Roenick leads Q&A
Following each teams practice, NBC Sports commentator Jeremy Roenick led a question and answer session on the ice.
Blues forward Zach Sanford and goalie Jake Allen as well as Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin and defenseman Danny DeKeyser were at center ice with Roenick, and kids asked them questions.
Which player on another team would you acquire?
"There's a lot of good players in the League that score on me a lot but I'd have to say (Edmonton Oilers center) Connor McDavid," Allen said. "He just brings everything to the game, brings the speeds and he's been the best player in the League the past couple of years."
DeKeyser opted for another star in the League.
"It'd probably be (Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney) Crosby just because I know playing against him how tough he is to play against and how good of a player he is," DeKeyser said.
Larkin opted for a goalie.
"I'd take Carey Price. It's important to have a goalie that can steal games and I think he's done that."
The players were also asked how much time they practice each day, what they do to improve off-ice and how they overcame hardships, and who their favorite teams and players were growing up.
Following the Q&A, the NHL Players' Association Goals & Dreams fund donated $10,000 worth of brand new hockey equipment to the community.
DeKeyser, Red Wings savor experience
Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser is from Macomb Township, Michigan, and knows how passionate Michigan hockey fans are, but even he was surprised by the turnout Thursday.
"I didn't really know what to expect," he said. "I figured everyone up here was going to be pretty excited but I didn't know they were going to shut the whole town down."
DeKeyser and his teammates had a morning skate in front of a crowd of several hundred people, which isn't something they're used to.
"It was fun, it was awesome," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "There was a lot of excitement coming off the bus so it's great."
Blashill played youth hockey in the upper peninsula including in the Calumet Colosseum.
"It looks awesome," he said. "As I came on the ice I said it almost looks brand new. It's been a long time since I played here but I did a long time ago, had some good battles back in the dad. ... We're looking forward to it, it'll be a lot of fun."
Two Red Wings forwards, Dominik Shine and Troy Loggins played at Northern Michigan in the states upper peninsula.
"Any time you get to play for the Red Wings, it's a big deal and especially being in the U.P. and playing four years here," Shine who attended Northern Michigan from 2013-17 said.
Loggins played one season with Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League (2014-15) and spent four years at Northern Michigan (2015-19). He was excited at the state of the rink.
"I didn't know that when we first got here but it's a really nice rink for being 100 years old," he said.
Blashill said he would tell the players to take in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"I know what it would have meant to me as a you guy growing up and a Red Wings fan," Blashill said. "You don't get every day touches with NHL stars like Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha and guys like that so to be able to be up close and personal I know for me it would've been a really neat experience."
Calvin Pickard is expected to start in goal for Detroit whose full lineup can be found here.
Reinke enjoys homecoming
Mitch Reinke spent two seasons at Michigan Tech (2016-18), a 12-minute drive to Calumet.
The Blues defenseman has never played at Calumet Colosseum but is excited to get that chance.
"I saw a couple of signs out there for me and stuff and people I recognize," Reinke said. It's cool, you see how passionate the fans are."
Blues coach Craig Berube said it reminded him of when he was a kid.
"It's cool to come to a little town, a little rink like this," Berube said. "Fans are excited to watch an NHL game here and come to an old historic rink like this is a pretty cool experience for everybody. I grew up in a little town in Western Canada so I'm pretty familiar with this kind of scenario."
Red Wings, Blues take red carpet
The visiting St. Louis Blues were the first team to arrive at Calumet Colosseum on Thursday. Led by forwards Ryan O'Reilly andDavid Perron, defenseman Vince Dunn, and goalie Jordan Binnington, the players got off their bus, took pictures and signed autographs for hundreds of fans.
The hometown Detroit Red Wings arrived next. Forwards Anthony Mantha and Taro Hirose, and defensemen Madison Bowey and Danny DeKeyser were among the notable players to make an appearance.
However, the biggest cheer was for Detroit forward Dylan Larkin, a fan favorite who will be among four players to take part in a Q&A session with several kids after practice. Larkin met with a girl and her mother and took a picture and signed her jersey after she won an auction at a fundraising gala.
The Blues are scheuded to practice first, followed by the Red Wings.
Roenick emcees fundraising gala
Jeremy Roenick emceed a fundraising gala at the Calumet Wellness and Recreation Center on Wednesday to support the local community.
There were around 20 items auctioned off, including Red Wings and Blues signed jerseys, season tickets to Michigan Tech hockey, and a trip to see a Chicago Blackhawks game and have dinner with Roenick. More than $14,000 was raised.
Having grown up in a small town in Connecticut himself, Roenick understands how important this week is for Calumet.
"This brings us back to where we grew up," Roenick said. "A lot of us in the small towns were playing in small arenas for our Pee-Wee team or squirt team. Most of us come from small town America, and Kraft Hockeyville celebrates small town America. It brings people together for one common goal, and that's to celebrate the game of hockey and being part of a community."
Roenick, who retired in 2009 after 20 seasons as an NHL forward, has attended each of the five Kraft Hockeyville USA games: Johnstown, Pennsylvania (2015); Marquette, Michigan, (2016); Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania (2017); Clinton, New York (2018).
"It's great because these aren't the places that [the NHL] would tend to come," he said. "You see the look on their faces and these people would never have the thoughts of us coming up here. I think it's really important that we do celebrate the game but that we celebrate it in the communities that really are passionate."
Binnington, O'Reilly, Parayko among Blues expected at Hockeyville
The Stanley Cup champions are bringing their stars to Kraft Hockeyville.
Goalie Jordan Binnington, center Ryan O'Reilly and defenseman Colton Parayko are each expected to be in the lineup when the St. Louis Blues play the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday at Calumet Colosseum (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Binnington was a Calder Trophy finalist last season, going 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and five shutouts in 32 games. He became the first rookie goalie to win 16 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and helped the Blues win the Cup for the first time in their 51-season history.
O'Reilly won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 26 playoff games last season. He played in Marquette, Michigan, the Kraft Hockeyville winner, as a member of the Buffalo Sabres in 2017.
The entire projected lineup can be found here.
Blashill has fond memories of Calumet Colosseum
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and although it wasn't close to Calumet, he knows what hockey means to this community.
"To be able to play a game in the U.P., I grew up in the U.P., albeit five hours away (Sault Ste. Marie) on the better side of the U.P., but nonetheless, I played youth hockey in this arena a long time ago," Blashill said after Red Wings practice on Wednesday.
Blashill, who played goalie, was asked how he fared when he played at the Calumet Colosseum.
"It's a lot of years ago, so I'm going to say I played really well and had a shutout," he joked. "We had great battles, it was a great spot to grow up and play in the Sioux."
The Red Wings are expected to arrive in Calumet on Thursday morning. They will walk the red carpet before practicing in front of a capacity crowd.
"I think it's awesome, it's a great opportunity," Blashill said. "I've got some friends and family that I grew up playing with that live in the Calumet area or Marquette, Michigan, and coming up. ...It's great for the U.P., it's great for Calumet. ... I think we were close to having some opportunities to play in Kraft Hockeyville before but our schedule didn't allow it."
Officials clinic, fundraising gala with Roenick
With the Blues and Red Wings less than 24 hours from arriving and greeting fans at Calumet Colosseum, the rink enters its final preparations. While that is going on, a few dozen officials will get to participate in a clinic on the ice to help them hone their craft.
Later at night, there will be a fundraising gala at the famous Calumet Theatre in which former NHL player and NBC Sports analyst Jeremy Roenick will emcee the festivities with all money raised in the gala being donated to hockey programs in the community.
The Blues and Red Wings rosters for the game Thursday are also expected to be announced Wednesday.
Great Lakes rivals go head-to-head
The oldest rivalry in professional hockey doesn't involve any NHL teams. That distinction belongs to the towns of Calumet and Portage Lake, which have played one another since 1903.
The teams in those towns were part of the International Hockey League from 1904-07, and players were paid, making the area known as Copper Country in Michigan the birthplace of professional hockey. Now each team plays in the amateur Great Lakes Hockey League.
The two teams played an exhibition game Tuesday, in front of a packed house at the recently renovated Calumet Colosseum. Portage Lake defeated Calumet 5-3 with Red Wings alumni Drew Miller and Kirk Maltby as coaches.
"It was a great atmosphere," Portage Lake defenseman Trevor Ploe said. "Drew Miller on the bench was fun, even had to lend his skates to a guy on our team who has his break in warmups."
The Calumet Colosseum opened in 1913, nine years after the Calumet Wolverines and Portage Lake Pioneers, as the teams are now named, began their rivalry. Since 1967, the Gibson Cup, known as the Stanley Cup of the North, has been awarded to the winner of a three-game series between Calumet and Portage Lake. Calumet has won it the past two seasons after losing 10 straight times from 2008-17.
"It's awesome coming in on the first game with that kind of environment," said Calumet forward Brendan Middleton. "Having a four-time Stanley Cup champion (Maltby) on the bench with us is something I'll never forget."
Though no trophy was on the line Tuesday, each team had plenty of motivation.
"Portage Lake is 12 miles down the road from us and it's been a rivalry from that Day One," said Paul Letho, who was town supervisor in Calumet since 1972 before retiring last month. "That's been our chief rival for all those years. Sometimes friendly, sometimes not so friendly, but we've survived it all."
Video: Take a look at the history of Calumet hockey
Former Red Wings forward Maltby takes part in skills clinic
Former Detroit Red Wings forward Kirk Malty participated in a skills clinic at Calumet Colosseum for Calumet Hockey Association's Under-8 teams.
"I do remember going as a child to the rink and getting on the ice," Maltby said after the two on-ice sessions. "Just going out and playing. Almost everyone from the time I started hockey to the time I left for Junior hockey, I grew up with so it's kind of like the same thing here. "
Maltby was with the Red Wings from 1995-2010 which included winning the Stanley Cup four times (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008). He had 222 points (107 goals, 115 assists) in 908 regular-season games with Detroit and 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) in 169 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
"I grew up in a relatively small community myself and we had a real old arena so I wish Kraft Hockeyville was around when I was a kid maybe," he said. "Yesterday when we were at the fair they had set up and giving out autographs, a lot of these kids weren't even born when I was playing."
Video: Kids in Calumet check out Kraft Hockeyville upgrades
Having spent more than a decade with the Red Wings, Maltby knows how much hockey means to everyone the state even if this was his first trip to the upper peninsula.
"Just the passion of the Red Wings fans around here and hockey fans in general and you can tell everyone seems to kind of know everybody and they're helping each other," he said. "You really get a sense of family and community and I would definitely come back and do this gain."
Maltby is still involved in the game as he's currently a scout with the Red Wings.
"We do definitely have a lot of good young players including Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou and Filip Hronek," he said. "There are other prospects who are going to play but they need time, another year or two to really make that jump."
The Red Wings haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three seasons after qualifying for the previous 25.
"I think we're close," Maltby said. "I think this year we are going to be a fun team to watch."
Busy day at Calumet Colosseum
It's going to be a busy day at Calumet Colosseum. The afternoon will feature a skills clinic on the ice with former NHL players including forward Kirk Maltby, who won the Stanley Cup four times and is currently a scout with the Detroit Red Wings.
Afterward, there will be a community skate with the Calumet Hockey Association followed by the high school teams skating on the ice.
The evening will conclude with an exhibition game featuring one of hockey's oldest rivalries, the Calumet Wolverines against the Portage Lake Pioneers. The teams are now part of the Great Lakes Hockey League after first playing as part of the International Hockey League in 1904.
The GLHL features players above the age of 18 who have college, junior and semi-pro experience in other leagues, and is also one of the only adult full-body checking leagues in North America.
Special event for McHugh
When Liam McHugh of NBC Sports anchors the coverage of the Kraft Hockeyville USA exhibition between the St. Louis Blues and Red Wings on Thursday at Calumet Colosseum, it will be more than just attending a game at an arena and doing his job.
His wife's family is from the upper peninsula of Michigan, and her grandfather even attended games at this rink.
"On his 94th birthday, we took him to the arena and we visited, we walked around and it's such an amazing place," McHugh said. "It's like a museum in terms of hockey history in that area."
After touring the arena, McHugh said there was one last thing he noticed at the arena which is full of hockey memorabilia, including a used hockey stick from 1904.
"And then as we're walking out, I didn't notice it on the way in, which was hard to believe because there is a massive plaque for World War II community honor roll, and an incredible amount of names on there and then there he is, name right on there: Robert Carlton," McHugh said. "I made a much bigger deal out of it than he did. It means a lot. I know it's a special place for him because I know it's a place he's been going to since he was a little kid, which tells you how old the place is."
Having attended many games here across all levels of hockey, McHugh said Carlton wouldn't miss the game on Thursday and that he'll be at the Colosseum with some family members.
"He'll be there. He's got a front row seat although most of the seats in that arena are in the front," McHugh said. "He's pumped up. He is really excited."
Red Wings, Blues alumni enjoy community celebration
Drew Miller and Brad Boyes were on opposite sides of the Red Wings-Blues rivalry when they played but the two came together for a good cause Monday at Kraft Hockeyville USA.
Each was at Alexander Agassiz Memorial Park signing autographs for fans at the community fest which raised money via food and merchandise sales that will go toward the Calumet community.
"It's a great event, it's my first time being a part of Kraft Hockeyville," said Miller, who spent eight seasons with the Red Wings from 2009-17. "You see the turnout here. It's awesome what they're doing for the arena, and what they're doing for the community is a huge thing. For me, it's just coming up here and being an alumni for the Red Wings, just being kind of a part of the whole process and celebrating with the community."
Miller spent 10 seasons in the NHL from 2007-17 and had 122 points (62 goals, 60 assists) in 571 games with the Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks, winning the Cup with the Ducks in 2007. He attended Michigan State University from 2003-06.
"They've got a great history up here," Miller said. "I love being up in north Michigan. The trees are already changing and it's just beautiful up here. ... I came up to (nearby) Michigan Tech when I was a kid for a hockey school. ... stayed on campus. That's the only time I've been up here."
The line to take a photo and get an autograph from Miller matched the line to get a picture with the Cup, showing how beloved he is.
"I'm sure it's going to mean a lot to these kids," he said of Kraft Hockeyville. "For me growing up, hockey was life. Hockey was everything to me. It's always great to be around hockey people, especially the Wings fans. They are great fans."
Boyes played 12 seasons in the NHL, including five with the Blues from 2006-11.He had 505 points (211 goals, 294 assists) in 822 games, including 43 goals with the Blues in 2007-08, which tied for fifth in the League.
"It's nice to get out and get people that are hockey fans, and huge hockey fans, and have them kind of get a taste what the NHL game is like," Boyes said. "You get to have some exposure to some of the things you wouldn't typically have in a smaller town which, I think, is awesome to get to grow the game like this."
"When I played against Detroit they always had great teams so my memories aren't the best against them because they always beat us. So here, you're surrounded by all Red Wings fans, and when I was in St. Louis it was always one of those rivalries where you wanted to stay away from the Red Wings side."
Boyes said he saw some Blues fans at the park, located a few blocks from Calumet Colosseum, in Red Wings country.
"A couple of Blues fans came up from St. Louis. ... I was flattered that they drove up to see me," he said. "I appreciated that."
He also joked that he may want to get on line to see the Cup.
"The Stanley Cup is a big deal. I've never even seen it or held it, unfortunately," he said. "But it's here, which is a big deal."
Stanley Cup visits Gardenview Senior Citizen Home
When the residents of Gardenview Senior Citizen home in Calumet woke up Monday there was a surprise waiting for them.
The Stanley Cup came by for a day the residents and staffers won't soon forget.
"Calumet is the birthplace of hockey, isn't it?" resident Gert Antioho said. "That was the first time I've seen [the Stanley Cup]. I'm 88 years old I had never seen it before.
"I've seen many games (at the Colosseum). I've seen the Calumet high school team, and we've always gone since we had four boys who went to Calumet hockey games. ... For people who are here, they can't get out, so it's great (for this to happen)."
The residents weren't the only ones excited.
"I was born and raised in Calumet and hockey's always been king," Adam Gill, director of sales and marketing for Gardenview Senior Citizen Home said. "It was just this year that we were titled 'Hockeyville' but really, it's been who we are for a long time. Hockey is just so important to our community here."
Gill grew up playing hockey and said this was a day of work he'd remember forever.
"Hockey is so big in Calumet, so for a lot of these residents, this means a lot to them, to be able to be here with their family and their loved ones and experience getting pictures with the Stanley Cup," Gill said. "We're fortunate that the Stanley Cup got to come here and the opportunity for our residents to take some photos and be around it."
Video: Stanley Cup tours Calumet ahead of Kraft Hockeyville
Cup goes back to school
The next stop on the Stanley Cup tour was CLK Elementary School for a picture day unlike any other.
"We usually do school photos in May when everyone is here, but with this opportunity here, we wanted it to be our special moment. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Matthew Hampton, principal of CLK Elementary said. "We wanted to take advantage of it since we know this will never happen again. We have 638 kids in the building. ... I think it's going to be a special moment for everyone. "
Each class got a few minutes to pose around the trophy for their class photos.
"It's a way of life," Hampton said of hockey in Calumet. "We are a hockey town. ... Everyone just thrives on hockey around this area. ...It's going to be a very big event for our community."
Dan Giachino, the coach for the high school team, the Calumet Copper Kings, knew the importance of this day and week for the community.
"Hockey is about as deep-rooted here as it gets," Giachino said. "We've had hockey for over 100 years and it is the one thing that gets us through the winters."
The pictures will go on the walls at the school and probably in the homes of all those lucky students.
"It's the greatest trophy in sports," Giachino said. "Obviously there's not very many kids that are going to be able to say that throughout the country and to have that is a very special occasion.
A special visitor for the Erkkila family
Bob Erkkila was one of the driving forces who made hockey a staple in Calumet. He was involved in the game for over 50 years at the high school and with Michigan Amateur hockey.
Erkkila died in February, a few months before Calumet and the Calumet Colosseum were named winner of Kraft Hockeyville USA. But a special tribute took place for him Monday when his family spent time with the Stanley Cup.
"He knew everything about hockey, the history of everybody no matter who it is," his son Dan Erkkila said. "You can say a name, if they played a game in the NHL, he probably knew who they were. And the Cup would even mean more than that. The names and just the whole thing and how much bigger the Cup and winning it is than any player, that's what he was about."
The Cup was brought to Bob Erkkila's residence where his family marveled at the trophy and took pictures and swapped stories about how much Bob meant to them and the town.
"He was very big when we were growing up as far as hockey is concerned," his grandson Tyler Kangas said. "Any time we had a hockey trip anywhere, whether it was down state Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, he would always come with us. It was always very special. He used to do radio up here, hockey broadcasting, and he would bring me to the games with him up at [Michigan Tech] and I'd get to go sit there and be his statistician. I'd get to watch the games from up high and listen to him on the radio. That was very special."
Bob Erkkila had 10 children, 42 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, each of whom inherited his love for the game.
"We've probably only seen this many people in the house for Thanksgivings and Christmases and this is probably one of the most special things that's ever happened to us here," Kangas said. "I know everyone's excited getting pictures and everything. It's a day we're never going to forget."
Video: Stanley Cup visits the Erkkila family home in Calumet
Even though some of the family had seen the Cup before, this day was much more special.
"It's something that I never would have expected in 100 years," Kangas said. "I've seen it a couple of times. When Randy McKay won it for the New Jersey Devils (in 2000), he brought it to our area and I got to see it as a kid, but to be able to have it in this personal of a setting in my grandpa's backyard, especially with him passing in February, it's unbelievable. I would've never thought it could happen."
Kangas lives in Florida but wasn't going to miss the chance to return home once Calumet was announced as the winner.
"Even my friends in the Navy community, I was telling them, 'Hey, my hometown could have an NHL preseason game,'" he said. "You have to get online and vote, and as soon as I saw Calumet was a finalist I knew we had a very good shot because of how famous the arena is. We're really thankful for all the money that's going to a lot of great upgrades that the arena could really use.
The family is also excited for the events this week leading up to the preseason game between the Blues and Red Wings.
"There's nothing bigger that's ever happened in this town that I would ever remember in Calumet and for the hockey association. This means everything to everyone in the area."