By @MichaelCaples –
The Kraft Hockeyville USA dasher board graphics still line the ice at Lakeview Arena.
They are some of many, many reminders of the monumental hockey event that took place on year ago today in Marquette.
“Every day I sit down at my desk and I look up and I’ve got this wonderful photograph – a great fisheye camera view taken by the Getty photographer for the NHL,” said Dr. Fritz Hoenke. “Game action, showing the whole rink in a fisheye view. They sent that to everyone on the [organizing] committee, which I’m grateful for. It’s set behind plexiglass that was reclaimed from the old glass that was taken down and polished up. I look at that every day and I remember what a remarkable thing it’s been for us.”
Hoenke, you may remember, is the man who wrote the essay that eventually led to Lakeview Arena and the Marquette hockey community being voted the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville contest winner.
A $150,000 donation from Kraft, facility upgrade assistance and an NHL preseason game between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 4, 2016, reinvigorated the hockey community surrounding Northern Michigan University – the effects of which are still being felt today.
“The way the whole program feels has changed and the interest level and knowledge in the community has changed,” Hoenke said. “I was seeing patients the other day. Eventually, this gentleman said, ‘You look familiar. Do you have anything to do with hockey?’ And I said, ‘Well, I did this,’ and he said, ‘Fantastic, you’re the guy.’ That’s the kind of interactions that have happened. There’s an awareness of the hockey heritage and it was a huge event and what it means to the kids in ways that are not just so obvious.
“Our committee keeps meeting – we still have money to spend that we raised independently, the city still has money to spend, has been very careful to use its own money separately and to husband the resources and do due planning. So that’s still ongoing at this point.”
Andrew MacIver, the rink manager of Lakeview, said the community has rallied around the rink, providing new opportunities to enhance the building. Aside from aesthetic changes, the management staff has carved out space for new training equipment and shooting stations for hockey players to use when they visit the rink.
Looking Back: MiHockey’s Kraft Hockeyville coverage
- Hockeyville a rousing success for Marquette, Lakeview Arena
- PHOTOS: Kraft Hockeyville USA game at Lakeview Arena in Marquette
- Buffalo’s O’Reilly, Carolina’s Skinner visit Marquette middle school for Hockeyville
- VIDEO: Dan Bylsma, Jack Eichel talk about Kraft Hockeyville game in Marquette
- Talking Lakeview Arena’s Kraft Hockeyville win with the man who wrote the original essay
- Why the Red Wings won’t be playing in the Hockeyville USA preseason game
- Marquette’s Lakeview Arena wins Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016
“I think for the most part it’s been a community-wide impact,” MacIver said. “There was so much excitement about the game. There are still people telling us, ‘I can’t believe that happened.’ Moving forward, there’s still so much excitement about it, anticipation with what’s going to happen with the rink. There’s already some improvements that have been made and there are more improvements coming. On top of that, we had another project that is being funded through operations with the city – not coming from Hockeyville dollars. There are definitely a lot of things changing up here in Marquette, and changing for the better.
“One of the things that we’re looking at right now is just some energy management and looking at kind of springing us into current standards for operations and reducing our overall utility cost, easing our maintenance so it’s a huge project we’re undertaking right away. Then we’ll be doing an evaluation of the facility and looking at what priorities are needed to be set and making a plan for that and looking at additional grant funding to really make this building stand out for us and make it a community tool, a community center and make it available and affordable for the community for generations beyond us.”
MacIver said the powers-at-be will evaluate the growth numbers for hockey participation as the season gets underway; right now, teams and players are still settling in.
“I do know there has been a lot more excitement around the game. It does seem like there are some more teams that will be coming through. We’ll probably end up seeing a further advancement of numbers picking up as we go along. They’re just opening up their seasons now, and they’re getting kids set on teams. Numbers are going up slightly, but I’m expecting that’ll only continue to improve for them. With Hockevyille, there was definitely excitement about that that definitely helped bring attention to the game, but I definitely see the passion from the Hockeyville experience motivating parents and volunteers, getting people excited about the game. And maybe parents that have kids now that are looking to get their kids involved, they’re thinking about hockey now, and it’s something I definitely see, not just an immediate impact, but maybe over the next five to ten years.
“Maybe this was that rejuvenating spark that Marquette needed, and even for the rest of the U.P. because it wasn’t just Marquette that seemed to be involved with this. It was everyone from the Copper Country down to Escanaba all the way to the Soo who were supporting us and excited for us. Hopefully we see [Hockeyville] happening again in Michigan. We’d like to see it in the U.P. again to really get things going, but ultimately we’d really love to see it in Michigan again.”
One year later, Hoenke is still full of praise for the Hockeyville concept and execution.
“It’s the most marvelous program,” the winning essay writer said. “I’ll continue to thank Kraft, congratulate the NHL and NHLPA and NBC. It’s just a remarkable thing. They probably don’t realize just how remarkable it is for these small towns. It’s one of the most clever and smart thing that I’ve seen any sport do anywhere anytime. I can’t express my praise enough for all those entities for what they’ve done – for us, but more importantly for the sport.”