Hockey weaves its fabric

The other night, I could have sworn I was in a time warp as I waited to cover the second game of the Gibson Cup series between the Portage Lake Pioneers and Calumet Wolverines.

Sitting in my car outside the Calumet Colosseum before the game, I watched as the good-sized crowd filed in.

There were entire families, with the mothers holding small infants wrapped up against the chilly wind.

There were couples, holding hands, heading inside the arena. Young boys in groups going in to watch their favorite sport.

It occurred to me that this scene could have easily have taken place in 1977. Or even in 1957 — or 1937.

That’s how deeply the fabric of hockey is woven into the northend.

Hockey has been a way of life in Calumet, indeed in the Copper Country, for more than a century.

Ever since a group of dentists from Canada introduced the game locally in the late 1890s, hockey has been the major form of winter entertainment

The early teams, the Portage Lake Pioneers and Calumet Wolverines, were successful from the start.

That early success was the springboard to what has been a great story.

Over the years, Calumet and Portage Lake have fielded teams that usually won the majority of their games.

Names like Johnny Whittaker, Frank Gresnick, John Scherf and Rudy Zunich starred in the northend.

Portage Lake produced stars like Bruce Riutta, Tony Bukovich, Bernie Ruelle, and Rod Paavola.

And those were just a few of the greats.

The Colosseum — like Dee Stadium — has a long and colorful history. It’s the oldest indoor ice rink in this country, and in my opinion, should have been given serious consideration over Marquette’s Lakeview Arena for the designation of the “Hockeyville” contest that was sponsored by Kraft. Inc.

The Wolverines and Pioneers still play a very competitive brand of hockey, thanks to the work of their general managers/coaches.

Bruce “Cukie” Coppo of Calumet and Pat “Rico” McCarthy of Portage Lake are local legends themselves, having been stellar players.

But that’s how the fabric of the game is woven into the history of the Copper Country.