Calumet Hockey Association History

The Calumet Hockey Association was organized in 1954 as the Northern Division of the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association. The Northern Division consisted of teams with players from the Calumet, Laurium and Keweenaw areas. The Southern Division skated teams with players from Dollar Bay and Boston Location south to Hancock, Houghton and the surrounding Portage Lake area. The Torch Lake area which included Lake Linden and Hubbell had a number of outdoor rinks, but their players, for the most part, did not participate on an organized basis with the Calumet program until the late 1960's and early 70's.

The first teams were divided into divisions from youngest to oldest called Bantams, Pee Wees, Juveniles and Juniors. Bantams were (12-13) yrs. old, Pee Wees (14-15), Juveniles (16-17) and Juniors (18-20). Some of the early local sponsors of these teams were Public Chevrolet, Office Shop, King's Insurance, Murphy Motors, Quality Foods, Rutila Paint Store, Wolverine AC and Local Union 4312.

These teams usually practiced on outdoor rinks and only played league games in the Calumet Armory. The Armory was a natural indoor ice facility which had served the community as a hockey and skating rink since 1914. Originally called the Colosseum, it was sold to the State of Michigan in 1942 to replace the National Guard Armory, which had burned down earlier that year. Some of the local outdoor rinks where the players practiced in those days were located in Calumet ( Morrison School and Pine St. ), Laurium Community Rink, Albion, Tamarack, Centennial Heights, Wolverine, Copper City, Allouez, Ahmeek, Mohawk and Fulton. In the 1960's, after the Community Rink closed, Laurium Village installed a small natural ice surface in a hangar at the former airport site. This provided another indoor rink for association players to practice and play.

There were no travel teams, as such, in the early years of the program. The teams all played each other in local leagues, divided by age groups. In February, the coaches selected an all-star team in each division to represent Calumet in the Upper Peninsula play-offs. The winner of the UP's would then play in the state finals to determine a champion.

As the association moved into the 1960's, younger players were organized into divisions called Mites (5-8) yrs. old and Squirt (9-10), the Pee Wee division was dropped to ages (11-12), Bantams became (13-14), and a new Midget Division (15-16) replaced the Juveniles. In recent years the Midget division was extended over three years (15-17). Since the Midget division and high school hockey were organized, there have been no Junior teams in the area. As the association became more organized, players began to practice as well as play games in the Armory and Laurium's airport rink. Outdoor rinks became less prevalent as more youngsters gravitated to the indoor rinks for hockey and public skating.

Along with divisional changes came a philosophy of having all-star or traveling teams playing together all year long, instead of teams put together at season's end for state play-downs. The prevailing philosophy was that having an association's most talented and/or dedicated skaters competing together against the best of other areas, would advance player development. At about the same time permanent travel teams were becoming more common, house league teams were also being included in state competition.

In 1969 the Calumet program became a separate entity from the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association when they became the Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw Hockey Association (CLK). In 1977, with the increasing influx of players from the Lake Linden-Hubbell area, Torch Lake was added to the Association's name (CLK-TL). Because the program was based out of Calumet, and most hockey people from outside of the area didn't know what the letters CLK-TL stood for, the name was changed to Calumet Hockey Association (CHA) in 1985 and remains so to the present.

Artificial ice was installed in the Armory during the 1968-69 season and was available for the entire year in 1969-70, which coincided with the advent of the Lake Superior High School Hockey Conference. This returned high school hockey to the area for the first time since World War II. The original high school league members were Calumet, Hancock, Houghton and Marquette. The installation of artificial ice put the Calumet Association on a level playing field with Houghton, Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie for the first time since it's inception. These other areas had all benefited from artificial ice in their facilities since the late 1940's and early 1950's.

Prior to the 1971-72 season, the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) established three classifications of play for their state championships, Open Class, Class A and Class B. In Open Class, there were no limitations on what district or association players could be recruited. In Class A, selected travel teams were only allowed from within local associations and/or districts, and in Class B, house league teams were formed from within local associations. In 1978, MAHA divided the Open Class into two new classifications, AA and AAA. The AAA classification allowed open recruiting for it's players, while AA narrowed the travel rosters to players within districts. The A classification was still for district travel teams, but with a limit of four rostered second year players, with the rest being first year players in the division. In recent years, starting with the 1998-99 season, MAHA has limited the A classification teams to only first year divisional players. The (B) house league requirements have basically stayed the same throughout this period of time. These four classifications still pertain to the Squirt, Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget divisions for state competition.

Another important addition to the Calumet program came about in 1976 with the opening of the Bi-Centennial Arena in Laurium. This artificial ice facility was a non-regulation size rink, but excellent for the development of the younger players. With public skating no longer available at the Armory due to liability concerns, the Laurium Village owned rink became the main source of open skating for the area as well. The Bi-Centennial Mite Tournament, held every year in late February, remains one of the most popular of it's type in the Upper Peninsula. Once this new arena was opened at the old airport site, the old indoor hangar rink, which was located nearby, was converted into a garage to store and repair village equipment.

In 1979, a new natural ice facility was constructed between Lake Linden and Hubbell in Torch Lake Township. This arena, built on the same site as the old ice rink which caved in during the record snowfall winter of 1978-79, became know as the Torch Lake Arena. The CHA began using this rink on a regular basis for junior hockey practice and games. With access now to three rinks, the CHA was able to give their players 3 to 5 hours of ice time per week on a regular basis throughout the 1980's. Unfortunately, rising operating expenses forced the township to cut back on arena funding and the rink was closed in 1997. In it's last four years of operation it had been used primarily for public skating and curling.

The new ice sheets began to pay dividends as the Calumet teams became much more competitive on a regular basis throughout the 1970's and 80's. In 1982 and 1983 the CLK Electronics Midget A and AA teams won back to back state titles with the 1983 team also finishing runner-up to the Chicago Budweisers in the national finals in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. The Calumet Lions Squirt A and AA teams won back to back state titles in 1989 and 1990 while Tiny's Party Store Squirt B and Jilbert's Dairy Pee Wee B took home state titles in 1994 and 1995 respectively. Another tribute to the program's success has been a string of very strong Calumet Copper King high school teams which have won six state titles ( 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2008) and have been runner-up on another four occasions ( 1975, 1985, 1991, 2011). In 2002, the Calumet Wolverine senior team won the national senior championship in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Many of the key players on this squad came through the CHA program and played for the very successful Copper King squads in the 1990's.

Another major move in the 1990's, which helped in the development of Calumet players, was when the Calumet Hockey Association decided to join the Northern International Hockey League (NIHL). This league included players in the Squirt, Pee Wee and Bantam divisions from Houghton-Hancock, Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Ontario, Escanaba and Traverse City. In recent years some new areas from Lower Michigan have joined the league, including Alpena, Cheboygan, Gaylord and Charlevoix/Emmet County. Green Bay, Wisconsin entered teams in the league in 2002 and Petoskey followed in 2004.

In 1999, the Calumet and Copper Country associations agreed to combine their travel teams at the Squirt and Bantam levels. Both programs were struggling to get players out for travel hockey on a consistent basis. With the increase in available players, they felt it would be possible to have both A and AA teams from this area and give more players an opportunity to play travel hockey at their own age level. In 2000, they added the Pee Wee and Midget division as combined teams, the Midgets playing an independent schedule while the others, Squirts, Pee Wees and Bantams continued to play in the NIHL.

In the summer of 2005, the National Guard moved into a new facility and the Calumet Hockey Association, along with Calumet Township, took over the operation of the old Armory on a full time basis. Prior to this, the CHA leased the ice surface from the State of Michigan each year, from October to April, and sub-leased to other renters, offsetting their operating expenses. The building was renamed the Colosseum as it had been known from 1913 to 1942. This is proving to be a new and exciting endeavor for a program which has been an integral part of this area's youth activities for the past fifty plus years.

In 2012, the CHA board of directors voted to remove their players from the combined travel program with the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association. The combined travel program had been established in 1999 with the teams playing in the Northern International Hockey League. The board felt going back to having their own travel program would increase the number of CHA players in travel hockey. With an increase in the number of participants at the travel level, the board believed the overall development of CHA players will improve. In the 2012-13 season, the CHA placed three teams in the NIHL at the Squirt AA, Pee Wee AA, and Bantam AA Major levels. They also formed a fourth travel team which played an independent Bantam AA Minor schedule.

Over the past five years Calumet Township and the Calumet Hockey Association have embarked on a number of projects to improve the infrastructure at the Colosseum. In 2012, they spent $170,000 to renovate the Colosseum ice plant with the instillation of a new compressor, chillers and condenser. Also in 2012, a new $13,000 state of the art lighting system was installed above the ice surface by the Township with a $5000 energy saving grant helping to defray a portion of the cost. More recently, just prior to the start of the 2016-2017 hockey season, the Calumet Hockey Association and Calumet Township combined to work on another major project to continue improvements at the facility. Calumet Township was awarded two Michigan DNR Recreation Passport Grants totaling $90,000 to go along with local matching funds of $78,000 for the anticipated project cost of $168,000. The project would provide for new sideboards and glass around the rink surface and protective netting at each end of the rink. A major fund raising campaign was able to raise over $90,000 which not only covered the matching fund requirement, but also covered the price of a new ice plant motor and some extra funding towards the new Zamboni.

In 2019, the Calumet Hockey Association implemented free 6u and 8u hockey for all participants of these ages. This greatly increased our hockey numbers and helped parents with the rising cost of hockey.

On March 31, 2019 the Calumet Colosseum was selected as the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville winner. Kraft Hockeyville is an annual competition sponsored by Kraft Heinze, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association in which communities compete to demonstrate their commitment to the sport of ice hockey. The winning community gets a cash prize dedicated to upgrading their local home arena, as well as the opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game. On September 26th, 2019, after a full week of hockey activities for area youth and community members with Kraft and the NHL, the Calumet Colosseum hosted the St. Louis Blues and the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings backed by most of the crowd, won 4-1. With the Kraft Hockeyville award, the Colosseum was able to update the ice plant and sound system as well as numerous other repairs.

Compiled July 2004   Updated: August of 2013, November of 2017 and June of 2024

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