I love old hockey barns. The UP is rich in hockey history, and contains several pre-WWII indoor hockey rinks. When my son played for Petoskey’s travel team, my family made annual pilgrimages to Houghton, Newberry, Calumet and Marquette. We loved exploring the old arenas before and after games. We toured the hallway museums. We soaked in the history. Hockey is a timeless sport, and there something absolutely magical watching a game in some of the nation’s oldest rinks.
This past weekend, my friend’s son was playing in the Kaine Classic at Kaine Ice Rink in Sault Ste. Marie. He’s a 6-year-old mini-mite, and this was the first opportunity my son and I would have to watch him skate with kids his age.
Kaine Ice Rink is one of Northern Michigan’s historic treasures. It was originally built to house the city’s street cars. Once the cars were sold off, John Kaine purchased the structure and opened a boiler and machine shop. Kaine, a rabid hockey fan, converted the barn into the Soo’s first indoor hockey rink. It has been used for hockey ever since (minus a few decades when it was a roller skating rink).
When we arrived in Soo, the temperature was -15°F. The barn is not air conditioned (they merely open the windows on one wall) and the rink itself is not heated. Thus the temperature inside Kaine was nearly -15 as well. A true barn.
The ice sheet is not regulation size, so the rink is used primarily for the youngest skaters. This weekend was a mini-mite tournament. Children ages 4-6 shared the ice. Some played, showcasing remarkable skills for a child so young. Others merely stared up at the rafters or talked to their friends. The smallest of Petoskey’s players merely stood at the wall, begging his parents to lift him off the ice.
“Dad I passed the puck,” one Petoskey child bragged to his father along the boards.
“Don’t talk. You have to protect your net,” the father replied.
The son looked over his shoulder as the Gaylord team shot the puck just wide of the net. “But I’m telling you how I passed the puck.”
The crowd laughed, which made the young child beam beneath his cage.
That is youth hockey in one of America’s oldest hockey rinks.