‘Hockeyville USA’ Marquette to host NHL game Oct. 4

Ray Bressette

Marquette officially became the top hockey community in the country in April, winning Kraft Food’s 2016 Hockeyville USA crown. Now, the community’s historic Lakeview Arena will be rewarded with an NHL preseason game between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 4.


The arena also received $150,000 for renovations to the 42-year-old building that hosts community events and sports year round. In a press release, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Lakeview is a great recipient for Kraft’s competition.

“The local rink is a hub of activity, excitement, entertainment and fun — a place where the love of hockey can energize an entire community,” Bettman said. “The NHL is delighted to congratulate Marquette for ensuring that an upgraded Lakeview Arena will be able to welcome future generations of hockey families, players, coaches and volunteers.”

Lakeview is home to numerous on-ice competitors throughout the community, ranging from youth hockey to Marquette Senior High School hockey, NMU men’s and women’s club hockey, NMU figure skating, the Marquette Royales and more.

But it will be the Buffalo Sabres calling Lakeview “home” come October, when they compete in the Hockeyville USA preseason match for the second straight year. For Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Ron Francis, the game will have a homecoming element to him, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.

In a press release, Francis spoke highly of his former hockey vicinity.

“We’re thrilled to be involved with this initiative, which highlights the grassroots of our sport,” Francis said. “I grew up about three hours from Marquette, so it will be fun to be on the Upper Peninsula, to be a part of this special event.”

The matchup for the preseason game was decided before the winner was announced, making it impossible for close NHL teams such as the Detroit Red Wings or the Chicago Blackhawks to make the trip to Marquette. The game will still be a hot ticket in town, and could challenge the 3,100 seating capacity in the arena.

Details on how to obtain a ticket to the game have not been released by the NHL. Marquette was up against 1,000 different cities from around the country in the competition. The online election came down to Marquette and Rapid City, South Dakota in the championship game.

Lakeview held a watch party on April 30 for the unveiling of the winner on national TV during an NHL Stanley Cup playoff game. Notable celebrity Justin Florek, a Marquette native and former Wildcat now with the New York Islanders, was in attendance for the party, along with several hundred other people.

The Sabres and Hurricanes game in October will be the first organized NHL game between two professional teams in the community, but it won’t be the first time an NHL squad competed in Marquette.

In February of 1954, the Detroit Red Wings traveled to Marquette Branch Prison and faced off against the prison inmates in the facilities inner yard. The game was the NHL’s first outdoor game and was the last time an NHL team visited Marquette.