It's easy to forget that there's more to hockey than just the chance to play for the Stanley Cup. It may be the highest attainable honor -- outside of an Olympic medal -- in the sport, but it's one very few get the chance to play for, or even win.
We as fans get to watch some of the best professional hockey year in and year out from April to June in the form of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, we often don't see the games that matter most to the small communities and players that live and breathe hockey as a way of survival.
Meet the Gibson Cup, the third-oldest trophy in hockey that gets lifted after a series between the sport's oldest rivalry. Two tiny towns near the top of the northern peninsula of Michigan have been battling for the trophy since 1938 and for both sides, the rivalry runs long and deep.
The Calumet Wolverines and Portage Lake Pioneers are the subject of the latest episode of Vice World Of Sports, Vice's big venture into the TV business. The half-hour long episode encapsulates a rivalry older than the players themselves, a deep-seeded hatred that doesn't end when the skates leave the ice.
Vice takes you through the eyes of Calumet captain Jeff Erkkila, a player that once turned the heads of scouts in junior hockey before he declined the offer to keep up the Gibson Cup tradition, and the Wolverines' crusade to win their first since 2007. For Erkkila and his team, the sport of hockey and the chance to win the Gibson Cup every year keeps them going through the long winters of northern Michigan.
Playing the villain of the piece are the Pioneers, a team benefiting off of the talent of local Division I hockey school Michigan Tech in Houghton. The Pioneers have won the last seven Gibson Cups, making them the easy Goliath to Calumet's David.
It's a perfect cast of characters, and one that gets right at the heart of the 78-year-old Gibson Cup.
"After seeing the sports we love become heavily marketed products for a mass audience, hockey in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a refreshing change," Vice World of Sports executive producer Evan Rosenfeld said. "Attending a Gibson Cup series in person is sort of like being able to turn back the hands of time and watch sports history unfold before your eyes. Hardly anything has changed in the last 100 years, even the rinks the game is played on are the same."
Vice World of Sports airs on Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET on Viceland.