Who Is Alaska’s Biggest Tourism Star, Sarah Palin or Scott Gomez?


Bucket List Worthy  

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Bears and glaciers are cool, but they don’t talk. Tourism in Alaska needs a strong voice if it ever hopes to top oil and gas as the Last Frontier’s number one industry. And it’s 110 percent clear that no one could serve better as that voice than either (drum roll) Sarah Palin or Scott Gomez.

Who will it be?

To help you plan your next vacation in the northernmost U.S. state, what follows is a rigorous scientific study to rank the former Alaska
governor from Wasilla and the NHL hockey star from Anchorage based on which one is most in tune with some popular Alaska tourism draws.

Palin has more fame as the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, but Gomez has more fortune with career earnings of over $50 million. Palin once quipped that “the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull is lipstick.” The gloves are off in this winner-take-Alaska fight for supremacy!

Round One: Kodiak Island

Photo: Yathin S. Krishnappa

Facing the world’s largest brown bears, it’s best to be a feared predator yourself. That’s why Gomez would excel on a tour of Kodiak Island, which lends its name to the resident bruins weighing up to 1,500 pounds. During his NHL career, he’s been both a Shark (San Jose) and a Panther (Florida).

On the U.S.’s second-largest island, just a 45-minute flight from Anchorage, Gomez could also mix it up sports-wise with paragliding, surfing and diving, plus 90 miles of hiking trails. Since he’s trained with ex-Russian Olympic swimmer Vladimir Bure, visiting the local Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral, originally established in 1794, would be a natural fit. Russia, for the record, cannot be seen from Kodiak Island.

Advantage Gomez!

Round Two: Alaska Zoo

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Photo: John Gomes

At Anchorage’s Alaska Zoo, Palin grabs the upper hand. First off, kids love zoos, and she has a 5-0 lead over Gomez in offspring. This 1969-founded, 25-acre property showcases about 50 species, focusing on injured, orphaned, and captive-born animals. It offers a Wolf Encounters tour, where visitors hang out with gray wolves, native to 85 percent of the state, and their keepers.

As governor, Palin opposed adding polar bears to the Endangered Species Act. So she’ll undoubtedly be happy to find the big white fellas safe and sound in the zoo’s forthcoming $8-million Polar Bear Project, with expanded habitat, a maternity den for resident polar bears, a new braided stream water feature, and more.

Tie game!

Round Three: Holland America Line

Photo: Lucas Aykroyd

In 2003, Gomez won his second Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils with Joe Nieuwendyk, whose parents are from Holland. In 2016, Holland America cruises will debut the Signature-class Nieuw Amsterdam on its Alaska cruises. Coincidence? Hardly.

This 86,000-ton vessel celebrates New York culture with a $3-million art collection that features works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, the Explorer’s Cafe sponsored by the New York Times, and the Canaletto Italian restaurant. Via its revamped and expanded McKinley Chalet Resort, Holland America also offers opportunities to explore the six-million-acre Denali National Park, home to grizzly bears, moose, and North America’s highest peak.

The Nieuw Amsterdam is a suitably swanky setting for Gomez. He earned $10 million one year with the New York Rangers, and rented his Manhattan apartment to Nick Jonas and Marc Jacobs. (Not at the same time.)

Go, go, Gomez!

Round Four: Princess Cruises

Photo: Princess Cruises

Palin finished third in Miss Alaska 1984. During the 2008 election campaign, she reportedly spent $150,000 on clothes. This, in some circles, might qualify her as a princess. How could she not thrive on Princess Cruises, voted “Best Cruise Line in Alaska” by Travel Weekly readers?

Feasting on king crab, salmon, and Seawitch craft beer. Enjoying a HydraLift facial or seaweed wrap at the on-board Lotus Spa. Marvelling at humpback whales, sea otters and calving glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park. If Palin wants to boost her street cred as the host of Amazing America with Sarah Palin (Sportsman Channel), obviously this is the way to go rogue.

Once more, we’re deadlocked – maverick-style!

Round Five: Anchorage Museum

6 Michael Conti Solo Exhibition
Photo: Michael Conti (Tragicomic Hero)

Photographer and video artist Michael Conti’s “Stick and Puck” exhibition takes center stage at the Anchorage Museum (Feb. 5-Apr. 10, 2016). Offering a social and cultural critique of hockey, it was recently previewed by the ECHL’s Alaska Aces, with whom Gomez was named league MVP in 2005.

While Gomez has a diverse cultural background (his father is Mexican and his mother is Colombian), he might also like to explore his state’s rich origins at the new on-site Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. It showcases more than 600 Alaskan native artifacts, from an 1893 Tlingit war helmet to a 1935 Inupiaq feast bowl.

The 2000 NHL Rookie of the Year takes the lead again!

Round Six: The Hammer Museum

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Photo: Haines Convention and Visitors Bureau

The world’s first hammer museum is the quirkiest attraction in Haines, Alaska. It’s bang-on for Palin. After all, she was repeatedly hammered by the “lamestream media” during the ‘08 campaign. She took even more of a pounding than Gomez did when he went goalless for over a year despite his fat contract.

In this southeast Alaska town, the Hammer Museum is easily identifiable with the 20-foot-tall giant hammer out front. Some 2,000 hammers from around the world are displayed, and exhibits cover everything from “hammer sculptures” to the history of hickory handle-making.

Unbelievably, Palin fights back!

Round Seven: Waterfall Resort

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Photo: Waterfall Resort

Waterfall Resort is among Alaska’s premier sport fishing destinations. The exclusive Prince of Wales Island lodge has the state’s largest private fishing fleet with close to 30 custom cabin cruisers, and abundant salmon, halibut, and lingcod for its guests to catch each season.

Who fits best here? Gomez could easily afford a seven-day, all-inclusive getaway here at $8,310/person. When he got traded from New York to Montreal in June 2009, he was on an Alaska fishing trip. He also revealed in an ESPN interview that once, when casting his line as a 10-year-old, he got a hook caught in his scalp. Now that’s paying the price.

Yet on the other hand, Palin’s husband Todd is a commercial salmon fisherman. She’s invited Louis CK to go fishing with her if he ever comes to Alaska. And she’s suggested that young women would be better off posing for photos with fish instead of taking selfies.

Wow. Call it a tie. This could go on forever.

In hockey, ties nowadays are settled with overtime and a shootout. Palin and Gomez might have different interpretations of “shootout.” So, the verdict is in: they’ll simply have to promote Alaska hand in hand! (At press time, there was no reaction available from Todd.)

For more information on these attractions and other key destinations that Palin and Gomez neglected to fight over, such as Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, see Travel Alaska.

About the Author: Lucas Aykroyd

Lucas Aykroyd is an award-winning Vancouver travel writer and public speaker. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and National Geographic Traveler. To engage his services, visitlucasaykroyd.com.

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