A walk down memory lane

When I first heard that the Calumet Colosseum was up for Kraft Hockeyville again this year, my first thought was a very simple one: They wouldn’t award this thing to another U.P. rink so soon after Marquette’s Lakeview Arena, would they?

In fact, I admit that I did not put a lot of effort into even following it because I figured there was no chance Sunday’s monumental announcement was on the horizon.

Then, I jumped on a team for the Old-Timers Tournament.

I had been to a game or two of the Calumet Copper Kings during the high school season, nothing like the previous years when I had spent what felt like half the season in the building. As a reporter from the Houghton area visiting the Colosseum to cover the Copper Kings, it is easy to ignore all of the history on display during the intermissions as there are all kinds of people mulling around and they tend to clump near the historical photos and such.

Also, given the fact that I have played a lot of road games in the building, I had seen it all before.

However, getting to play a Friday night game during the Old-Timers Tournament changed my perspective. I left the office a little over an hour early, because when I play in meaningful games, I like to arrive at the rink about an hour before. It’s an old habit from when I was young player, and it has stuck throughout the years.

Of course, arriving to the Colosseum that early meant that I had time to kill in the building. Only a small handful of my teammates were there, which gave me a chance to walk around the front lobby area and look at all the photos and jerseys and everything that I had seen countless times before.

As I looked around, I found myself stopping in front of the high school state title photos. Names jumped out at me from my past: Bobby Rangus, Teddy Laurie, Joel Isaacson, Ian Hodges…

Memories started to come back to me. Memories like carrying my Orange and Black hockey bag into the Colosseum (then known as the Calumet Armory) to play a game a member of the Houghton Gremlins. Memories like walking down the stairs to get to the locker rooms. Memories like climbing the stairs to get back to ice level.

There were very few feelings in high school hockey like climbing the stairs at the Colosseum, hearing the Calumet High School band playing, seeing a see of white jerseys at the other end of the rink and knowing that you were going to have to play your best to beat the Copper Kings in their building.

Defeating the Copper Kings in the Colosseum was not something you did in those days. In fact, that is most likely why I suffered one of the nastiest hits I have ever seen in high school hockey in that building as a junior. However, that just made it all the sweeter when we won there during my senior year.

When I walked up the stairs with my Ambassadors teammates, a flood of other memories hit me. The first one was of playing in the Armory as a Squirt and hip checking Rico Fata from a Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, team. I took a penalty for it, of course, since there was no checking in Squirts, but I did not care. Just knowing I knocked him down was enough.

The next memory I had was off playing against the various Calumet travel teams. The Armory was always a fun place to play, with some of the best ice in the U.P. Of course, the locker rooms were tiny then, and even smaller now. They were part of the charm of the building.

When I stepped out on the ice with my Ambassadors teammates, one more memory came to mind.

During my senior year, as I mentioned above, we were beating Calumet in their building. With our team up by a goal late, we force coach Jim Crawford to pull his goalie for an extra attacker. My line was on the ice.

My linemates and I were on the ice. None of us had even looked to see that the net was empty. We were just focused on getting the puck out of our own end.

We got the puck out and I chased it down while my linemates went for a change. I picked off a attempted pass by a Calumet player and threw the puck back into towards the Calumet net. When I looked over to see that I had put the puck in the corner, that was when I realized that my backhand had actually missed an open net.

As I returned to the bench, a moment hit me that stuck with me for the rest of my life. The guy coming on the ice for me, Ben Gullstrand, actually reached over and gave me a high five for my effort to get the puck deep before he jumped into the play. I did not score, but the effort was recognized by my teammate.

The Colosseum is a very special place. While it was not my home rink, it certainly is home to many of my favorite hockey memories.

I can honestly, I am very proud to know that that rink is going to an infusion of funding to help keep it alive for another generation of young hockey players to create the kinds of memories I have of that building.