Juneau Football’s Maikeli Tupou, left, Puna Toutaiolepo, center, and Caleb Traxler, right, tackle East’s Jason Jenn-Lundfelt at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. East won 40-0. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau Football’s Maikeli Tupou, left, Puna Toutaiolepo, center, and Caleb Traxler, right, tackle East’s Jason Jenn-Lundfelt at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. East won 40-0. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

From Thunder Bears to Huskies: Students vote for new football mascot

Vote was between Huskies, Ravens, Miners, Phoenix and Juneau United

Students from Juneau’s three high schools put an end to a prolonged mascot saga this week.

The Juneau School District announced its football program — as well as tennis and wrestling teams — are now officially the Huskies, a throwback of sorts to the sports teams that once competed at Douglas High School before it was combined with Juneau High School in the 1950s.

“I’m excited that they pulled the name from the former Douglas High School, so it’s got some roots in Juneau,” JSD Director of Human Resources Darryl Smith said. “I’ve already had a few emails from staff members that are excited about it.”

Over 600 student votes were cast on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, according to Smith. Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools polled willing students on Tuesday; Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School did the same on Wednesday morning. Huskies received 228 votes, Ravens got 118 votes, Miners got 86 votes and Pheonix got 83 votes. An additional option to continue as Juneau United received 119 votes, according to Smith.

The move comes 10 months after a small student delegation voted down keeping Thunder Bears as the football mascot. The name was established from a student vote last February, but was abandoned just two months later when a deragatory internet definition for “thunderbear” surfaced and caused some to reconsider the selection.

The football team was without a replacement mascot all last season. Football players took matters into their own hands when, according to the president of the football board, they decided to name themselves Juneau United.

When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, TMHS senior Puna Toutaiolepo said he didn’t get the opportunity to vote for the new mascot, but is just happy Thunder Bears is gone for good.

“I didn’t really like that at all: Thunder Bears,” Toutaiolepo said. “I mean, I don’t know, it just doesn’t sound right.”

JDHS senior Kanon Goetz had similar reservations about Thunder Bears.

“I thought that was just a weird combination of the names to start with … and then the definition came out and it was even worse,” Goetz said. “I think that they made the right decision by renaming it, and I think the Huskies is a good replacement.”

JDHS senior Ronan Davies was unaware of the news when reached Wednesday afternoon on his lunch break. The 18-year-old voted for the Ravens because he “liked the Raven vibe” and how commonplace raven sightings are in Juneau. However, he’s ready to get behind the Huskies now.

“I thought it was cool that that was the old mascot of the Douglas High School,” Davies, 18, said. “I think it’s cool to bring in that history and the colors (black, silver, white) will still be good with the husky mascot.”

In addition to stating its prior affiliation with Douglas High School, the press release added: “Huskies play an important part in Alaskan history and local tourism. The mascot embodies the strength and endurance of Juneau sports teams.”


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


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