Up, Up and Away in the U.P.

Upper Peninsula of Michigan earns Kraft Hockeyville title

When it comes to hockey in Marquette, Mich., Doug Garrow has seen it all.

As a kid, he played hockey in this small town nestled in the Upper Peninsula. He eventually played collegiately at Northern Michigan and is now a coach in Marquette.

While Garrow has made his life in Marquette and enjoyed the sport, he's seen the entire life of Lakeview Arena. He was around when it opened in 1974 and has since seen it slowly wear down.

With the arena's best days behind it, Garrow and others knew something had to be done. This need led to the community working together to become this year's recipient of Kraft Hockeyville USA. Now, this community with a long hockey history has fallen in love with hockey once again.

Hockey has been a part of the Upper Peninsula since the early 20th century. In Marquette, community members routinely flock to the local rink. For the early part of the century, it was called the Palestra. Now, it's Lakeview.

Lakeview draws a large number of visitors, whether it's players, coaches, fans or those who love hockey and need something to do during the long U.P. winters.

While hockey continues to thrive in Marquette, Lakeview was in need of some help. The ice plant, glass and other key parts of the rink were in dire need of repairs. However, the money wasn't readily available.

That led City of Marquette Parks and Recreation coordinator Andrew MacIver to look for outside help improve the rink. It was suggested that someone in town should nominate Lakeview for the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville contest.

One parent who stepped up was Dr. Fredrick Hoenke. His children have played hockey in Marquette and spent many hours at Lakeview.

Hoenke decided to put in a nomination for Lakeview after being asked by those associated with the rink. His letter talked about the declining state of the rink and its importance to the community.

While he didn't know much about the contest when he submitted his entry, Hoenke would soon become a major factor in the 2016 contest. His letter earned Lakeview a spot in the top 10.

"We touched a nerve with the essay," Hoenke said. "We got a real avalanche of people interested in us up here in the upper peninsula and our rink. It was remarkable."

After making it to the final vote, Marquette was announced as the winner on NBC Sports Network. It was a moment that won't be forgotten any time soon.

"I was almost shedding tears of joy," Garrow said. "A lot of people put a lot of time into this. It's just such a great thing for the area. You can't put a price tag on being showcased nationally like this."

From the moment it was announced that Marquette was 2016's Kraft Hockeyville and would host an NHL preseason game in October, the race to prepare Lakeview was on.

During the weeks and months leading up to the game, volunteers and workers logged hundreds of hours to prepare the rink for the big lights of national television and the NHL.

"It was quite the daunting task. I've never had a busier summer," said Garrow, who led the local organizing committee. "But volunteers were there putting in so many hours. It was a community-wide effort. We wanted to be showcased on national television."

In the days leading up to the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes taking the ice at Lakeview, the folks in Marquette had a chance to celebrate.

There was a 5K run/walk, a gala social event, youth hockey and officials' clinics put on by USA Hockey and the NHL, a fair, cookout and a parade.    

"We fed more than 2,000 people at the cookout, and then saw a lot of people at the parade the night before the game," Garrow said. "It was amazing to see people show up on a Monday night and pack the streets to watch a parade of youth hockey players."

When the game itself came about, it was a unique opportunity for those in Marquette to see the NHL in their hometown.

But as soon as the game was over and the hysteria subsided, the folks in Marquette went back to their normal lives.

For those such as MacIver, he sees winning Kraft Hockeyville as a revitalization of sorts. He hopes to see an area that has so much hockey history continues to be excited about the sport.

"We're excited to see the bump this has created," MacIver said. "It's bringing more people to the rink, try hockey and watch more games. Hopefully, people will see this as an opportunity to come out and support our community.




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