MARINETTE — Not even the Great Depression could stop oganized hockey from starting in the Twin Cities. No wonder it’s still going strong.
After 28 years of dropping the puck inside the dome, the Civic Center era of Twin-City hockey has come to a close. A new Recreation Community Sports & Events Center— planned to open in time for the next hockey season — is in the works.
In the early days of the Civic Center domes, the M&M hockey team was called the Chiefs. That name was changed to the politically correct Thunder.
Before the domes, the Chiefs played hockey outdoors. Before that was pond hockey. But in the 1930s, hockey was a huge attraction in the Twin Cities, and the Civic Center wasn’t the site of the first indoor hockey rink in Marinette.
In 1932, Marinette had its own amateur hockey team known as the Shamrocks. Lauerman Brothers Store donated sweaters, stockings and caps. In 1934, the abandoned Kreiter piano factory — still standing today in the 1600 block of Pierce Avenue at Daggett Street — was transformed into the Ice Parlor. Before the Parlor, the Shamrocks played and practiced on the Menominee River behind Stephenson Public Library. Later, a rink was built on Stephenson Island.
But the Ice Parlor elevated Marinette to the forefront of Wisconsin hockey. At the time, the only other indoor hockey rink in the entire state was located in Eagle River.
Incredibly, the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Tech played the Shamrocks in 1934 and ‘35. All-star teams comprised of former Badger players also played in the Palace against the Shamrocks. An advertisement for a UW vs. Marinette game advised patrons to “bring your robes.” Admission to the Parlor was 35 cents for the Badger game and 15 cents for other opponents.
Dan Hanley heard stories about the Shamrocks from one of their players, his grandfather, Clyde Hanley.
“They didn’t play to get paid — they played for the fun of it,” Dan Hanley said. “People would drive a long way to see those games. This was good entertainment. What else was there to do back then? He said some games were smooth and some games became completely vicious.”
Equipment was primitive. Players didn’t have shin guards so they would stuff old magazines in their socks to serve as padding.
Two members of those Shamrocks teams — Buzz Ouellette and Dutch Manderfield — went on to play pro hockey.
The 1935 Shamrocks placed second at the state tourney. Also that winter, the city hosted a winter sports carnival. Between 7,000 and 8,000 spectators jammed the municipal rink behind the library. The carnival included dog sled racing and speedskating.
The Palace was only in operation until 1939. Many Shamrocks went off to serve our country in World War II. The team later became the M&M Shamrocks and relocated at the circus grounds in Menominee, near the present site of Wisconsin Public Service. Twin City historian Larry Ebsch grew up watching the M&M Shamrocks. There was no admission, and people stacked up four and five deep all the way around the outdoor rink. People sat on rooftops and on parked cars.
“You just went there early to get a standing position,” Ebsch said.
Among the Shamrocks’ opponents were Escanaba and Oconto. Two of the local stars were Don Bourgeois and Bob Todish. It was rough-and-tumble hockey.
“They laid the gloves down,” according to Ebsch. “The old throwback days. I don’t even think the goalie had a mask. They were losing teeth. Spit it out. You know hockey players — you go right back in.”
Guys who battled it out during the M&M Game became Shamrocks teammates.
“The rivalry between Menominee and Marinette was a lot more intense than you can imagine today, but on the ice they were pals,” Ebsch said. “But if you talked ‘M&M Game’ they were ready to fight again.”