Area hockey fans lucky enough to have taken in the Eagle River Junior Hockey Classic this past Friday night got a treat.

In an unconventional way, it was more than just another hockey game at the Dome. Fans, family and friends of former Pines hockey player and high school graduate Gunnar Schiffmann were able to see the now second-year Oregon Tradesmen defenseman back on his home ice one more time, and with an atmosphere that was unlike most other hockey games in Eagle River.

I admit. I never was a hockey fan growing up. Not many people who are raised in the farm fields of central Wisconsin get the luxury though of having a world-class facility like the Dome in their backyard. I will say though, if shoveling cow manure and tossing bales of hay onto a barn elevator would’ve been high school sports, I’d likely have competed in a State Championship event, or two.

What made the event Friday different than almost any other hockey event I’ve been to, other than an occasional Eagle River Falcons game, was how the event was about more than just a game. There was something personal tied to it. It was an event that just so happened to be wrapped around a hockey game. And inside it all was a pretty cool story.

Sports are about stories. And there is no better story in the world to be told sometimes than one that gets told through the trial, tribulations and wins and losses of sporting events.

It was neat getting to follow-up with Gunnar the Monday following the game at the Dome. He was on a bus, headed for another town and another hockey game. To think of the time enveloped into that young man’s life so far. All revolving around the game he’s come to know and love.

He spoke though of so many things, in this situation specifically, that had nothing to do with the game itself. Instead it was everything around the game. It came full circle for what might have been the first time in his life. And all because of the ties to family, friends and teammates.

My hope is that the event becomes an annual one. And past that, that the event continues to have a local tie to a Wisconsin hockey nut who’s dream is to just keep playing the game he loves.

For Schiffmann, the moment lasted maybe three to four hours in total. From pulling in the parking lot, to warming up on the same ice he competed on for years. To pulling off a sweat-soaked sweater inside the Dome. One last time. But I have a very keen feeling that in speaking to him Monday, those memories created over the course of those few hours, will be cherished by he and his family for a very long time.