Hockeyville brings NHL to the UP

AnnMarie Kent

People lined the boards and filled the stands at Lakeview Arena in Marquette on Tuesday night as NHL players skated onto the rink during Kraft Hockeyville USA’s stint in Marquette.

re-hockeyville1-etThe Kraft Hockeyville USA competition is a contest that started in Canada with a focus  on giving money to small-town hockey arenas across the country. Kraft soon afterward created a separate competition in the United States. The top four arenas chosen receive monetary donations for renovations and the winning arena hosts a preseason NHL game.

A series of essays written to Kraft led to Lakeview’s nomination and eventual winning of the contest.

The Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes faced off for the preseason game at Lakeview. After three periods, the Sabres came away with a 2-0 victory.

Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma was satisfied with the way his team played during the game.

“I liked our whole team game,” Bylsma said. “I think this was the first game for us that we really played, supported the puck, played as a group of five and played team hockey.”

With the 3,100-seat arena at standing room only, Sabres forward Sam Reinhart said the rink was very warm to play in.

“It was pretty humid in there through the whole thing,” Reinhart said. “I still like the way we played. We had to keep things simple with the conditions.”

The teams’ home ices—The First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York and the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina—each seat almost 20,000 people. So the players were playing for a much smaller audience than they’ve grown accustomed to.

Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers loved playing in the small atmosphere.

“I don’t remember the last time I played in a smaller rink like this, and [this] packed,” Deslauriers said. “It proves how hockey everywhere is important.”

The small-town arena feel brought a lot of players back to their younger days of hockey, Bylsma said.

“I think everyone this morning and today talked about this being a place they’ve played before,” Bylsma said. “Whether it was here or back in their hometown, it felt like a place we’ve all played in our younger years in playing youth hockey.”

Bylsma is a Michigan native, born in Grand Haven. He played college hockey for the now Western Collegiate Hockey Association Bowling Green State University. Bylsma traveled to Lakeview Arena to play the NMU Wildcats while playing for Bowling Green.

He said people approached him around town welcoming him to Michigan, which felt weird because this feels like home to him.

“It’s kind of neat to get back here,” Bylsma said “It feels like an outdoor game type of atmosphere—back to the roots of hockey, back to where you played as a kid.”

Kraft’s contributions to the arena keep Lakeview in good shape for people like senior graphic communications major Cassidy Hinshaw. She grew up in Iron River and remembers coming to Marquette and play hockey at Lakeview growing up. She also works at Superior Hockey, the hockey shop inside Lakeview and she’s seen the renovations happening.

“I’ve seen them rebuilding things. I’ve seen new glass—repainting,” Hinshaw said. “It’s a lot brighter in here than it ever used to be. It just looks like a really positive place to be.”

Hinshaw is glad to have had this event here, bringing good things to the area and being able to be part of it at the game.

“It was awesome,” she said. “We were right up against the glass.”