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Fraser hockey team making friends in community

New club teams up with choir

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 6, 2016

 The Metro Jets hockey team recently gave Richards Middle School a $500 donation. The school’s choir has performed at Jets games, which take place at Fraser Hockeyland.

The Metro Jets hockey team recently gave Richards Middle School a $500 donation. The school’s choir has performed at Jets games, which take place at Fraser Hockeyland.

Photo provided by Michael Perkins

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FRASER — In the bruising and battering sport of hockey, there’s not much love on the ice.

Things are different beyond the rink, though, and it’s evident with the rejuvenation of a now local hockey team and community members who have offered their support.

The Metro Jets are the newest fixture in Fraser, playing at Fraser Hockeyland on Utica Road. But the North American 3, or NA3, hockey team is not new by any means.

The junior team played its home games in Waterford for 26 years — that was until the past owner decided to put the team up for sale. On April 1, 2015, Peter Cammick bought the team and moved it from Waterford to its current Fraser home.

Cammick said past owners debated moving the team entirely out of Michigan. Nancy Karjewski, director of the Jets Foundation, approached Cammick about the proposition of moving to Fraser — which she called “a huge hockey market” in the metro area, especially with its close proximity to the Detroit Red Wings.

The association, she said, is one of the few in the state — and maybe the entire country — to start with 4-year-olds and go all the way up to age 21. It’s a full hockey factory with under-12 teams, under-14 teams and so on. Skilled players have a chance to play at more elite levels.

NA3 is the third tier of USA Hockey sanctioned play. Players are not paid. It is a tuition-based pay-to-play program that is a stepping stone to many avenues. The NAHL is tier 2 and USHL is tier 1. The NAHL-USA Hockey affiliation allows for a more structured junior hockey system to provide athletes with more opportunities to advance to college and pro hockey.

Cammick said attendance in Waterford was below average when compared to other teams in the league. The old facility was also somewhat remote and was incomparable to the present Hockeyland facility.

“(The Fraser facility) is probably one of the best in the league,” Cammick said.

When their first season in Fraser commenced last September, expectations were hesitant. It’s hard to predict who will like your brand and product, Cammick said, especially in a new city and a new building.

But for the 23 home games in Fraser, more than 900 people attended. The price per attendee normally costs $5, with some games costing half of that due to special ticket offers.

“That’s always shaky as far as what kind of crowd you’re going to draw,” Karjewski said. “Our first year, we were overwhelmed by the positive attendance. The doors just opened and everyone wanted in.

“It’s not your father’s hockey team anymore.”

The newly-branded, high-end junior team quickly made inroads in the community with special honor events, such as a “Heroes Night” that included the Fraser Department of Public Safety, the Fraser VFW, World War II veterans and veterans from four branches of the military.

“Every time we hit a brick wall, that wall would go down and somebody would be there with something we needed,” Karjewski said. “It’s been one success after another.”

Maybe the best part was getting local Fraser students involved in the festivities.

At the start of the current school year, first-year Richards Middle School choir director Michael Perkins said he received an email from Karjewski saying that the Jets wanted to involve the community with their games.

One thing they wanted was local kids to sing the national anthem.

By mid-November the idea blossomed into a real partnership. Perkins took a district student to sing the anthem. The success led to six anthem performances by six different students. The school’s choir also performed patriotic songs during “Heroes Night,” singing “This Land is Your Land” and “Go the Distance” with participation from the middle school drum line. The 35 students in the choir sang behind the announcers in the press box.

“I thought it was great because I’m a hockey player myself and there’s always those times where you wish the arts and athletics would intertwine in a better way,” Perkins said. “(The Jets have) been really great accepting our students and our district.”

The news got better: About a month ago, the middle school choir received a $500 donation as part of the Jets’ community outreach program. Karjewski presented the check on the ice to Perkins, Richards Middle School Principal Huston Julian and some students.

Perkins said the money is going toward new music and concert attire.

“The hardest part with a program is you have things that you need — music, dresses, men’s attire for concerts,” he said. “There’s always fundraising we have to do.

“But to get outreach from an organization that just started — it’s their first year in Fraser — the kids were ecstatic. It’s a really, really cool thing.”

Cammick commended the choir performers, adding that he was “pleasantly surprised” by attendance numbers in the team’s first year in Fraser and wants to build on the goal of revitalizing local hockey.

“We really want to become an integral part of the local community and build on that,” Cammick said. “We see that as only benefiting everyone in the long run. It’s a pretty humbling experience.”

Visit www.metrojetshockey.com for more information.

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