Alterations could help Hall voting/Paul Peterson

Going by statistics alone, Don Miller, Leo Durocher, Wayne Sickler, Fritz Wilson and several other athletes and coaches from the Copper Country have the credentials to be in the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame.

Miller, the late Houghton High hockey coach, won 378 games, several conference and regional titles, and a state championship in 1982. He was also one of the founding fathers of the Lake Superior Hockey Conference.

In addition, Don and his late brother, Rick, hold the national record for most prep hockey wins with by brothers. Rick coached at Hancock and won 357 games.

The late Durocher averaged more than .400 in a long and productive baseball career for Stanton. He was also a .300 hitter during a stint at Central Michigan Michigan University and an outstanding senior hockey player.

Sickler, an all-state football player at Calumet High, was equally outstanding at Northern Michigan University. During the 1961 season, he led all Michigan college football players in scoring with a combination of receiving touchdowns, field goals and extra points.

Wilson, a standout basketball player at John D. Pierce High School, went on to star at NMU. He led the Wildcats in scoring as a senior. Like Sickler did coaching football at CHS, Wilson had an outstanding record at Houghton High as coach of the hoops teams for more than a decade.

But the process of gaining hall of fame acceptance is a long – and usually exhausting – one.

That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions to the rule. Lake Linden-Hubbell football coaching legend Ron Warner was quickly inducted into the hall. Likewise for former Houghton High and NFL football star Chuck Klingbeil.

And when Calumet High hockey coach Jim Crawford and Houghton High girls’ basketball coach Julie Filpus are eventually nominated, they will arguably be “slam dunk” selections.

But it’s the candidates who were nominated pre-1970s that often get overlooked. And that’s a concern of hall of fame member Seb Rubick of Manistique.

“We have many older candidates who, more or less, have fallen through the cracks,” Rubick said in a recent conversation. “I would like to see that group get more attention.”

Bob Erkkila of Calumet is another voting member who feels the process for the pre-1970s nominees can be improved.

“I think that if all the members drafted a list, say of top 10 candidates, and submitted that to the council at every meeting, there could be an improvement,” Erkkila said.

That makes sense. Under the current rules, once someone is nominated their accomplishments don’t receive the right amount of scrutiny afterward.

That has led to many deserving candidates, like the four above, being overlooked.

Another thing that could use altering is the geographical distribution of hall of fame voters. Of the 23 currently voting, there are none from Baraga, Iron and Keweenaw counties.

Marquette County, on the other hand, has four members. Gogebic County has three.

Houghton County is represented by Erkkila and Michigan Tech Athletic Director Suzanne Sanregret.

“I think we’ve made progress in recent years,” Erkkila said, noting that older local standouts like Ron Nettell of Houghton and Jack Mugford of Calumet have gained the hall recently. “We’ll keep working on it.”

The U.P. Hall of Fame has done a lot of good, but has been resistant to changes in its voting procedures. Hopefully, that will improve with input from members like Rubick and Erkkila.