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Calumet Colosseum Looking To Win Kraft Hockeyville Contest

An Upper Peninsula ice rink is hoping to receive a helping hand from one of America’s favorite cheese makers.  Kraft Inc, is holding its annual Hockeyville USA promotion, where one hockey arena in the United States will receive $150,000 to be used on stadium upgrades.

Hockey and the Copper Country have a long standing relationship.  “There’s a lot of history, really with the whole Upper Peninsula and hockey,” said former Calumet Junior Hockey Association board member John Carroll.

The city of Houghton is officially known as the birthplace of professional hockey, where the first team of paid players would compete at the Amphidrome, before it was destroyed by fire 25 years later.  In midseason, and without a rink, high school hockey was canceled for the rest of the year, and the college team had to search for another venue.

Eventually the Amphidrome was replaced, and is now called Dee Stadium. But this story isn’t about the Amphidrome or Dee Stadium, or Houghton. It’s about another stadium several miles to the north–the Calumet Colosseum.  “The building was built in 1913 and it’s been in continuous use since that day,” said Calumet Township Supervisor Paul Lehto.

The college hockey team that year was made up of students from the Michigan College of Mines. The hands of time would change the name of the school to Michigan Tech and the name of the team to the Huskies. Today the Huskies play on campus in their own arena, but the venue that provided refuge and salvaged the season of early 1928 was the Calumet Colosseum.

“Take a look at how much Calumet played in helping with professional hockey taking off. There’s a lot of history there,” said Carroll.

Now 105 years old, the Colosseum is still standing.  In fact, it is the oldest indoor hockey arena in the country that is still in use today.  “Senior hockey, high school hockey, junior hockey, public skating, figure skating—it’s been a busy place since 1913,” said Lehto.

Houghton DJ John Carroll was on the board for the Calumet Jr. Hockey Association four years ago and initiated a Hockeyville USA campaign that was well supported by community members.  “We had the grade school involved, we had the fire department. We had all kinds of things to show community involvement,” said Carroll.

Kraft’s contest asks community members to submit stories, photos and to describe the importance of hockey to that community and a panel of judges will review the entries one by one.  “They’re looking for community involvement. What kind of presence the rink has in the community, if it’s a big fixture or a big part of the community. I think that’s what they’re looking for,” said Carroll.

The Colosseum’s entries in 2015 impressed the judges enough to make it through the initial cut, but not the final.  “When we made our presentation that first year, we put a lot of work into it. We had hundreds and hundreds of submissions,” Carroll said.

“We didn’t make the effort we should have,” Lehto said.

This year, the Colosseum has entered the contest again, with a new push for community support. Copper Country residents, or anyone who has a story to tell about the Colosseum or Calumet Hockey, is encouraged to submit that memoir to www.krafthockeyville.com.

“Three to five thousand people a week go through this building. It’s like the community center of our community,” said Lehto.

Carroll said, “When you put together that with the history of hockey going back well over a hundred years, there’s a lot of history and things to build on. It’s got a really good story to tell.”

Upon consideration from the judges, the winning arena will receive a check from the Chicago-based cheese maker for $150,000.  Lehto says that if the Colosseum were to win, that money would be used to upgrade the sound system, and ice making equipment that will be obsolete in the upcoming future.  “We still are using Freon 22 in our ice plant. Freon is going to be no longer available after 2020,” said Lehto.

Entries are required by March 2nd and initial review will take place in the following days with a final four to be announced on March 24th.  Those four venues would then subject to an online public vote that will determine a winner.

“Maybe this will be the time when we can push it through and win the whole thing,” said Carroll.

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