HOUGHTON, Mich. — Hockey rules this remote part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where it is played by everyone from children to those in their 70s and 80s. All through the long winter it is always game on — in modern arenas, outside (into the wee hours of the night) and in two of the oldest hockey rinks in the world.
Professional hockey was born here in Copper Country in 1902, 15 years before the N.H.L. was formed. Even before that, the game was king in Houghton, Hancock, Calumet and nearby towns when they were at the center of a mining boom.
The mining is gone, the woods dotted with abandoned buildings and ghost towns. Only about 44,000 live in the area now, but the love affair with hockey endures. And the Michigan Tech Huskies are winning again, at last.
Tech’s hockey tradition stretches back 95 years and includes three N.C.A.A. Division I titles, in the 1960s and ’70s, but the Huskies have finished above .500 only once since 1993. This season, though, they opened with 10 straight victories, their best start in history, and achieved their first No. 1 ranking. Now 13-3-0, Tech is ranked No. 5, having split a two-game series with No. 7 Minnesota-Duluth last week.
“The last 20 years have been brutal,” said Michael Tomasi, 62, a longtime fan of Tech, which is in Houghton. “But this year they’ve raised everyone’s morale. They raised the morale of me.”
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