HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – Hockey is a big part of the culture in the Upper Peninsula.

“It’s just completely engrained,” said Trevor Ploe, U.P. Veteran’s Hockey Club. “I mean the winters are long. What else are we going to do? You can only ice fish so much. That’s just kind of born into everyone that’s around here. In one way or another, hockey impacts the life of the residents of the U.P.”

Hockey is part of life for Michigan Air National Guard veteran, Trevor Ploe. He and others like him are supported by their community.

“The City of Houghton has been incredibly gracious and phenomenal in support of the team,” said Ploe. “We have ice time once a week set aside for us so we can skate. In addition to that, a lot of guys, we all play together in other leagues, so we see each other outside of the veteran’s hockey skates we have as well.”

The game has become and active outlet after serving their country.

“Transitioning out for me wasn’t that big of an issue for me as it is for other guys I’ve seen that spent extended time on active duty orders,” said Ploe. “Working at the high tempo and things like that. For me, it wasn’t that big of a deal, but there are things that I miss like the camaraderie and being around all the guys.”

Teammates and off the ice, this team has an unbreakable bond.

“It’s comforting to be in that environment,” said Ploe. “If I’m being completely open and honest with you, it’s nice to have that outlet to talk about something and reminisce. Don’t get it confused, it’s not all bad stuff. A lot of times it’s just talking about goofy situations or stories. It’s very familiar and very humbling.”

The U.P. Veteran’s Hockey Club got its start against the Spirit Warriors Hockey Team in Saginaw.

“I’ve never seen the Dee [Stadium] that full before,” said Ploe. “And if you’ve been there, you know it’s kind of a smaller barn. So when it is full and you have a lot of people, it’s like everyone was right on top of you. It was really wild. It was a blast, and I’m really looking forward to doing something like that again.”

Showing their veteran grit and Yooper spirit, the past October the team took on other veterans clubs across the country for a tournament in Detroit.

“I think everyone was absolutely thrilled with the outcome,” said Ploe. “This was our first tournament that we had entered as a group. Some of us had never played together before.”

This group battled their way past teams from Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis and Las Vegas.

“It does reflect on a veteran’s ability to have a goal defined and use some teamwork to achieve that goal,” said Ploe.

And Finally, they brought a championship back to the U.P. defeating a team from North Carolina.

“In the end, it was really exciting to make it happen and be like, ‘We made this happen,'” said Ploe. “More so the fact that guys like Lee DeForge and Jon French and a few others put in the work to get this team up and running. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending.”