It has been my pleasure to watch the Petoskey Northmen Class of 2013 play hockey for the better part of ten years. Most of the players from this class are young men and women that I have watched since some of them could barely stand up on skates. My son is a fortunate member of this amazing group of athletes.
Eleven senior players will be graduating from this team in a few short weeks. Eleven players from the 1995 and 1994 age groups that represent some of the best players the Northern Michigan region has produced. The depth of skill throughout the region is this age group is unmatched by any preceeding senior classes. It is not isolated to Petoskey, but is throughout Traverse City, Sault Ste. Marie, Cheboygan, Alpena, Cadillac and other small communities that many of you have never heard of until today.
There is not much in the way of traditional travel hockey in our area. Travel was just something every player and family has gotten used to since these players were mini-mites. It was never unusual for any of us to travel 3 or 4 hours for a game, when you have to drive an hour just to get to the shopping mall a three hour drive for a game is nothing.
This group of players has grown up together. Countless tournaments later, they will play their final home game in Petoskey tonight. Some will move on to Junior and eventually to College hockey, but for many, this will be the end of competitive hockey. As someone who scouts the game for a living I can honestly say that this is the finest group of players to ever come from Petoskey when you look at the depth of the group.
These are the players that were first to play in an indoor rink in Petoskey. Yes, we played out doors until the dawn of this new century. Our first indoor facility was a bubble, one where many of us experienced the roof caving in due to the snow on some days. This is a group of players who regularly won youth tournaments, and consistently was one of the best groups in MAHA District 7. This is a group that represents the big boom of growth in our hockey community.
This is the first Petoskey High School team to win a league championship, and a team that will finish the season with the most wins in a season.
As a parent, I can not help but hope that the future of hockey in our area can be as bright as this group of players has made the recent past. I can only hope that some of the younger players in the area will see the game tonight and aspire to be as good as this group has been.
More than anything though I hope that these players will realise just how special this experience has been for them growing up, and how special tonight is for their parents. For some parents this will be the end of active involvement hockey. The void left behind for them will not be an easy one to fill.
To my fellow Northmen Parents, enjoy the evening. Tears may flow, but they will surely be tears of joy filled with fantastic memories. Tonight is a night of celebrating all of the years that you have spent with your children that so many only wish they could have spent with theirs.
It is the culmination of mini stick games in hotel hallways, the hundreds of pizzas eaten as a team, the early monring trips to the hockey shop when you forgot something, the endless supply of mouthgards that always seem to get lost. The summer camps are over for some, and that time will be filled with preparing for college. For some it will be the final “off season”. The one that does not come back to “next season”.
Its hard not to be emotional about this game.
Every player who has ever played a “last game” knows that these memories will be eternally etched in their minds. Every parent who has ever had child play this game can tell you stories that only they would remember about their child. Tonight will create another in our mental scrap books.
For me, I will have eyes wide open. I will look to fill the last few pages of Petoskey Hockey memories as I prepare to watch these players move on in life. I wish you as much success in life as you have achieved on the ice.
Thank you Seniors, its been a hell of a ride.
#1 Breanna Merriam Senior Goaltender, #4 Derek Smith Senior Forward, #7 Nikolas Kolodziej Senior Defense, #8 Kevin Hansen Senior Defense, #9 Cam Ludlow Senior Forward, #11 Ken Forton Senior Defense, #12 Aaron Cook Senior Forward, #14 Nick Trombley Senior Defense, #17 Tanner Davis Senior Forward, #19 Brandon Pomranke Senior Forward, #23 Skye Pieffer Senior Forward.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher