Named after Sault Ste Marie native and NHL hockey great Clarence “Taffy” Abel, the Taffy Abel Arena (previously known as the James Norris Arena) is a 4,000 seat ice hockey arena that is home to Lake Superior State University’s only Division 1 sports team. The Taffy Abel arena boasts the distinction of being the only college hockey arena in the United States whose maximum capacity seats more people than compose the entire student body (Lake State’s most recent enrollment data state a student body consisting of 2,229 students).
An Olympian and NHL alumnus, Clarence “Taffy” Abel held strong ties to Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. Taffy Abel was born and raised in the Soo and returned home after retiring from his hockey playing career. As a member of the United States Olympic Hockey team of 1924, Taffy not only was the flag bearer representing the United States in the Opening Ceremonies, but also scored 15 goals during the course of the tournament and helped the U.S. bring home a silver medal. Following his stint in the Olympics, Taffy was signed by the newly implemented New York Rangers hockey club, where he played from 1926-1929. He then went on to play for the Chicago Blackhawks from 1929 until his retirement in 1934. During his illustrious career, Taffy held the honor of being the first American-born player to play in the NHL as well as the honor of lifting the Stanley Cup twice, once for each NHL of which he played. Following his retirement, Taffy returned home to Sault Sainte Marie where he operated a hotel and coached for the Sault Sainte Marie Indians. Taffy Abel died on August 1st, 1964 and was later inducted to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
Built in 1976 and renovated in 1995, the Taffy Abel Arena is a special place to all Laker Hockey fans. Although renovated in 1995, several aspects of the original barn can still be seen around the rink. Among these features include much of the original seating and flooring which line the eastern side of the arena. Newer features to the building include upgrades to the concession stands, several new wall displays which showcase Laker Hockey alumni who went on to play in the National Hockey League (NHL), as well as each of the National Championship teams who called Lake State home. Other features of the arena include a wall of NHL jerseys from each of the former players who have made it to the show, as well as a wall of jerseys
featuring each of the unique Laker Hockey jersey designs from throughout the history of the program. On the first floor concourse on the eastern side of the arena, display cases can be found which display the various trophies and awards that Laker Hockey and its’ associated players have received throughout the years. This side of the arena also showcases each of the team’s Most Valuable Players throughout the years. Fans can also peruse through team pictures from each year of the team’s existence.
Unfamiliar to many Laker fans are features including the locker room, weight room, and coaches offices which reside down a tunnel on the
ground floor of the arena on the western side of the rink. Down this tunnel, players and fans can find a wall entitled “Legacy of the Number” which lists the names of each player to ever don a Laker Hockey jersey, broken down by the number which they wore during their tenure at Lake State. Within the entrance to the locker room, one will find a wall display showcasing each Laker Hockey player to ever have played a game in the NHL regular season or post-season. Players are also treated to a collage of Laker Hockey pictures from throughout the years which is displayed above each of the individual player lockers. Just prior to entering the tunnel where Laker players enter the ice surface, a sign reading “Through This Door Have Walked Champions” can be seen,
reminding players of the great legacy that they are a part of.
Another unique feature of the Taffy Abel Arena lies not within the walls of the arena, but rather outside. Here you can find the Frank and Gladys Hoholik Victory Bell. A distinctive part of Laker Hockey tradition, this bell can be heard tolling after each Laker Hockey home game victory as
each player runs outside, still donning all of their gear (except their skates) through a tunnel of cheering fans to take their turn ringing the Victory Bell. Placed early in the 1980s, the victory bell has been extensively used throughout the years. Following the 1992 NCAA Championship Celebration, the Victory Bell was so heavily damaged that it required replacement prior to the start of the 1992-93 season. That bell is the one which remains in place today. See link for video of the tolling of the victory bell: http://lakerhockeyblog.com/2017/10/01/the-best-college-hockey-tradition-around/