Roenick, Sproule celebrate hockey at Red & Blue event

A crowd of about 260 people attend the Red & Blue Celebration event at the Calumet National Guard Readiness Center on Wednesday in Calumet. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

CALUMET — Jeremy Roenick joined a crowd of about 260 people on Wednesday to celebrate hockey in Hockeyville.

Or as Roenick fondly calls it, ‘Calumet City.’

Roenick, no stranger to hockey or even to the Upper Peninsula, was a guest speaker along with local historian and MTU professor Bill Sproule at the Red & Blue Celebration at the Calumet National Guard Readiness Center. The event included food and beverage with auction items.

Roenick also served as auctioneer, doling items like a signed Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings jersey, signed Vladimir Tarasenko St. Louis Blues jersey and his own personal meet-and-greet trip.

The signed Larkin jersey sold for $2,700 after opening at $100, with Roenick’s promise of meeting the Red Wings superstar and receiving a signed stick. It’s the first insight into which players the Red Wings will bring for the preseason game against the Blues at 7 p.m. in the Calumet Colosseum.

During the auction, Roenick offered roundtrip airfare for the winning bidder and a guest, plus a hotel, pre-game dinner and tickets to join him at a Chicago Blackhawks game in Chicago this season. The bidding opened at $1,500 and ended with an offer Roenick made to two bidders at $3,500 apiece for their own separate trips with a guest.

Roenick told The Daily Mining Gazette that he’s aware of pro hockey’s origins in the Copper Country and the community is deserving of the Hockeyville title.

“Obviously doing your research you find these little nooks and crannies and things that really you enjoy reading about,” Roenick said. “Yes, the first pro hockey league, WMPL with the radio being one of the first ways that people could check scores. Whether it’s reporters or being able to call the radio. There’s a lot of history up here. This is not an easy competition to win. This takes a lot of teamwork. It takes a lot of people coming together doing their part and making sure that there’s no slackers. There’s no slackers in Calumet City this year.”

Historian Bill Sproule shared his research about hockey in the Copper Country, not just the first professional league, the International Professional Hockey League. Sproule said the first hockey game in the area was between two Dollar Bay teams at a Calumet outdoor rink on Dec. 29, 1897.

Roenick, now an NBC Sports hockey analyst who played 1,363 NHL games across 20 years with the Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, said he’s visited the UP a few times before. He was with the NBC Sports crew in Marquette when Lakeview Arena won the Kraft Hockeyville contest in 2016. But he’s also been to the UP for other reasons, he said.

“My very, very good friend David Wells, is an ex-pitcher of the Yankees, owns a deer farm in the Upper Peninsula,” he said. “I’ve been there a couple times hunting.”

Roenick said he had yet to see the Colosseum’s interior.

“I’m looking forward to it. I heard they did some really good renovations,” he said. “I heard it needed it pretty badly. Again it’s another benefit to winning this great award is being able to put $150,000 into it. It’s only gonna help the kids. It’s gonna give the kids a safer and better environment to learn the game and one they can be proud of growing up in.

“The Colosseum being the oldest building in the world. Can you think of that? That’s just a special thing and I get to go in and watch a hockey game tomorrow. I think that’s going to be a really cool thing.”

ALSO: Mike Babcock, who helped coordinate efforts with the NHL and Kraft Hockeyville for this week’s events, said paid attendance was 947 people for Wednesday’s Great Lakes Hockey matchup between the Calumet Wolverines and Portage Lake Pioneers. More than $4,000 was raised, with proceeds going towards the Colosseum.


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