An unusual trade is planned between Haines Junction and Haines: a Zamboni in exchange for salmon. How in the world do those two things relate? Read on.
“I think it was originally three or four years ago there were recreational hockey players from Haines who would come up and play up here for the tournament in the spring,” said Haines Junction Mayor Mike Crawshay. “They were talking about how it was difficult to do practicing there because they had to shovel snow off the ice and didn’t have indoor ice or artificial ice or anything like that.”
As it happened, Haines Junction had three Zambonis, also known as ice resurfacers. One was new and two were used but in good condition. Crawshay says they gave one away to another Yukon town. And he thought the second one was still in Haines Junction.
“So I started the conversation last year, ‘hey you know what we need to do, we need to give you guys a Zamboni. And then in trade for that, wouldn’t it be neat if you guys could come up for Canada Day and feed us salmon?'”
That’s where the story gets complicated. A public works person told Crawshay they had already sold their second extra Zamboni. Crawshay says he had to apologize for the misunderstanding to the Haines Hockey people. But then…
“A former resident of Haines, Alaska, Lee Close, who lives up in Mount Warren, said ‘hey are you guys still looking for a Zamboni?'” Crawshay said.
Mount Warren had recently received funding for a new Zamboni.
“So that’s how I ended up with a Zamboni in my yard,” Crawshay said.
Crawshay has worked with Haines Mayor Jan Hill and Tourism Director Leslie Ross to arrange the exchange he had thought of before: Zamboni for salmon. Why salmon? He says, if you ask a group of Haines Junction residents one thing they would bring back from a visit to Haines, they would say salmon.
Mayor Hill will travel to Haines Junction on Canada Day – July 1st and there will be a ceremony for the exchange of the Zamboni key — a ceremony with lots of salmon to eat. The Chilkat Dancers plan to participate.
“They’re gonna do a song and dance requesting permission to come into another First Nations territory and the Dakwakada Dancers here will do a dance welcoming them,” Crawshay said.
Then, on July 3rd, Crawshay will haul the Zamboni down to Haines for Independence Day.
“I mean this is an incredible, symbolic gesture between two cultures,” Crawshay said. “And it’s older than Haines or Haines Junction. Because the two cultures used to trade, you know, how long? Hundreds and hundreds of years. So it’s really neat to carry on that tradition.”
The Haines Borough will take the ice resurfacer and then hand over ownership to the Fair and Haines Hockey.
“Having a Zamboni will allow us to keep the ice more level and take out any imperfections with the ice,” said Haines Hockey member Paul Wheeler. “So yeah, it’s pretty exciting to have this ability to have Zamboni-quality ice.”
He says they’ll use the Zamboni to cut smooth their hockey rink ice. But they won’t be able to use the Zamboni’s ability to lay down fresh water or artificial ice until they find a heated place to store the machine.
Wheeler says he thinks it’s great gesture of a cross-border friendship. Crawshay agrees. He says this is the stuff that he enjoys about public service.
“There’s sort of 80 percent of it is dealing with budgets and meetings and bylaws. And then there’s sort of 10 percent at one end that are the worst meetings in the world, where you wonder why you ever put your name forward to run. But at the other end of the spectrum, there’s 10 percent of the time where you get to do stuff you get to do stuff just for no other reason than it’s fun. And that’s what this is.”