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Karnosky: My history with the Armory

Over the weekend, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across an image of what appeared, at first glance, to be the Calumet Colosseum. Upon further inspection, it was, in fact, the Colosseum. At first glance, the photo looked like it had to have been from a time long ago, when players did not necessarily need to wear helmets, and the photo was in black and white. Upon further analysis, it was actually a photo in the last decade and actually featured a practice involving kids of the 10U or younger age group.

The photo was posted by Dave Danis, better known to U.P. hockey fans as the voice of Northern Michigan Wildcats hockey. Danis, who posts under the guise of Wildcat Dave, is a man who has two great loves, at least as far as I can tell: hockey and beer.

However, all that being said, I was struck by his photo caption, where he talked about how he was going to be covering the game at the Calumet Colosseum. In parentheses, he said that he still calls the Colosseum the Armory.

I realized in that moment, I still do as well. It does not matter whether I am writing it on paper, or speaking the name out loud, more often than not, I still refer to the Colosseum as the Armory. I suppose, on some level, I never wanted the name of my favorite rink in the U.P. to ever change.

Yes, I did just write that last sentence.

Even though I grew up in the Houghton area, the Armory (see, there I go again) has always been my favorite place to play. From the entryway with all the veterans’ names on the wall to all the history on display once you get through the ticket entrance, the history the Colosseum is home to is amazing. Big names of local stars and jerseys from teams long gone adorn the walls with more history than the average individual can take in at any one time.

Then there are the locker rooms, which are downstairs for everyone who is not playing for the Calumet Copper Kings varsity hockey team. The stairs are tight. They do not go in a straight line. They are steep.

Once you get downstairs, the locker rooms feel small. You have to keep your sticks outside the room on a rack (I once had one of the original aluminum hockey sticks stolen off the rack after a game). The showers, if the rooms had them, were in the back of the room. You had to climb a small set of stairs to get to the bathroom/shower.

Upon leaving the locker room, you have to climb back up those stairs that you came down earlier. You have to then make two quick lefts and then walk down a short hall to get to the arena proper.

As an opposing player, I think that still my favorite entrance to an ice surface. It sucks in the moment, as, once you climb the stairs, you are right out where the public can “greet” you. That just adds to the flavor of the area and the atmosphere of the experience.

From there, you rush out and jump on the ice, and then everything else drowns out as you step on, in my opinion, the best ice surface in the U.P. No matter what is happening around you, the Colosseum’s ice surface is unbelievable. The rink could be colder than the dickens and yet the ice was perfect. The rink could be warm, and yet the ice surface was near perfect.

As a player, you cannot ask for better.

From the drop of the puck, the noise swells up, even just for community games. With fans just literally on the other side of the boards from the players and in a set of bleachers that are only seven or eight rows high (it could be more, but it does not feel like it), they feel like they are right on top of you on the ice, which makes the experience that much more fun.

Whenever I step into the Colosseum, I get a flood of memories back, great battles over the years with Calumet travel teams, Calumet high school teams, and other random opponents that we played there.

Of course, the Colosseum is where I took the worst hit of my hockey career. As I was being hauled off the ice on a stretcher, the crowd booed.

The Colosseum was also where, in a game where my team, the Houghton Gremlins, were beating the Copper Kings, my teammate Ben Gullstrand stopped to give me a high five during a line change as I skated off the ice late in the game.

It is also the rink where I took my only unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. We were playing a Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, team. The opposing player, angry about getting hit, made some kind of comment like, “I am not going to take this s*** any more.”

I simply responded to him, since I was near him as he said it.

“F*** you.”

Not my most eloquent moment.

The referee, who was standing just a foot away from me, sent us both to the box.

Happy, sad and silly memories aside, I have always loved the Colosseum. It has been fun to get back there as a writer and cover high school games there. It has been even better to skate on it in Oldtimers tournaments.

I still cannot believe that it will be hosting an NHL preseason game Thursday between the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues. The Red Wings are going to skate on a rink that I have spent large chunks of my life on.

I am 40 and I think that is unbelievable. I cannot imagine what that must feel like for a youngster who calls that rink home now.

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