Welcome to Hockeyville: Calumet Colosseum gets recognition

Venerable Calumet Colosseum, the oldest rink in North America, is seen here Sunday after being named the winning ice rink in the Kraft Hockeyville competition. The colosseum will get $150,000 for upgrades, while an NHL exhibition game will also come to the area this fall. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Jamie Glenn)

CALUMET TOWNSHIP — The Calumet Colosseum got to the finals of the Kraft Hockeyville competition after community members bombarded Kraft with their memories of playing in the colosseum or testimonials to its importance.

Once it was named a finalist, they proved their dedication by spreading the word to friends and family throughout the world. In online voting opened this weekend, they proved, dozens of times over, that they were not robots.

The rallying and refreshing paid off Sunday, when the Calumet Colosseum was announced as the winner of the Kraft Hockeyville competition. The colosseum will get $150,000 for upgrades, while an NHL exhibition game will also come to the area this fall. It also receives $10,000 of new equipment from the National Hockey League Players Association Goals & Dreams funds.

It’s a huge win — not just for the Calumet area, but for the Copper Country and the Upper Peninsula, said colosseum rink manager Mark Peters.

“This is a backbone for the community for the winter months,” he said.

The colosseum has been hosting hockey since it opened in 1913, making it the oldest indoor ice arena still in use. Calumet High School’s hockey team plays there, as do junior hockey and adult teams.

Peters said the colosseum will form a committee to decide on how the money will be spent. Early candidates include heating for the stands and upgrading the dehumidifier and compressor.

“There’s really no definite answer right now,” he said. “We have to collect our thoughts and get a group together to decide what to do.”

The new upgrades will join a slew of improvements over the past few years, including a new Zamboni, boards, lighting and clock, Peters said.

A large crowd packed the colosseum lobby Sunday afternoon to watch the announcement of the final winner on an NBCSN telecast.

Calumet High School head hockey coach Dan Giachino was one of the 250 he estimated had come out to watch. The win helps the hockey community, but it goes beyond that, he said.

“Hopefully the bigger picture is that the hotels and restaurants of the entire Copper Country get a boost in the fall whenever that game is held,” he said. “Also, that builds a lot of community spirit and community pride.”

The colosseum and Dee Stadium have both held prior campaigns for the Hockeyville prize in the same year. Probably because of that, neither place reached the finals.

Hockeyville officials will visit the area before the game to determine if the game can be held at the colosseum or if it will be at another facility nearby, Peters said. When they will visit has yet to be determined.

In the days leading up to the vote, residents spread the word on social media throughout the area and the Copper Country diaspora. This morning, Peters heard from people who had recruited friends and family from Alaska, California and overseas.

“They pushed our extended Copper Country family — all the friends and relatives that live across the United States,” Giachino said. “When one of our communities is up for something like this, it builds that whole Copper Country sense of support for each other.”

Kraft made voters work for it. After a frictionless process for the first handful of votes, people had to click a box verifying they were not a robot. A few votes past that, and they faced more tedious hurdles — say, identifying which photos in a grid had cars in them.

“I don’t want to see a bicycle or a fire hydrant for a while now,” Peters said.

The game will happen sometime between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15, Peters said. The exact date, and the teams involved, are undetermined.

Peters is hoping for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. But he’s not picky.

“I’m a hockey fan, period,” he said. “Any professional team will be great.”