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It’s time to say goodbye

Ryan Stieg

How do you say goodbye to a place that you’ve lived in for seven years?

That’s a question I’ve been debating about for quite a while, but now, it’s time I say it in print.

I turned in my two-week notice at The Mining Journal last week, which means next week will be my last days covering sports in the Upper Peninsula. To say, it’s been an interesting journey these last few years might be an understatement.

When I arrived in Marquette back in 2014, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew of the Upper Peninsula, but other than lots of snow, pretty scenery and hockey, I had no idea what else was up here. In my last job, the local high school teams weren’t very good and the crowds at games were often sparse. Within days of being up here, I saw that the U.P. was a much different story.

That fall, I got to go downstate to Detroit when Munising and Ishpeming made it to the MHSAA state football finals and the first thing that stood out to me was just the large amount of town pride on display. It seemed as if all of Munising was at Ford Field and that might’ve been true, as I didn’t see a single car in town when I stopped for gas. In fact, the gas station was closing early so they could make the bus going down. Ishpeming’s fan turnout was just as impressive, and just the constant cheering at both games, even when both teams were trailing big, made me see just how much this area loves its high school teams.

Covering Northern Michigan University was a little different at first as the crowds in the Berry Events Center weren’t as big as I expected. However, as the team got better, the atmosphere improved and the crowds got rocking, especially during the games against Michigan Tech. I’ll never forget the WCHA Championship Game back in 2018 when the Wildcats hosted the Huskies for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. I haven’t experienced that kind of feeling in a college hockey arena in years and it was incredible.

When Kraft Hockeyville USA came to Marquette back in 2016, that was something unique that very few communities will ever experience. Lakeview Arena got a bunch of money for upgrades, the town, and the U.P. in general, got a chance to show off its love for hockey, and two NHL teams came to town for a game. Seeing a place I lived in getting showcased on national TV and getting to write about that is something I’ll always treasure.

When I got to the U.P., my goal was to provide the best sports coverage I could and write unique stories people may have never seen before. I wanted people to see what it’s like for a college hockey team on a road trip, so I tagged along with NMU on its trip to the Great Lakes Invitational for a week. I wanted to profile players and coaches on not just NMU’s sports teams, but high school squads as well, and tell their stories, whether it’s the bond between family members or just how they got to where they are. I also wanted to show what former players have done with their careers, so I contacted Carolina Hurricanes President and GM Don Waddell to show what his everyday responsibilities are. From the response I received, my goals were achieved as people got to read things they normally wouldn’t get to read or visualize things they’d never seen.

From the time I arrived here, I gave everything I had to provide this area with the sports coverage it deserves and I hope I lived up to your expectations and gave all of you what you were hoping for. I came here as an outsider seven years ago, but it didn’t take long for you all to make this place feel like home. I’ll miss this area, its teams and its people terribly, and I’ll remember my time up here fondly after my move back home to the Twin Cities. I know it’s a marketing slogan, but the U.P. is really a special place.

It’s not easy for me to say goodbye to this place, but I’ll always remember it fondly. Thank you all for the memories.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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