Peterson: ‘Snake pits’ that never lived up to name

Anyone who has ever played sports will remember one place that stood out from all the others.

In the old days, such places were simply called “snake pits.”

They could range from basketball courts that had their own idiosyncrasies, to hockey arenas that were just plain cold to opposing teams.

In basketball, I vividly recall a couple of non-favorite places: Bergland and Chassell.

The Bergland High Gym had all the assorted and sundry things that made playing there an experience.

First off, the visitors dressing room was so warm, it could have doubled as a sauna. The Boston Celtics must have learned from the same designer.

The Celts were infamous because of their locker room facilities that opposing teams dreaded.

Bergland also had a side of the court with a stage. The basket on that side was usually moving because the hometown fans spent much of the game shaking it.

The real feature was a scorekeeper who made sure the local team stayed in the game. I recall one night when my team had a 14-point lead with two minutes left.

That lead melted to six points as the final two minutes took a half hour (it seemed longer) to complete.

Chassell’s Community Center was a house of horrors. Making it seem even worse in the 1950s was the fact the Panthers were very, very good.

They didn’t win 65 straight games and three state titles behind legends like Don Mattson, Tom Peters and Terry Pokela.

But the Chassell court was very narrow, much like the bowling alley one floor below. You could actually — in a rare quiet moment — hear the pins falling below.

There were also dead spots in the floor when a dribble could suddenly sink out of sight. It should be pointed out that the court was replaced 20 years later.

For hockey, the old Meadowbrook Arena in L’Anse stood pretty much alone. It was always cold there — and beyond chilly when the outside temperatures fell below 10 degrees.

The lighting was also suspect at Meadowbrook, and it helped to hide the many uncertain spots in the ice very well.

But the fans at MBA were probably the most hostile at any ice surface in the area — even the old Calumet Armory.

In one game a few years back, the officials ejected an entire section of LHS rooters for tossing coins and batteries on the ice. No kidding.

I could tell you about many other unsavory places I’ve been to (Champion, Amasa, Marenisco, etc. but it would take a book to describe them.

Speaking of books, I’m still working on the first chapter of mine about this very subject.


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