- Paul Swaney
John J. MacInnes Student Ice Arena – Michigan Tech Huskies
Photos by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
John J. MacInnes Student Ice Arena
Houghton, MI 49931
Michigan Tech Huskies men’s hockey website
MacInnes Student Ice Arena website
Year Opened: 1972
Huskie Hockey in Houghton
When you enter John MacInnes Student Ice Arena you are bound to be excited about the hockey contest you are about to see. If you’re not, then just wait until about 25 minutes before the puck drops when the pep band enters the arena, led by the drum corps, and marches (or maybe saunters) to their perch in the far corner of the arena.
Pilgrimage may be too strong a word when making the trip to Houghton, Michigan to see Michigan Tech Huskies hockey given the religious connotations that come with the word, but at the very least you will have made quite a journey to reach the copper country of the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan.
The Huskies are three-time NCAA Champions (1962, 1965, and 1975). They play in the John MacInnes Student Ice Center, named for the former head coach of the Michigan Tech hockey program who served in that role from 1956-1982, leading the team to each of its three NCAA championships. A trip to Houghton for Michigan Tech hockey is well worth the long and snowy drive.
Food & Beverage 3
At first glance, the food and drink selection is well below average. However, the hot dogs ($3.25) are some of the best that I have had. They are much more like a kielbasa, with that smoky goodness than like any hot dog. Also in the main concourse, you can find fantastic ice cream, with flavors ranging from Mackinac Island Fudge to Blue Moon to the irresistible Yooper Mud Slide.
Other selections include nachos ($3.50), nacho cheese dog ($3.75), and popcorn ($2). Pepsi products are the fountain soda of choice with small ($1.50) and large sizes ($2.50). Hot beverages include coffee ($1.50), hot chocolate ($1.75), and cappuccino ($1.75). It may be a basic menu, but what they have is very good.
For more than 40 years, MacInnes Arena has been the home of Michigan Tech hockey. The band certainly sets the tone for early energy, but the student section is immense and active as well.
What’s more, the seats (black and gold plastic chairbacks) are comfortable and roomy with better than average legroom, but no cupholders. There’s also good pitch between the rows, so you shouldn’t have to worry about a large-headed soul in front of you blocking your view. Almost all of the seating is on either the north or south side, with a few bleachers and handicap seating on the east side behind the goal where the Huskies shoot twice.
The game presentation itself is pretty basic. The scoreboard is standard with no video replay capabilities, and you can expect the typical intermission contests like chuck-a-puck or some other race of some kind. The mascot, a huskie named Blizzard, does a good job of being a part of the presentation both on the ice and in the stands.
I really can’t speak enough though about the band. They make this arena experience special. Dressed in black and gold striped overalls, they are the non-stop entertainment, keeping fans engaged during breaks and intermissions.
Houghton, Michigan is a small town in the western part of the Upper Peninsula. Michigan Tech is the primary employer in Houghton, so this is very much a college town through and through.
The main downtown strip along Shelden Avenue is where you want to be either before or after the game. The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub is a great choice to spend some time with, located on Isle Royale Street. They have terrific burgers, sandwiches, and eight locally-made beers. There are also a couple of TVs to stay on top of the recent sporting events.
Just down the road, if you enjoy microbrews, stop into the Keweenaw Brewing Company for one of their home-crafted ales. At only $2.50 per pint, it is an inexpensive way to experience the great beers in this town. If you’re in town for breakfast, then a stop at Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant would be a wise destination. The Finnish French Toast will be easily finished. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Let’s just say it’s delicious.
Finally, if you are looking for some good seafood, then Joey’s Seafood & Grill is the place for you. If you’re just looking for a good place to get your drink on, then try the Downtowner. Whatever you’re looking for, you should be able to find it in the pleasant downtown area of Houghton.
The student section at Michigan Tech is one of the best that you will find in the NCAA. They take up almost an entire side of the arena, and they stand and cheer and chant and dance for the entire game. They wave flags, and just generally wreak havoc. You could sit and watch this crew the entire game and get your money’s worth.
The rest of the fans are not slouches either. They know their hockey and love their team, and that is evident from beginning to end.
Parking will cost you $5, and you still have to walk just a little bit as you will be outside of the Gates Tennis Center. It isn’t an exorbitant price, but it is a little more when compared to the other Division I teams in the Upper Peninsula. You should be able to get in and out of the arena without a lengthy delay, and the arena is easy enough to find, just south of M-41 on MacInnes Drive. The concourses are easy to navigate inside the arena, even during intermissions, and the restrooms are of adequate size and cleanliness.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets start at just $5 for standing-room tickets, and there is plenty of railing to grab a standing spot along the east side of the arena. The top ticket price is $20 for reserved seats. When you add in the cost of parking, a hot dog, and a drink, then it will cost you somewhere between $15-$30 to see a Michigan Tech hockey game. This is well worth the cost for what may be one of the better atmospheres in all of collegiate hockey.
I love being in an arena with national championship banners. Even though it has been since 1975 since Michigan Tech last won an NCAA title, and 1976 since they won a conference title, this is still a proud and historic hockey program.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan loves its hockey, and of the three Division-I- I programs in this part of the state, the experience to be had at MacInnes Arena is the best. The pep band and student sections are each top-notch, and well worth another extra point.
A journey (and it is a journey) to Houghton, Michigan to see the Michigan Tech Huskies is well worth the trip. Whether you live in the area, are a major hockey fan, or you are just following your team on the road, you will enjoy what you find at MacInnes Arena.