U.S. Hockey Hall: Karmanos grew up a fan, became a leader in the sport

Karmanos will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame three years after being inducted in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (featured above; photos courtesy of William E. Dwyer)

By Nick Barnowski - 

You won’t find his name on any roster sheets from pro, college or junior hockey games. But the effect Peter Karmanos, Jr., has had on hockey in Michigan and beyond won’t soon be forgotten.

Karmanos, along with Ron Mason and Doug Weight, were Michigan’s representatives for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013, it was announced today.

Karmanos’ legacy includes owning the Plymouth Whalers and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, and being the leader of the Compuware youth hockey program in Metro Detroit.

“Hockey is a great, great game and I’m very, very honored to be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame,” Karmanos said.

He has played an instrumental role in developing youth hockey in the state while also working to expand hockey to nontraditional markets such as Carolina and Florida.

“I’ve been a hockey fan since my mother turned on a black and white 11-inch Zenith TV in 1951 and I got to watch the third period of the Detroit Red Wings playing the Montreal Canadiens,” he said. “I’ve been fascinated by hockey ever since.”

The Detroit native’s company, the Compuware Corporation, is the sponsor of the Compuware hockey association, which boasts one of the top AAA hockey programs in the U.S. One conversation Karmanos had with a parent got him involved in helping youth hockey players out.

“I had with a parent who looked at me and waved over a crowd of players and said, ‘you realize the best these kids could expect is that they maybe get a partial or full ride to college – none of them are going to play in the NHL’,” he said.

Neither him nor the parent knew that the group included Pat Lafontaine, Al Iafrate, the Hatcher brothers, and other future NHL players.

“I decided at that point in time I had an opposite opinion,” he said. “I thought that the players were a tad better than that I thought that I had a responsibility to put together a program that allowed those players to perform and to be able to win in that environment.

“It’s really important that people who had the opportunity help develop the sport, the programs and try to give kids the ability to show off their talents. I was born and raised in Detroit and it was especially rewarding to do that in the Detroit area.”

Karmanos said that his favorite hockey moment was Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, which his Hurricanes won, where fans in Raleigh did not sit down from the start of the game until the end of the game.

“I thought that was a tremendous tribute to ice hockey because we were pretty criticized for moving hockey to North Carolina [from Hartford],” he said.

Karmanos received USA Hockey’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2012, and in 1998, the NHL presented him with the Lester Patrick Award for his outstanding service to the game.

Details on when the election ceremony will take place have yet to be released.