The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame recently released its latest group of inductees.
Holly Brooks, a two-time U.S. Olympian in Nordic skiing.
Virgil Hooe, an Alaska volleyball coaching legend.
Dolly Lefever, the first American woman to climb the tallest peak on each of the seven continents.
That’s a pretty impressive list. Tough to deny any of the three.
There are a few sports halls of fame in Alaska. But most are more specific. The Alaska Schools Activities Association has the Alaska High School Hall of Fame. There are halls — the Alaska Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and Alaska Wrestling Hall of Fame — for certain sports. But the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame is all encompassing.
And the sports that are unique to our state make the pool of worthy inductees that much more broad.
Dog mushing. Mountain climbing. Alpine and Nordic skiing. Native Youth Olympics. That’s in addition to the more mainstream sports, like football, basketball, baseball or hockey.
It makes the selection that much more difficult, but it also sets this hall apart. And for the most part, the committee has done a great job of making these tough decisions.
With that said, I have a list of a few candidates that should be members. I also have a few that really should be candidates.
The omission of Moore, a former Colony High School standout, from the hall is the biggest surprise. Moore is the most successful women’s basketball player in Alaska history, when you factor in her accomplishments at the high school, college and professional level.
Most, outside of the Valley, know Moore for her time with the University of Connecticut. She helped the Division I power earn three NCAA titles and set what was then a record of 70 consecutive wins. UConn has since broken its own mark. She played in 145 career games and still ranks among the top Huskies in career field goal percentage.
Moore was selected in the first round of the WNBA draft, and played nine years in the league. She played in 250 total career games. The 6-foot-3 center was part of a Indiana Fever squad that advanced to the 2009 WNBA finals.
In high school, Moore was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and Parade All-American in girls’ basketball and helped the Knights win a state title. She also helped Colony win a state title in volleyball, and earned a state championship in the triple jump in track and field.
Moore is a member of both the Alaska High School Hall of Fame and Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Steve MacSwain is one of Alaska’s greatest hockey figures and among the first from the 49th state to make a real impact at the next level.
After recording a mind-boggling 104 points for the East Anchorage Thunderbirds during the 1981-82 season, MacSwain was a standout at the University of Minnesota. He recorded 146 career points in four seasons with the Division I Gophers, including a combined 121 as a junior and senior. He had 26 goals and 35 assists as a junior and 31-49-60 totals as a senior.
He played five seasons in Europe, another two in minor league hockey Outside before capping his professional career with five years with the Anchorage Aces.
Since returning to Alaska, MacSwain has coached at the youth, high school, junior and professional levels.
MacSwain, the manager of the MTA Events Center in Palmer, is also a great guy.
The late Dennis Mattingly was a key figure in the Alaska Baseball League. He founded the Anchorage Bucs as an adult basketball team, and was able to earn the Bucs a spot in the famed ABL.
Mattingly served as the general manager of the Bucs for 30 years, despite battling a form of cancer for the final 16 years of his life. Mattingly died in 2016.
Currently Red Boucher, founder of the Alaska Goldpanners, is the ABL’s lone representitive in the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
An argument can also be made for former Anchorage Glacier Pilots coach Lefty Van Brunt, who spent 27 straight seasons with the ABL’s Anchorage Glacier Pilots before his death in 2011. Van Brunt is currently not a candidate listed by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.
Speaking of not listed, I have a couple of names for the selection committee to be considered.
Kerry Weiland should really be considered for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. The Palmer High School graduate and two-time All-American at Division I Wisconsin earned a silver medal with the U.S. women’s hockey team in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Weiland also won gold members in the World Championships in 2008 and 2009.
Don Witzel is among the greatest high school girls’ basketball coaches Alaska has ever seen.
Witzel, who retired in 2009 after 15 years at the helm of the Knights, earned eight region titles, four state championships and 308 total victories.
He is second all-time in Alaska girls’ basketball history. Only Wasilla head coach Jeannie Hebert-Truax, a member of the Alaska Hall of Fame, has more career victories.
Those are a few of my suggestions. Something more for the committee to consider. The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame is the most exclusive club in 49th state sports. A pretty impressive group.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.