MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - After months of anticipation, the big day finally arrived. Tuesday night thousands packed Lakeview Arena in Marquette to watch the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes face off in an NHL preseason game, as Marquette was honored as Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016.
"Our community really loves hockey, and to have an NHL game here is really awesome," said Joey Phillips, a Marquette Senior High School Junior on the MSHS hockey team. "I never thought this could've happened."
During the game, Marquette proved to the nation they truly are Kraft Hockeyville USA, as the passion the community has for hockey was clear to see from the immense excitement everyone expressed.
"I think the whole thing is pretty cool," said Casey Purpur, a senior on the Northern Michigan University hockey team. "I mean, watching the community come together like this, and making Lakeview Arena look like it does right now is pretty remarkable. Plus, you've got two NHL teams here, as well as Jeremy Roenick and Doc Emrick in the building. It's a pretty special time and I'm just happy to be a part of it"
What also made the night even more exciting, was that for some, it was their very first time seeing a professional hockey game.
"I got tickets to my first NHL hockey game," exclaimed Liam Nemetz, a 9-year-old from Marquette who showed off his autographed ticket.
"A lot of people never get to an NHL game in their life, and it's really cool to have one in Marquette so people get the opportunity," said Phillips. "I've been to a couple NHL games, and there's nothing like it."
Plus, one fan got the opportunity of a lifetime to see his hometown team play in the city he's now called home for nearly 30 years.
"This game is unbelievable," said Brad Donohue, a Buffalo native, and Sabres fan who now resides in Marquette. "The community of Marquette has been a "Hockeytown" since I got here in 1987, and what great support it's given to this Kraft Hockeyville title... and the Sabres are here so I couldn't ask for any better, right?"
Lucky for Brad, the Sabres would go on to beat the Hurricanes 2 to 0. But regardless of the outcome of the game, the real winner will always be the Upper Peninsula, who all came together to make Marquette Kraft Hockeyville 2016.