Street hockey takeover on Mackinac Island

Emily Rose Bennett
Grand Rapids Press

Mackinac Island — Their surroundings are cold, quiet and isolated — a welcome change from the nonstop tourism madness of the summer months.

But for Mackinac Island’s small, tight-knit community of year-round residents, this frosty, impossibly scenic wonderland is home.

And every Wednesday in these winter months, they gather on the same street that tourists pack in the summer for a free-wheeling bout of high-sticking, potty-mouthed street hockey.

“We see friends we never get to see in the summer,” said Justin Wright, a park ranger who lives on the island and joined in on a mid-February hockey game.

“In the summer, the island is a 24-hour machine, and sometimes I don’t see friends for weeks that I live two blocks from.”

Once seasonal residents leave for the winter, “we get our island back,” Wright said.

In one hockey highlight, a player backed into a pair of passersby, knocking over an ashtray.

A participant soon reported the melee on the island community’s Facebook page: “At one point, reminiscent of the 1979 NHL game in Madison Square Gardens, when a Boston Bruin entered the stands to fight with a fan, a dust-up occurred in front of the Huron Street Pub between two spectators. At press time, we are still unclear what exactly happened.”

The island has about 500 year-round residents. Only 79 students attend a single school, where eighth-graders help fill out varsity sports teams.

Two restaurants on the island stay open through the winter, Cawthorne’s Village Inn and Mustang Lounge, where a group of residents watched an episode of the “Price is Right” with the enthusiasm of a Super Bowl party before the hockey game.

The Mustang Lounge was also host to a post-game celebration.

Wright said the tavern, a cabin-like establishment built with 200-year-old timber, has become more than an eatery for islanders.

“I realized it wasn’t the Mustang Lounge anymore, it became our living room,” he said.

The street hockey tradition was started about 10 years ago by Jamie Bynoe, a hockey superfan with a slight cognitive disability, who racked up five assists and led the post-game celebration.

“It’s all for Jamie,” said Kirk Lipnitz, who owns a hardware store on the island and helps organize the tournament.

“It’s a good community. People take care of each other.”