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Northern Michigan-Michigan Tech hockey rivalry needs its own Miner’s Cup

December 19, 2011
By Matt Wellens - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

When the Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech University football programs introduced a trophy to their rivalry that dates back to 1920, they did it the right way without cooperate sponsorship.

Thanks to the collaborative effort of the MTU athletic department, the Army ROTC programs from both schools and some scavenging of Copper Country antique stores, the Miner's Cup was born in 2002 to put more than just pride on the line.

The traveling trophy itself is actually not a cup at all, but an old authentic miner's helmet mounted to a wooden base. It's a nod to the mining history of the Upper Peninsula and a great tribute to the past.

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The Miner's Cup is everything the Ramada Cup was not - except for the whole cup part.

Sponsored by the hotel chain with locations in Marquette and Hancock, the Ramada Cup was originally presented to the winner of the Northern Michigan-Michigan Tech hockey series for eight seasons from 1988 to 1996. It then was reborn in 2003 before fading back into oblivion when its sponsorship was dropped a few years later.

The Ramada Cup's last public appearance came in 2007 when NMU finished off a 2-0-1 series victory over the Huskies in Houghton, though the debate over its legitimacy that season still rages on.

Since then, the Wildcats and Huskies have competed for nothing but pride and bragging rights like they did originally when the rivalry was born in 1979.

While pride and bragging rights are great, it's nice to have a little something that you can physically shove in your rivals' face for beating them.

It's time to bring a trophy back to the NMU-Tech hockey series, especially where this rivalry is heading.

Thanks to first-year head coach Mel Pearson, the Huskies are on track to finish at or above .500 for only the fifth time since rejoining the WCHA for the 1984-85 season.

Pearson already has the Huskies at nine wins - Tech had nine combined wins the two previous seasons - and with a talented group of freshman already making an impact, this first-half run by the Huskies appears to be legit and not a fluke.

The continued success of the Huskies is key for the Wildcats, who topped their U.P. rivals 4-1 on Friday. Tech may not be a legitimate candidate to make the NCAA tournament at No. 30 in the PairWise and RPI, however, it is an official team under consideration.

That means wins and losses are magnified for teams like Northern, who would make the NCAA tournament if the season ended today, ranked ninth.

In two years, the Northern-Tech rivalry will expand and factor into the WCHA championship chase when the Wildcats leave the disbanding CCHA for the league it won the 1991 national championship in.

Four times a year the Huskies and Wildcats will battle - twice at Marquette's Berry Events Center and twice at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton. When the series is all said and done, it would be great to see a MacNaughton Cup presentation to the WCHA's regular season champion.

If not the MacNaughton Cup - a three-foot-tall, 40-pound, hand-crafted-pure-silver trophy that originated in Calumet - then why not something else to commemorate the rivalry?

Let's bring back a traveling trophy to one of college hockey's greatest rivalries and to assure it's long-lasting success, go the route of the football programs and honor history, not a business.



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