As part of the 10th annual Hockey Weekend Across America, which has morphed into Hockey Week Across America, we are bringing you a series of features surrounding the celebration of players, coaches, officials, rinks and the many volunteers who make our sport great.
For residents of Marquette, Michigan, winters are filled with snow, few hours of daylight and dreams about warmer days. But no matter the weather, there is one place in town that is worth venturing into the cold – Lakeview Arena.
“It’s kind of a meeting place,” said life-long Marquette resident Doug Garrow. “People go to the rink to meet their friends and family and to socialize. It makes the long winters seem less long.”
When the town found out Lakeview Arena was a finalist for the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville USA title, support for Marquette’s hockey community came in via social media from across the world with a large assist from the local Northern Michigan University.
“We reached out to alumni of the whole university across the whole country and really the whole world that used to go to school here and that remembered the Lakeview Arena. They thought it was the coolest thing that we could get something like [Kraft Hockeyville],” said Garrow who served as chairman of the local organizing committee for Kraft Hockeyville.
Kraft Heinz named Marquette as the Kraft Hockeyville USA winner in late April 2016, making Lakeview Arena the recipient of $150,000 worth of upgrades. The arena also gained the honor of hosting the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes for an NHL® Pre-Season Game later that same year. The community rallied once again to help Lakeview Arena prepare for the September game.
“We got a lot of interest, a lot of community involvement in terms of volunteer hours over last summer to get the rink ready for the game,” said Garrow.
When September rolled around, the town reaped the benefits of the hard work and dedication. For one night, an arena that seats 3,100 became a front-row seat to two NHL clubs preparing for the upcoming season.
“It was awesome for the community, for the people who got to go. It was just an unbelievable experience,” said Garrow. “Having two young, up and coming teams like that I thought was really good for the kids to see that because [Buffalo and Carolina] had so many young players on those teams. It gives kids maybe a dream that someday that could be them,”
Garrow has seen the positive impact of both Kraft Hockeyville and USA Hockey's American Development Model in Marquette, citing a 10 percent increase in participation since last year. The program has allowed the town to improve the way they are teaching the sport of hockey at Lakeview, a place where Garrow himself learned how to play hockey years before.
“This ADM style hockey and practices has really helped get more people involved in the game, but keeps kids more interested touching the puck more often,” said Garrow. “When I was growing up we never did it; we did full-ice. I was six years old playing full-ice hockey which is, when you look back at it, you think, ‘what a waste.’”
Bob Mancini, the USA Hockey ADM regional manager for Marquette, said he is excited about the future of youth hockey in the area.
“As they continue with age appropriate practice methods at all age groups, it is great to see these young hockey players continue to make great strides in their development,” he said.
Even those outside of the hockey community were inspired by all the events of this past year. The City of Marquette has plans to invest in infrastructural upgrades for Lakeview Arena. Additionally, residents of the town have raised close to $110,000 since the Kraft Hockeyville announcement for additional renovations.
There are plenty of updates in the hopper for Lakeview Arena, including a new sound system, upgraded locker rooms and a dehumidification system for the smaller sheet at the facility.
Like last year, Garrow believes it will be another busy summer, but he has the consistent support of the Marquette community as they look to improve their home away from home.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help the community and that’s the way we all looked at it as a committee. We all knew this wasn’t going to happen again probably in our lifetime, so we wanted to make sure we were involved in it.”
Catherine Bogart is the Coordinator of Internet Content and Development at USA Hockey.