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Hockeyville USA

Hockeyville USA continues time-honored tradition at Calumet Colosseum

Building, community set for unique experience of hosting preseason game between Blues, Red Wings

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

CALUMET, Mich. -- When winter arrives in Calumet, Michigan, hockey comes with it.

A big part of that has been Calumet Colosseum, which opened in 1913. After 106 years, it still hasn't had a winter without hockey, something no other building in the world just as old can claim. That tradition continues with Kraft Hockeyville USA and an NHL preseason game between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Tweet from @NHL: The Calumet Colosseum has stood since 1913. Thanks to @HockeyvilleUSA, it's going to stand for a lot longer. #HockeyvilleUSA

"The dedication of the [Calumet Colosseum] was in December 1913, and the first hockey game played here was Jan. 6, 1914, so that was only a week or so after the dedication," said Paul Letho, who had been town supervisor in Calumet since 1972 before retiring last month. "This arena as we all know was built in 1913 and it's had a hockey rink in it from the day it was built. It was built as a community center and there's been hockey ever since."

Letho, 81, knows as much about the building as anyone.

"When I was 15 years old, I was even coaching here, so that was 66 years ago," he said. "I coached a Bantam team and a senior hockey team in the 1960s and high school of course for 18 years."

The rich history of the building goes beyond hockey, although that has always been a part it.

"I've been playing hockey in this barn for 15 years, but there are still times I find myself in complete awe of it," said Michael H. Babcock, who is on the Calumet Wolverines board of directors. "The banners draped across the walls, the impeccable sheet of ice we're lucky enough to skate on and the history you can feel just walking through the lobby."

That sentiment was echoed by many people including Bill Sproule, a historian and author of "Houghton: The Birthplace of Professional Hockey."

"There's great pride in this particular building," Sproule said. "In the 1940s, the armory burnt down, so the state of Michigan acquired the building. There were limited resources in the community, so this was a great way of recognizing hockey but also helping them develop this community building."

With the state acquiring the Colosseum in 1942, the name was changed to the Calumet Armory. For 60 years, the Calumet Hockey Association leased ice in the winter when the building wasn't in use.

In 2005, the National Guard moved to a new building, leaving the history of the rink in doubt because the state had no need for one nearly 100 years old. The thought of seeing the building torn down for some other purpose on the land did not go over well with many in the town. 

Luckily, there was a solution.

"We gave the state 12 acres of property for this building," Letho said. "They appraised this building at $400,000 and we appraised the 12 acres at $409,000 just so there could be a trade made to save the arena."

That's paved the way for a new generation of players and fans alike to come to the rink.

"The ice is fast, walking up those stairs to run onto the ice was the best," said Brendan Doud, a forward for the Calumet Wolverines when they won the Great Lakes Hockey League championship in 2001-02. "Scoring and hearing the goal siren was awesome."

Others like Matt Yeo, a left wing for Calumet of the Great Lake Hockey League, are happy that the Colosseum will forever be linked with the NHL as part of winning the title of Kraft Hockeyville USA, which also included $150,000 in arena upgrades.

"It means so much," Yeo said. "I've been playing here since I was four, growing up, watching games here and now we get to host an NHL game is something I never would have pictured in my life. It's going to be surreal seeing NHL guys skate on the same ice that I've been playing on since I was four."

It may have some unusual features and not modernized like many other rinks, but it will always be home to those in the upper peninsula in Calumet.

"The atmosphere, there's no other place like it," Yeo said. "Who else has locker rooms in the basement? It's very unique, it's very cool. Great history, a lot of great players have come out of this program and played at this rink."

With more than 100 years of history, Calumet Colosseum won't be slowing down anytime soon thanks to help from Kraft.

"This is a proud moment for us and Calumet," Letho said. "I wish a couple buddies of mine who we lost in the past few years could be here and enjoy this. I hope they're watching. This is one of the biggest things that has ever happened around here.

"We're certainly set up for the next 30 years of hockey."

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