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Hockeyville underway

Hundreds attend Kraft Hockeyville community event in Calumet

Connor Stachler, 3, poses next to the Stanley Cup on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in Calumet, Mich. The Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues play a preseason game on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, in the Calumet Colosseum. The Colosseum is the worldÕs oldest indoor ice arena. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

CALUMET — After waiting his entire life to see the Stanley Cup, there was no way Leonard Miller was going to sit in his wheelchair for his picture with it.

Miller, 88, is a Korean War veteran and Calumet resident. He’s also a passionate hockey fan. He was the first person during Monday’s Kraft Hockeyville community celebration to pose with the oldest trophy in North American sports.

Miller’s moment with the cup resonated with his daughter, Karla Caron.

“Tears to my eyes,” she said while wiping a tear off her cheek. “He grew up downstate and did figure skating then came up here and learned hockey and coached hockey, even though he had three girls. He taught a lot of the young boys in town.”

Hundreds of people attended Monday’s event to kick off Kraft Hockeyville week. Former Detroit Red Wings players Drew Miller and Kirk Maltby — a four-time Cup winner with the Red Wings — made appearances and signed autographs for fans.

Many posed with the Cup, waiting in a line that extended from the event on the corner of Red Jacket Road and Calumet Avenue to Calumet High School.

Some hugged the Cup, some kissed it, some traced their fingers over the names. And most took one last glance while walking away after taking a picture with it.

The Cup’s public viewing followed a private viewing inside the Calumet Colosseum. The world’s oldest hockey trophy inside the world’s oldest indoor hockey rink — a pairing that could only happen here.

The crowd was lively and bubbling with anticipation. When the Cup arrived on top of a Calumet fire engine, the crowd drew silent and looked on as the 34-pound sterling silver trophy, glistening in the afternoon sun on the first day of autumn, was carried across the grounds by Stanley Cup handler Howie Borrow of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Borrow said people have a wide range of reaction to being around the Cup.

“Just seeing the faces of people when we go visit, especially in the smaller communities like this, brings out a lot of emotion in people,” Borrow said. “You’ll see smiling faces, everybody’s happy and thrilled to see it. But the emotion is you’ll see some people come to tears because it brings back a lot of memories of watching games on TV with their father or grandfather or something like that. It’s also that maybe they never had an opportunity to go see it in person, but we’ve been able to bring it to them and give them some joy.”

Borrow brought the Cup from St. Louis on Sunday for a full day in Calumet on Monday. On Tuesday, he said it returns to St. Louis to close out the Blues’ summer of celebration after winning it for the first time in franchise history last season.

The Cup has previously visited the Copper Country when Randy McKay won it with the New Jersey Devils in 1995 and 2000. Hancock native Brad Aldrich, a video coach with the Chicago Blackhawks when they won it all in 2010, brought the Cup home.

It logged thousands of miles before and will continue its historical journey all over the world.

Borrow said the Cup travels up to 170,000 miles per year and about a million miles every six or seven years. It was in China last year, it’s been to Afghanistan to visit soldiers. It’s been at the bottom of Mario Lemieux’s backyard pool. This summer, Blues superstar Vladimir Tarasenko celebrated with it in Siberia.

Caron said the size of it surprised her.

“Just how big it was,” she said. “I can’t believe those guys picking it up like that and skating off with it. It seems bigger than I imagined.”

Caron’s husband, Joe, said the Cup represents the struggle players endure throughout their careers to win it.

“I think it’s pretty awesome to know how many peoples’ names on the Stanley Cup that actually went through Hell to get their names on it,” he said. “It’s a heck of an award.”

Kraft Hockeyville was to continue Tuesday with an open community skate at the Calumet Colosseum followed by a Great Lakes Hockey League rivalry between the Calumet Wolverines and Portage Lake Pioneers.

Bruce Coppo, the Wolverines’ head coach since 1994, said the Red Wings vs. Blues matchup was what the community wanted.

“This is awesome. This is like a miracle and a dream come true,” he said. “It’s gonna be great for all the young kids. This is something they’ll never forget. It’s kind of ironic that just after we found out we won, we were saying ‘wouldn’t it be something if we could get the Red Wings here and the Stanley Cup winners?’ It just fell into place. It’s beautiful.”

Former NHL all-star Jeremy Roenick and local hockey historian Bill Sproule will speak at the Calumet Readiness Center at 6 p.m. today.

The Red Wings vs. Blues game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday. Both teams will have a gameday skate in the early afternoon. The Red Wings’ skate is 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The Blues’ skate is from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Calumet High School’s Agassiz Field will host the official viewing party from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.