When you’re known as the “Original Hockey Town, USA,” you’re bound to have a handful of ice rinks that have played host to entertainment for decades. From hockey to figure skating to free-skating, Sault Ste. Marie has an ice rink for everyone.
In all, the Soo boasts five rinks. Two are owned by the City, the Pullar Community Building and Stadium and Kaine’s Rink. Then there is the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indian’s Big Bear Arena featuring two rinks including an Olympic sized sheet of ice. And finally, Lake Superior State University’s Taffy Abel Arena home to the three-time NCAA National Champion Lakers hockey team.
This ice rink is synonymous with skating in Sault Ste. Marie. The Pullar, located along Portage Avenue, has been home to countless cherished memories in the community since it was constructed in 1939. Over the years the rink has hosted ice hockey tilts, the Hiawatha Skating Club, circuses, ceremonies, dances and more.
Between 1948 and 1958 the Pullar hosted the Detroit Red Wings training camp helping give the Soo the loving and well-earned moniker of being the “Original Hockey Town, USA.” During this decade some of the NHL’s most revered names played and practiced in the Pullar – Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, Terry Sawchuck and the greatest hockey player of all time (our Michigan bias is showing) “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe.
Currently, the Pullar has public skating, plays hosts to the Hiawatha Skating Club and hockey teams such as the Soo Eagles.
Located on Easterday Avenue, Kaine’s Rink is the second City-owned ice rink in Sault Ste. Marie. This ice rink plays hosts to youth and adult hockey leagues throughout the winter, and is also available for rent in the summer for flea markets and gatherings. More information about Kaine’s Rink can be found here.
The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ Chi Mukwa Community Recreation Center (Big Bear Arena) opened in the fall of 1997. This 150,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art recreational facility is one of Northern Michigan’s largest sports and fitness venues. Big Bear Arena is the only ice arena in the Upper Peninsula equipped with 2-ice rinks under one roof – a regulation hockey size rink and a larger (15 feet wider) Olympic sized sheet of ice.
Currently, the Sault Area High School Blue Devils hockey team calls the Big Bear home. There’s also on-site skate rentals and public skating available too. More information on the Big Bear Arena, located on Ice Circle off Shunk Road, can be found here.
Named after a former-NHL player, Olympic athlete, and Sault Ste. Marie native, Clarence “Taffy” Abel, Lake Superior State University’s ice rink is the largest in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. This arena situated inside the Norris Center at Lake State can hold 4,000 fans and has showcased some of the very best college hockey teams in the country since it opened in 1976. It was remodeled in 1995 following an unprecedented string of success by the Lakers that included three NCAA National Championships and multiple tournament appearances.
A walk around the upper concourse of the stadium reveals LSSU’s impact on the national scale of the hockey world with countless NHL jerseys donned by Laker alums hanging along the walls. With many recognizable names such as Doug Weight and Brian Rolston on display, the Taffy Abel Arena along with other Sault Ste. Marie ice rinks help fortify the city’s claim of being the “Original Hockey Town, USA.”
Sault Ste. Marie hockey spotlight
Over the years, Sault Ste. Marie has seen its share of successful hockey players call the Soo home whether they were born here or living here while playing during the season. In addition to LSSU alumni such as Doug Weight, Brian Rolston, Jim Dowd, and Soo Indian’s alum Ryan Miller, here are three hockey players with Sault Ste. Marie ties
Clarence “Taffy” Abel
Clarence “Taffy” Abel
On top of being the namesake for the Lake Superior State University’s arena, Taffy Abel was Ojibwe. Taffy was the first indigenous men’s hockey player to compete in the Winter Olympics. He was later the first indigenous person to play in the NHL. Read more about this icon here.
Jeff was born in Sault Ste. Marie and was a successful player as a goalie before becoming a successful NHL coach. He played for Ferris State University and later played in the USHL. Jeff served as the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings from 2015-2022. During his tenure he coached many of the team’s stars such as Dylan Larkin and Moritz Seider. He also lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup in 2013.
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