By Ron Rop
Muskegon has a long and storied history of hockey.
There were great teams, great coaches and great players. And, one of those names known as being synonymous with Muskegon hockey is Moose Lallo.
Since 2002, The Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame host this Holiday Basketball Classic tournament featuring schools from the Greater Muskegon area, the goal was to provide sports entertainment over the Christmas break, and to create a new fundraising opportunity for the schools that participate in the event. Joe Kinnucan had a chance to sit down and speak with the Hall of Fame's president Mike Mack learn more about Mike himself, the organization and this years basketball tournament (11:00 in video).
The formation of a new semi pro hockey league - The Michigan Independence Hockey League. Owners of four different teams gathered together at the Lakeshore Sports Centre, Norton Shores, Michigan, for a press conference - Cam Bernicki of Alpena, Myles Grix of Gaylord, Cody Mulready of Muskegon, and Matt Spoelhof of Holland, Michigan.
We were once again invited out to be part of the Muskegon Area Prep Hockey press confrence this past week and we welcomed a new face to the Muskegon Channel, Nick Howard.
Muskegon Voyagers Hockey Club announces new logo, jersey and plans on moving forward. The team is currently working on bringing back semi-pro hockey to Muskegon, Michigan in winter 2020.
There's a long road ahead for the beginnings of a new hockey team, league, concept and venue in Muskegon....but like we've seen in Muskegon more than once, sometimes when the odds seem stacked against something, Muskegon is the perfect spot to put down a couple of seeds, tend them properly and watch them grow. Everyone in and around this new venture that should be getting off the ground this Fall in Muskegon is working to have that recipe for success repeat itself and if it does, well, it would be a great addition to the storied sports history we have and add another chapter to what we have happening now!
The brewing got under was a couple of years ago actually. It was the initial talks for the new "I.H.L" the Interstate Hockey League which was being formed to give players post college a chance to keep playing and maintain their skills. It was also a dream to be able to give hockey fans another league to follow at their local arena's that might not have had a team for a while. Places like Holland, Lansing, Fraser and Port Huron. Sure, Muskegon makes the list too but we've been "Hockey Town West" since the beginning of time so it's only natural to have a single A pro team want to play here.
Right now...try out camps have happened. We've also gotten to the point where the team, and league is looking for some sponsorship's. They are also just starting to get the word out about the team, arena and how they hope to fold into Muskegon's sports scene. I met up with Muskegon Voyagers General Manager Alex Hoffman to learn a little more about how it's all coming together at Lakeshore Sports Center, which will serve as home ice for the Muskegon Voyagers, take a listen.
A big endeavor, with humble beginnings...just the kind of thing we like to cover! Alex and his team are going to be working their tails off to launch this and like we've seen time and time again in Muskegon...it's that grit...that drive and determination that makes us who we are. We shall see. Best of luck to the Voyagers on getting yet another offering to Muskegon's avid sports fans up and off the ground. We've got it all. Football, basketball, hockey, soccer, auto racing, figure skating and of course high school athletics that can't be matched! It's a great time to be a Muskegon sports fan! Click on the photo below to visit the Muskegon Voyagers website!
Yes...Summer is here...kind of. We have yet to hit our fist 80 degree day, but all the ice is gone and being that we're "Hockeytown West" most everyone is sitting around with nothing to do. Ok, maybe not, but...hockey is a part of the fiber of all of our lives. If you grew up here, chances are you played a little. If you're a transplant, chances are you know someone who plays or did play. If you're a long time "Muskegonite" you can probably recall back to the days of Moose Lallo, Brian McClay, Callendar....the list goes on and on. We were hockey before hockey was cool. Period. End of Story.
Well, maybe not quite. Hockey isn't something you just "shake off" when the season is over. Maybe a quick week off to recoup a little but then it's right back to training, finding some ice somewhere to drop in and enjoy a pick up game or two. Of course for hockey parents...it's time to find the next size up equipment and a second mortgage for the house to actually buy that equipment...and then of course...there's the entire off season lying about last season and how awesome you were playing. Hey, what good is a sport unless you can stretch the truth a little while you're waiting for the rink to freeze again?
Here's the deal. You can find all of that and more on June 8th for the grown up's and June 9th for youth when Coast 2 Coast Hockey comes to Lakeshore Sports Center to put on a one day, fast paced 3 on 3 hockey tournament for all age groups. Any age level from Squirts to the over 40 crowd will find a bracket and 6 game guardsmen. They will also have a hockey gear swap meet/flea market for $10 a table (tables provided) to help those with growing hockey players keep the costs down. Live music going on, a beverage tent and more. There is also a huge giveback element at the tournament with Kids Food Basket on hand and receiving donations to sustain the work they do making sure our kids don't go to be hungry here in Muskegon at night.
Justin Grevious is behind all this. A local hockey export himself, Justin graduated from Shores and has quite a story about the impact hockey, and the people in it have had on his life. Take a listen to our chat about the tournament and how you can get your team involved!
Maybe you want to play...or maybe you just miss the refrigerated barn. I mean, it's going to get over 80 at some point...right? It might even be just a chance to get some hockey buddies together for a day and have some fun in an exciting and purposeful atmosphere where hockey is celebrated and Kids Food Basket gets another hand in all the work they do. Don't miss the Coast 2 Coast 3 on 3 tournament on June 9th at Lakeshore! Get your team registered by visiting their website below.
We're unique into ourselves in Muskegon. We have our own rich history in so many ways. From names like Hackley and Hume, to LC Walker and Shaw....who we are and where we came from isn't defined by anything other than the names of the founders of this community and they are written all over town as they should be. We are also very fortunate in the fact that anywhere in the state of Michigan, when a sports team hears that they are playing a team from Muskegon, there is a moment of pause given because the reputation of our athletes and the teams that are built here are nothing to be toyed with.
If the name Big Reds or Sailors pops up or maybe Tigers, Wildcats, Trojans, Vikings and more comes up, things get pretty quiet in the other teams locker rooms and with good reason. Our teams are strong, focused and an excellent part of the overall educational experience in the Muskegon Area School District. We have championship football teams almost every year. Our basketball programs are incredible and we can't forget the other sports too... baseball, track, cross country and more. We have an incredibly rich history of athletics in Muskegon and it's carefully curated by The Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.
Organized in 1986 the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame has all of their collection on display at the LC Walker Arena. There are parts of it for the moment that are not readily seen due to the renovations at the arena, but over 100 sports notables have been inducted over the last 30 years and the tradition continues. This year they are narrowing down the candidates and will be announcing the inductees soon. Philanthropy has been a big part of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame as well giving back in excess of over $100,000 to area schools.
They have a fun event coming up over the holiday break. It's going to be held December 27th at Reeths-Puffer HS. It's the Hall of Fame Basketball Classic. It's a $5 donation at the door to get in to see an entire day of basketball action. For that $5 bucks you can see basketball all day! You'll see teams from Shores, Puffer and Muskegon and coming in to take them on will be G.R. Christian, Holland West Ottawa and East Kentwood. Huge games and huge purpose, to help the HOF and the work they do for today's athletes.
Mike Mack is the President of the HOF and we sat down to talk about the organization and the game coming up. Take a listen.
Circles back to what we're all about. Muskegon is rich with our own history, but more importantly, our own future. We look back with pride on the athletes we've had and we help foster those who are competing today. After all, those competing today are our future and who knows..someday, it might be them going up on the wall in the arena. If you'd like to know more about the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame, click on their logo below and visit their website and save the date for the basketball calssic on December 27th.
We first met up with the amazing young athletes of the Muskegon Lakeshore Figure Skating Club just before Halloween. Like most of our stories, it all started with a mom who sent in a message wondering if we'd be interested in talking about a bunch of kids who were doing a little show for friends and family, but they put in so much work that she was just hoping to see if anyone would help share the story. It's our favorite message to get actually. Yes. We will be the first on hand to help and you know, we have some friends that might be able to help too. Word spreads and before you know it, nearly 400 show up to see kids from 5-18 pouring their heart and soul into their art and between the different media outlets that helped them out...a little spark happened and we're now known as much for our figure skaters as we are our countless hockey players here on the Lakeshore.
Hey, we're all about advancing great things, and great kids. We love to see beautiful things take off and we love to see the hard work, dedication and drive of both the athletes and parents of these kind of things be rewarded with some attention. They deserve it. Launching a career in figure skating isn't easy and the time and energy put in is done in the hopes that someone, somewhere will be thrilled to see it and the athlete will be recognized for their accomplishments and hard work.
We're also all about helping fill some seats at the newly renovated LC Walker Arena! So, here's the details! Sunday, December 9th you're invited to see the show that begins at 3:45. It should be about an hour long and you'll see these talented young future champions strut their stuff to some of your favorite holiday songs. There will be some group routines as well as individual performances and the best part is that it's a free show. They are asking for a $5 donation if you can swing it, but if money is a little tight and you'd just like to treat the family to a wonderful holiday treat, the doors are open to ya.
I caught up with Kelly St. Martin who's with the Muskegon Lakeshore Figure Skating Club to talk a little about the club and the event. Take a listen.
We're coming along great in Muskegon, but we might not get the Johnny Weir and Tara Lapinski Christmas Wonderland skating show just yet, but in reality...wouldn't you rather see our local kids get a "Standing O" and flowers tossed on the ice after a show? After all, there are our kids and our future. Let's get down there and support them and show them that their hard work and dedication to their craft pays off! We'll plan on seeing you Sunday at 3:45 at the LC Walker Arena! For more details on The Muskegon Lakeshore Figure Skating Club, click on the photo below!
It was an interview we caught a little earlier this Summer at Stand Up for the Cure in Muskegon, but as the beginnings of the Fall season start and there's a familiar chill in the air, people start thinking a little more about hockey.
Our long standing tradition continues this year in Muskegon as the Lumberjacks of the USHL get ready for their 2018-19 campaign in a newly renovated LC Walker Arena. It will be a new experience for the fans with the new lay out of the facility, menu options, Rad Dad's Taco's inside the place and a lot of new fun amenities that have been added to enhance the experience. It's also a pretty good mix of returning players and new faces who are on their way to bright futures in the NCAA ranks or maybe on their way to the NHL to live out their hockey dreams on the grandest of stages. Currently, there are 25 former Muskegon Lumberjacks who have been drafted by NHL teams and the list keeps growing.
We've been known for some pretty amazing local hockey players. Former pros who have stuck around town, younger players who have gone on to bigger things....some former coaches who are now top brass for their NHL teams, but none stand out more at the moment than Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings. Justin played in the USHL for Cedar Rapids, went on to Michigan State, The Grand Rapids Griffins and then got the call to be a Red Wing. What Michigan hockey kid doesn't dream of that? He's given us all something to be very proud of and represents himself and his community well all over the world.
Justin was home for a while this Summer and made a surprise guest appearance to help raise a few bucks against breast cancer at Stand Up for the Cure and since Andy O was the emcee, we grabbed some footage of the chat and learned a little about the off season, his career and how the USHL help shape him to be the player he is today. Take a listen.
Our thanks to Justin for taking a few minutes to talk hockey in his "off season" and of course, our thanks too to Justin for coming home to support such an important cause. He's a great young man and as hockey season approaches...remember the work and dedication it takes to get the the level he did and how we've got that same drive and determination happening right here at the LC Walker Arena from October-April. The future of the NHL is happening right here and now in Muskegon! Be there for it! You can learn more about the Lumberjacks by visiting their website below.
It's easily one of the most historic spots we have in Muskegon County. Since 1916 Marsh Field has seen more history play out on it's hallowed grounds than just about anywhere. From the original farm team of the New York Yankees called the Muskegon Clippers to the years when women took over and it was the Muskegon Belles or the Muskegon Lassies and the Outwin Zephyrs who played there when it was the "Negro Leagues". A time that we're all glad has passed. After all, it's is the Great American Pastime....that should include all Americans, right?
Today, the Muskegon Clippers once again call it home although today's Clippers are collegiate level players who are looking to hone their skills and develop in their "off season" while school isn't in session. Much like the Muskegon Lumberjacks, the Clippers team players are billeted to area families while they are here to play. They get a roof over their head and they commit to making sure that while they are here they get to develop, train, stay healthy and hopefully one day work their way up to the big leagues. It's a long road...it's a lifetime of dedication and development that not many can make, but to know that Muskegon plays a role in their future really resonates. After all, Muskegon is known for building great things. Why shouldn't we be building the future generation of athletes in any sport?
A Clippers game is a GREAT family night out. Season tickets are only $80 bucks. Single game tickets start at only $5 and there will be lots of added amenities this season for fans. Concessions are kept affordable, there are tailgate opportunities, beverages are cold hot dogs are hot and one of the best parts of the game is that the intimacy you'll feel with the players and staff won't be found anywhere else. You are literally within talking distance to the players. It's a remarkably up close and personal feel.
The home opener of the Muskegon Clippers season is happening at Marsh Field on June 8th. It's this Friday night and they are expecting a great crowd for opening night, so if you're planning on going, get there early and get your spot in the seats. There is also some added lawn seating this year so it might not hurt you to have a lawn chair in the car with ya if you'd like to go that route. Game time is 7:05p Friday night.
I caught up with Pitching Coach and General Manager Steve Cutter to talk a little about the team and the upcoming season at Marsh Field. Take a listen to our chat to hear more.
We're proud to support the Muskegon Clippers and we're even more proud to know they support us. When you're at the game, keep an eye out for the big Muskegon Channel banner hanging out there in the outfield. This is something we have to be proud of in Muskegon and rally around. Make sure you head to Marsh Field to catch a game or two this Summer. Enjoy the history. Enjoy the community and maybe catch a future All Star playing right here in Muskegon and you can say you saw them when. For more on the Muskegon Clippers. Click on their photo below to visit the team website!
For 5 years now, we've had a little bit of hockey history added to the lore that is Muskegon hockey. NHL Hall of Fame goalie John Vanbiesbrouck has been the General Manager of the Muskegon Lumberjacks and has been in charge of a lot of the behind the scenes type stuff. Sure, the Jacks have come a long, long way when it comes to the entertainment value to the fan, but in the USHL that's only part of the show.
The USHL is the top tier of developmental hockey in the United States. The league is the proving ground for a future where athletes will take the next step on to the Division 1 NCAA competition or spring board directly into the National Hockey League. If you have watched over the last couple of years, players have come in from all over the planet to play in Muskegon. Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia. All parts of the USA and Canada too. What we have now is truly a global destination for players to develop and the direction of John Vanbiesbrouck is a big part of their choice to come to Muskegon in the dead of winter to learn, grow and develop as players.
Well, the hockey family suffered a loss of Jim Johannson in January of 2018. It was just before the Olympics and Jim was the General Manager of the US Team. It was a shock to the entire hockey community and felt across all levels of the sport. Certainly not easy shoes to fill, but with the skills and desire to help form the next generations of hockey players inside John and his passion about the sport and athletes competing in it...I think it's pretty safe to assume he was on the short list to take the next step to head up a level and begin to represent the entire country for the hockey program we have. John took the job with USA Hockey and his time in Muskegon is up.
John is a great leader and mentor. He also brought in none of the ego you might expect with a Hall of Fame goalie. His approach to work and Muskegon has been just what we're used to. Be proud of the team, the town and the objective. Hold your head high and don't let anyone take away what's being done at the LC Walker Arena because it's truly where the future of hockey is being written. He's brought in first round draft picks and he's challenged some of the players to fight through some of the hardest things they could possibly imagine. Thousands of miles from home, language barriers, being away from friends and relatives at a young age...he's got players climbing Mt. Everest before they are 22 so they can live the dream he did in the NHL.
I sat down to talk with John before he left. Take a listen and hear what's next for "Beezer"
We'll miss him for sure at the rink, but the opportunity is so big. On a players level, we're starting to see former Lumberjacks make their NHL debuts. It's a progressive league focused on being a spring board to greater things for everyone involved including our very own Hockey Hall of Fame GM. I don't foresee John being a stranger, but it sure will be fun to watch and see what he builds for the Olympics and to see his signature continue to be put on the lives of the players and the sport for years to come. Our very best wishes to John and thanks for taking a few minutes to talk about your time in Muskegon. To visit the Muskegon Lumberjacks site, click on the image below.
Muskegon is a proud hockey town. We have a rich history in the sport and we've built generations of players right here in town. Our pee wee leagues are bursting at the seams, the high school programs are thriving and at the LC Walker Arena the next generation of NCAA and NHL players are being built in the top tier developmental league in the world...the USHL. We have young players, and their families coming from all over the world to perfect their skills for their shot at the big time.
Hockey is a physical and tough sport. The strength and stamina it takes to play is tough for anyone. Now, imagine wanting to play hockey, but...you don't have the use of your legs. To the players on the Grand Rapids Sled Wings...the answer is pretty simple. So what. They are going to play hockey anyway. That's the attitude to have.
The Sled Wings are a two layered team. There is the youth group and the adult team. They compete all over the country and spread the word that hockey is for everyone. They are supported by Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and the goal is simple. To give those with lower limb affected disabilities the chance to play, compete, be on a team, grow friendships, share in victory and learn from loss. They have also found a group who are sincerely out to win hockey games, and they don't mind one bit coming in to a hosting barn and showing the home team who's boss.
Locally, Philipe Hernandez is like any other kid. Watched him grow up at the Jacks games coming with his grandfather Ralph Burr who was the Head Score keeper for the team for years. Philipe decided he wanted to play regardless of his chair and found the Sled Wings a few years ago and has been part of the team ever since. Coach Steve Kozlowski has been an elemental part of all if it as well, being with the team for years and seeing first hand how the sport and the team has effected the young people that play. We sat down to talk sled hockey and the upcoming game against the Jacks on Feb 25th. Take a listen.
February 24th during intermission you'll get a quick chance to see some of the Sled Wings in action during the Muskegon Lumberjacks game then on the 25th The Muskegon Lumberjacks take on the Sled Wings in a game at the LC Walker Arena. It's a donation to get in, so if you head there to check out the game, consider a $10 spot to help the Sled Wings continue their love of hockey and their mission to spread the word that hockey....is for everyone. In Muskegon...with our rich hockey history....we know that to be true. Click on the photo below for more on the Sled Wings.