thursday on a night belonging to him and a galaxy of Alaska sports greats.
Carle’s younger brother David coached the University of Denver to its record-tying NCAA Division I title less than two weeks ago.
“For sure, it was quite awesome to watch,” Matt Carle said minutes before the 2022 Alaska Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony commenced. “I’ve done some other interviews, and I don’t know if there’s another coach to come out of Alaska to win a national championship.
“It’s another first for Alaska, and great for our family.”
Recent events notwithstanding, Matt Carle did more than his fair share to deserve inclusion in the Hall’s 14th celebration of all things Alaska sports at the Anchorage Museum. Carle scored an Alaska first when he won the 2006 Hobey Baker Award, the Heisman Trophy of college hockey, and went on to play 857 games in the NHL.
He and female running pioneer Marcie Waldron Trent took their rightful place among 39 other Alaska luminaries as the Hall’s Class of 2022. They were joined by the Fairbanks Outboard Association’s Yukon 800 Marathon boat race and UAA hockey’s 1991 upset of powerhouse Boston College at the NCAA Championships.
The event emceed by legendary Alaska broadcaster Kurt Haider also featured the Hall of Fame Directors’ awards. Those went to Olympic swimming sensation Lydia Jacoby, college hockey national champion Clair DeGeorge, professional soccer star Obed Vargas, Nordic skier Scott Patterson, Point Lay youth basketball role model Jeremy Lane, Nordic skier and brutal accident survivor Hannah Halverson and retired sports editor extraordinaire Beth Bragg.
“Things are heading in the right direction (for sports in the state),” Patterson said during his acceptance. “We’ve got a bright future ahead of us.”
Matt Carle proved an example of just how superb the state’s past has been as well. He won two NCAA national titles with Denver (2005, 2006), scored 328 points in his 12 NHL seasons as the first Last Frontier defenseman to play in the world’s top league. He was named to the 2007 NHL All-Rookie team and twice played in the Stanley Cup Final as a conference champion.
Carle’s accomplished rink resume is arguably second in Alaska only to two-time Stanley Cup winner and Hall of Famer Scott Gomez, who Carle said, “won two trophies that dwarf anything I’ve done.”
It’s been a memorable journey for a kid who played Cook Inlet Conference hockey for Service as a high school freshman. Carle also spent countless hours playing street hockey in his South Anchorage neighborhood and learning the game while on the city’s outdoor rinks.
“You’re always trying to get better, and always knew someone was coming so you never got comfortable,” Carle said. “My ultimate goal was to play college hockey and I grew up watching the (UAA) Seawolves, and it had a big impact.”
Education also played a significant role in helping make Carle great.
“Colleges are always going to first look at a kid who is a really good student and mediocre hockey player over a real good player but terrible student,” he said. “For me, being a student was always first and foremost.”
Carle said a memorable hat rests on his Hobey Baker inside his home office back in Minnesota. He also said DU possesses a version of the award down in Colorado.
“I’ve yet to ask my brother what he’s done with it,” Matt said. “He’s probably put it in a basement somewhere.”
MARCIE WALDRON TRENT
The white-haired Trent, who weighed about 100 pounds and stood barely 5 feet tall, was a huge inspiration to the Alaskan running community after picking up the sport at age 50.
She grew up on a farm in Nampa, Idaho, and moved to Anchorage in 1945, where she and husband Roger Waldron obtained a 160-acre homestead near the present-day Tudor and Lake Otis roads. She began running in the late 1960s and among her accomplishments were once holding nine national age-group records ranging from 800 meters to an ultramarathon, and five age world records for a female marathoner in her 60s.
Trent won Fairbanks’ Equinox Marathon three times and remains its oldest champion at age 58. She also won the famous Pikes Peak Marathon at age 57 and is believed to be the first woman ever over the age of 50 to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Marcie completed 59 marathons and 11 ultramarathons and logged more than 71,000 lifetime miles in her life. Trent was inducted into the USA Track & Field Masters Hall of Fame in 2001.
Marcie and John Trent, her second husband, also formed the Pulsators Running Club, likely Alaska’s first such organization. “For Marcie, the motto of the Pulsators Running Club was ‘Run and Rejoice,’” Alex Monterrosa said.
And rejoice she did, whether it was running on the trails she was so passionate about, organizing races, giving advice to aspiring runners, running in sub-zero temperatures, or completing marathons in Japan, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts and elsewhere.
In 1995, Trent, age 77, and her son Larry Waldron were killed by a bear while running in Chugach State Park. Their funeral drew more than 500 mourners, including Gov. Tony Knowles. The Trent/Waldron Half Marathon and 10K continues to this day in their memory.
LET’S BRAG ABOUT BRAGG
Bragg retired from the Anchorage Daily News in 2021 after 35 years at the newspaper. The Hall honored her with the Joe Floyd Award for significant and lasting contribution to the state through sports.
This reporter’s greatest professional honor is having been taught by Bragg and part of her team in different capacities as a local media personality for 25 years. She is the greatest of coaches, a trusted confidant and a better friend.
“I’d rather tell the story than be the story, but I’m still blown away,” Bragg said in a postgame phone interview.
To that end, Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson said Bragg first asked this reporter to accept the award on her behalf because she was unable to do so in person. But someone had to work the event and write a story we hope Bragg enjoys on some level despite her not refining and tightening like she’s done masterfully so often throughout the years.
“Harlow texted me back and said you’d be there covering it,” she said. “Then I said, well (Nevala) shouldn’t do it. If he’s covering it, he can’t go out and shoot last second free throws.”
Bragg is the pro’s pro times infinity. In all sincerity, the idea she even considered this stooge of a reporter to play a role in such a special affair will forever be astounding.
Bragg was up for the Floyd Award alongside superheroines Kathie Bethard and Kathleen Navarre. She relished joining those women and the likes of Trent, Jacoby, DeGeorge and Halvorsen as honorees.
A trailblazer in so many ways, Bragg deserves all the adulation. Olympic skier and Hall of Famer Holly Brooks did accept the award on Bragg’s behalf and asked if Bragg was blushing from afar.
“Enough to think it might have been a hot flash,” Bragg said.
Brooks shared lovely quotes about Bragg from Rosey Fletcher, Kikkan Randall and Lars Flora.
“Talking to Beth always felt like you were home,” Flora said in thoughts shared by Brooks. “Even if I was thousands of miles away.”
Bragg said hearing Flora’s words reminded the storyteller of one of her all-time favorite ledes – beginnings for the non-scribes – to a sports story. Flora barely hung on to win the grueling Crow Pass Crossing backcountry race during a year when Bragg said a bear, bees or both wreaked havoc on all participants.
“Lars looked like death, and it was a while before he could talk,” Bragg said. “It wasn’t aerobic, it was like he was going to pass out. Also, it was either a bear on the trail people saw or bees a lot of people got stung by.”
“My lede – ‘A little too much fauna, and just enough Flora.’”