Thumb Schools Form Hockey 'Legion'

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

December 12, 2018

Larry Camp is happy to be focusing on hockey. 

The coach of the first-year Eastern Thumb Area Legion hockey program – also known simply as Ubly – had been working since February, navigating the politics of school boards and paperwork to create an opportunity for athletes in the Thumb to play high school hockey. 

“Come about October, all I kept telling my other assistant coaches was, ‘I just can’t wait to get on the ice,’” Camp said. “Everybody was like, ‘How’s your team? What’s it going to be like?’ I kept saying that I won’t know until our first game. When that first game came, it was a huge relief.” 

Student-athletes from seven schools which make a 151-mile circle in Huron and Sanilac counties have come together to form the team, which is competing without a conference but in Division 2 for the MHSAA Tournament.

Sandusky, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker, Bad Axe, Deckerville, Croswell-Lexington and Marlette join Ubly as schools providing players for the team. The Legion plays its home games out of Colleen J. Howe Arena in Sandusky and also holds practices at the Huron County Expo Center in Bad Axe to try and cut down on the constant travel some of its players would have to endure. 

“I grabbed a map and looked at where we thought we could pull kids from – where would be the seven best school districts that we could fit,” Camp said. “What we looked at was where the two ice arenas are, and we tried to make a straight line up and down. When word got out, we had five or six other schools call us that wanted to get (involved). They really wanted to join, but we already had our seven.” 

Twenty-seven players came to the first tryout, and Camp said he’s carrying a roster of 23. The numbers surprised him, but the desire to play high school hockey was high for kids who had spent time in the Huron and Sanilac county hockey associations. 

“I was going to stop playing hockey this year because of the drive (to Bay City) – it was an hour and a half to practice,” Legion captain and Sandusky senior Jarod Coon said. “Now, it’s where I go to school. I love hockey, so it’s real nice to keep going.” 

Coon, who plays center, has been playing hockey for more than a decade, joining teams in Port Huron, Mount Clemens and Bay City after starting his career in Sanilac County. His story isn’t uncommon on this team. 

Marlette senior goaltender Chad Bower, also a captain, had been playing hockey since he was 5 years old and doing so without ever having the prospect of playing for his high school. 

“I played travel my seventh and eighth grade year, then the next year my team dismantled,” he said. “Some of the boys went to (Saginaw) Heritage, Davison, stuff like that. That next year, I had to come back and play football. I was actually really excited (to play high school hockey), but then at the same time kind of mad, because it was already my senior year.” 

Collecting excited and experienced hockey players wasn’t an issue for Camp. But even after petitioning school boards, attending meetings and getting the approval from the MHSAA in July, he still had to create a schedule for his team – which can be difficult for an independent and a newcomer. Through some more hard work, he was able to get to a full 26 games. 

“I didn’t know any athletic directors, didn’t know their contact information,” he said. “I went to the MHSAA website and looked up names and numbers. The coach from Port Huron Northern (Daryel McCarrel) helped me a lot. The guys from the Imlay City team, the Alliance, those guys gave me a lot of contact info. I must have sent 150 emails, and I could barely get my number of games.” 

The schedule mostly features teams from the region, such as Lapeer, Bay City and Port Huron. But there was a trip to Dearborn already, and Mount Pleasant will make its way to Sandusky later in the season. The Legion also played a pair of games against Tawas, the state’s other new hockey program this season. Tawas won the first meeting, 3-2, and the teams played to a scoreless tie in their second meeting. 

“That was pretty cool with it being our first season and their first season,” Bower said. “We did like a first-year gift exchange, stuff like that. It was really cool to be a part of that.” 

The Legion has started 2-3-1, and players are working not only to get used to coach Camp’s systems and the pace of the high school game, but also to each other.  

“We just try to be friendly to each other, pretty much,” Coon said. “We haven’t done too much outside of practice, but we’re looking at going to the playoffs with the college teams at Little Caesars (Arena), just for some team bonding. I kind of thought it would be (weird playing with kids from rival schools), but it’s not really. Some of the people, I either don’t know them from other sports, or they’re just really good guys, and I like them anyways.” 

When it comes to setting goals for the season, players are keeping things realistic. Bower said that while a deep run in the Division 2 playoffs would be great, he’s first focusing on the team finishing above .500.  

Of course, as the first year of the program, it’s also about much more than this year. 

“I’m interested to see what it turns into if it keeps going, which I really hope it will,” Coon said. “To see what it turns into in 15 years, then I can come back and say, ‘I was the first captain on that team.’ Right now, we’re looking to set up a good name for ourselves, so a lot of kids that didn’t try out this year or maybe didn’t know about the team will know about it and are excited to try out for next year. I guess we’re just trying to get a good reputation. And win some games.”


Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Legion goalie Chad Bower, left, meets with this counterpart from Tawas during their first of two games against each other this season. (Middle) An Eastern Thumb Area player launches a shot against Port Huron. (Photos courtesy of the Eastern Thumb Area hockey program.)

Traverse Bay Reps Teammates Unite to Take on Great Lakes Paddle Board Pursuit

By Tom Spencer
Special for

August 3, 2023

Twenty years ago, Kwin Morris and Jeff Guy were teammates on an MHSAA Quarterfinal-qualifying hockey team.

Made in Michigan is powered by Michigan Army National Guard.Guy even scored the winning goal in the Regional Final for Bay Area Reps, which topped Traverse City West 2-1.

This summer’s accomplishment, though, will go deeper in the history books.

Guy and Morris teamed up with Joe Lorenz to complete a dream that started a decade ago. They crossed all five of the Great Lakes on paddle boards while raising awareness and funds for water quality.

They put their balance, endurance and stick-handling skills together for the cause.

‘After 10 years and over one hundred grand raised for the lakes, it feels amazing,” Morris said. “I think the best part is knowing my kids will grow up knowing their old man did something cool for the environment in a unique way.”

It all started at a December social event in Traverse City. Guy, a financial adviser, and Morris, a middle school science teacher, had just gotten into paddle boarding when they began to wonder if they could cross Lake Michigan.  

Lorenz, a personal trainer, promptly gave assurances they could — and joined them — even though he had never been on a paddle board prior to the holiday gathering.

Morris, Guy and Lorenz successfully crossed Lake Michigan in 2015, pausing in the cold of the night to look at the Northern Lights.  They finished the nearly 100-kilometer journey in just under 25 hours. That accomplishment convinced them to launch Stand Up for Great Lakes, a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for the protection of the lakes.

The trio also is supporting the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a non-profit housed at the University of Michigan.

“It feels amazing to have finished crossing all five lakes and complete a lifelong goal,” Guy acknowledged. “The dollars and awareness we have raised is incredible, and hopefully it continues to grow.”

Lake Huron was the toughest to cross by far, the former Reps noted. The 90-mile, 29-hour paddle brought seven hours of rain and high waves.

“Plus Joe knocked me in and Jeff fell in after catching a fish,” Morris observed.

Ontario was the team’s second-hardest challenge and the shortest paddle. Huge waves from the side all day took quite a toll on the paddlers, who were accompanied by safety boats on each crossing.   

Lake Superior featured glassy water, a spectacular sunset and the paddlers pausing to conduct a ceremony over the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck. The northernmost Great Lake ranks as the group’s favorite.

Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. Guy graduated from Kalkaska High School in 2003 and went on to play hockey at Hope College. He also played football, baseball and golf for the Blazers. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Emma.

Morris graduated in 2005 from Elk Rapids High School, where he also played baseball. He went on to get a teaching degree from Western Michigan University. He and his wife, Megan, have two children, Fitz and Knox. He now works for his former school district, teaching science.

The pair played for the Reps through a co-op hosted by Traverse City St. Francis that included athletes from Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Kingsley, Lake Leelanau St Mary, Mancelona and Suttons Bay. The Reps’ first coach was Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rex Luxton. He coached through 2008.

Morris and Guy look back at their high school playing days and coach with fondness.

“We had some great teams, and I think I still have the career goal record there,” Guy recalled. “Also, our coach on the Reps Rex Luxton was highly motivational to me while playing for him and later in life.”

Morris echoed Guy.

“I loved the whole experience,” Morris said. “Playing for my high school … Friday night games … school rivalries … playing for Rex Luxton … amazing friends and teammates — almost surreal that it will have been 20 years.”

The former coaching staff of the Reps are not at all surprised Morris and Guy challenged themselves to make a difference for the Great Lakes.

The coaching staff remembers Guy as a natural scorer coming through with big goals, and Morris as a strong two-way player who scored five goals in one period in Sault Ste. Marie. The past coaches also remember all the traveling the two did for practice and games because of the geographic nature of the squad.

“I had no idea they had any interest in the water kind of stuff,” Luxton said of his former players’ feat. “When I started following their bid to raise awareness, it didn’t surprise me they would attempt something like this.

Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season.“I think it illustrates how much determination they have and how much hard work they were willing to put in,” he continued. “It is just outstanding, particularly with the cold weather in the Great Lakes.”

Cody Inglis, a senior assistant director for the MHSAA, was an assistant coach for the Reps during all of Morris and Guy’s time with the co-op. He finds himself beaming with pride and happiness knowing these former players are giving back and making it a better world.

“What Jeff and Kwin have done physically and mentally to cross all of the Great Lakes on stand-up paddle boards is remarkable in itself,” Inglis pointed out. “When you add in the fact that they have put in charitable causes and the preservation of the Great Lakes as a reason for doing it – it makes it even more special.

“It’s not surprising given my recollection and remembrances of Jeff and Kwin, as they were really good hockey players and better people.”

High school hockey is where Morris and Guy’ friendship blossomed. Spending 24 or more hours together — and with Lorenz — has forged a greater lifetime bond that already had included being a part of each other’s weddings.

But they admit they had no inkling of this type of accomplishment back in high school.  

“Sports were the most important thing in my life in high school,” Guy revealed. “Working really hard to win as many games as possible was the main goal – along with getting good grades and trying to get into a good college.”

But teamwork, learned on the ice and through other high school sports, can make anything possible.

“Any sport where you have to work as a team helps push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Morris concluded. “That's where the best things in life happen.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from top left: Jeff Guy celebrates a goal while playing for Traverse Bay Reps with Kwin Morris to his left, Guy (left) and Morris (right) take a photo after one of their paddle board trips, and Morris bringing the puck up the ice for the Reps. (Middle) Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. (Below) Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Guy, Kwin and Jo Morris.)