Marquette power outage

MARQUETTE – Monday was a sad day for hockey fans in the Upper Peninsula as the Marquette Electricians 18U AAA Midget Major hockey team ceased operations after almost three decades of competition.

After news spread that the franchise was folding, a handful of former players gathered in the locker room of Lakeview Arena, where they once laced up their skates for the franchise, to talk about their days with the squad.

“I loved it,” NMU assistant hockey coach Rob Lehtinen said. “I played three years here and my family housed Electricians growing up.

“We’ve been part of the Electricians family for a long time and for me, it was my first opportunity to get recruited by junior teams and college teams.

“It was the first look for kids and I think it was a great opportunity for them,” he added.

Marquette native and current New York Islander Justin Florek expressed similar sentiments about his days with the team.

“Growing up through Marquette junior hockey, I think every kid’s dream is to play for the Electricians,” he said. “It was always the team that I watched when I was younger and that was always the team that I wanted to play for.

“It was pretty special because my dad and my uncle even played for the Electricians, so I had an opportunity to play for them.

“it was something I jumped on and it helped propel my career to the next level,” he added.

One of the drawbacks of losing the Electricians is that icers from the Marquette area, or other parts of the U.P., will have to live away from home if they want to play at the next level in areas like Sault Ste. Marie, Detroit or Chicago.

“To hear the news, it was very disappointing,” former NMU player Chris Gobert said,” It was a great program with a lot of great players for a long time. It’s very sad to see it come to an end.

“For me, from the time I was three years old to coming through the program here, it was definitely a great situation to have the team in your backyard, so you didn’t have to leave home or move away at age 15, 16 or 17.

“Unfortunately now, some of these local kids are going to have to do it if they want to continue on in their career,” he added.

In recent years, the Electricians have gone through some ups and downs.

In the 2008-09 season, the Electricians finished with a record of 34-23-10, but they’ve had only one winning season since and have had four different coaches in the last five seasons.

In the glory days, the Electricians hosted the 2004 USA Hockey Tier I 18U National Championship and the “Fall Classic,” which achieved prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“I think the Fall Classic was one of the coolest memories I have playing for the Electricians,” Florek said.

“It was such a great tournament and I think when we were there, we might have made it to the semifinals and it was just a special feeling.

“We used to pack the place here for just the Electricians and it was so cool to be a part of that and to be part of the program.”

Even though the team is gone for now, the players say Marquette is still a “hockey town” and there could be a chance the Electricians could be back in the future.

“It’s tough to see it go, but I think Marquette is still a great hockey community and hopefully, it will just continue to get better and better,” Florek said. “Unfortunately, the Electricians aren’t here, but it’s still a great community.

“There are enough players around to make a competitive team and something that can make a splash in USA Hockey, but unfortunately, not at the time right now. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.