Lakeview Arena in a little town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula called Marquette is the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville champion. This isn’t the first championship related to hockey this town has seen and probably will not be the last. Lakeview arena is where I first laced up the skates, pushing a chair around the ice back in 1987 when I was three years old. This is the place where the passion for the sport I loved began. This is the place where I literally shed blood, sweat and tears. I am proud to have called Lakeview arena my home for 15 years.
Here are my most fond moments about the arena; playing there, watching there and working there. I spent a lot of time underneath that roof and learned a lot about teamwork, respect, dedication and the sport of hockey.
NMU Wildcats – Not only was this the arena they called home when they won the NCAA Division 1 Men’s National Championship in 1991, but it was the place where there whole town greeted them after winning said championship. I vaguely remember waking up one cold morning excited to witness the team arrive back in town. It was foggy outside and as the team bus, led by a police escort, approached the packed parking lot and lined street erupted in cheers of joy. For a small town in rural upper Michigan, this was the news, this was our team, this was our way of being noticed.
The atmosphere for the college games was as intense as ever. As a fan you were literally right on top of the players and the arena was always packed. I would remember walking past the ‘donor’s room’ where all the dads would convene in between periods drinking beers and smoking cigarettes. There was always a haze that emitted whenever the door to the room opened. Oddly enough, it was right next to the Wildcat locker room and often times, us kids would stand outside the door awaiting the fist bump from our idols as they walked out on the ice.
Tournament Games – In the hay day of the arena, the local Midget AAA team (the Electricians) would host a large tournament. Teams from all over the country would come to participate. When Scott Gomez played for Team Alaska, they came and dominated the tournament two years in a row. Watching these teams play, you didn’t realize until later that some of them would have stellar NHL careers. Some of best live hockey I have ever seen took place on the ‘Russell’ and ‘Olson’ sheets of ice.
Another tournament I remember is the 1996 USA Hockey National Championship. The Bantam AA team was the host team so they received an auto-bid into the tournament. What most people did not understand, however, was despite the auto-bid the team came very close to making the tournament after losing in the state championship game (if memory serves me right). The team then played an outstanding tournament and in front of a packed crowd defeated Fargo, ND 2-1 in the championship game. Winning a National Championship in your home arena in front of your home fans must have felt incredible. A few of my teammates at that time had older brothers who were on that team and I remember as a community we were so happy for them.
First Job – My very first job was at Lakeview Arena. Instead of doing paper routes, when I was 13 or 14 I started timekeeping games. I can’t even remember what I was getting paid, maybe $5.25/game or something along those lines. Whenever my team would have home games I would literally just work the clock around my game times and spend 8-10 hours on Saturdays and Sundays at the arena. I would get a check and feel on top of the world. Lakeview arena provided me the first opportunity to make some money and learn about the responsibilities of having a job. It was here that I developed a work ethic and picked up extra games whenever needed.
Lakeview Arena has evolved and changed over the course of the last 27 years. Growing up 10 blocks away, I was afforded the ability to walk to the rink, sometimes carrying my hockey bag and sticks, in the middle of winter, through a blizzard (just kidding, only about the blizzard part). Lakeview Arena means more to me than any blog, conversation or description can capture. I know I am not alone. Some of you who read this will have similar experiences of the rink you called, or still may call, home. Some of you were on those teams described above. Some of you may have been fans, some of you may have been coaches, some of you may have been parents. In the end, we are all family. A large, deeply rooted family that was honored and grateful to call Lakeview Arena home. We succeeded in proving this winning the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville Championship. Congratulations to Marquette, Michigan, the community, the fans and the people. More importantly congratulations to Lakeview Arena the building that will give generations upon generations of hockey players, parents, coaches and fans the ability to create their own memories and a place to call ‘home.’
If you have any memories you would like to share about Lakeview Arena, please feel free to do so!