Somerset’s Connor picked for Wisconsin Hockey Hall of FameThere may be nobody around Wisconsin who has done more behind the scenes work to promote the sport of hockey in our state during the past 25 years than Mike Connor.
There may be nobody around Wisconsin who has done more behind the scenes work to promote the sport of hockey in our state during the past 25 years than Mike Connor.
Connor began his involvement in hockey as one of the early leaders of the fledgling Somerset Youth Hockey Association. He then was encouraged to get involved in hockey at the state level. He was elected to his first Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association (WAHA) state office in the mid-1980s. Since then he has worked tirelessly to promote youth hockey in Wisconsin.
In recognition of all of Connor’s efforts, he has been selected for induction into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame. Connor will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, Sept. 6, in Eagle River.
Connor’s service to hockey began in the first year of Somerset’s efforts to form a hockey program. He recalled that Pete Bakken had put up a sign at the Tom Thumb in Somerset, to see if anyone had interest in starting a hockey association in Somerset. In the association’s first year, the 22 Mites skated in Somerset’s first team. Connor said it was the efforts of Bakken, Dan Daniel, Fritz Parnell and Jim Siler that got the association started.
Connor and Rex Dalzell, who would serve together for several terms on the Somerset Board of Education, both spent many of those early years as officers in the hockey association.
In 1986, Connor and Dalzell led the effort to get the Somerset program approved as a WIAA varsity program.
In the early 1990s came the effort to build an indoor arena in Somerset. Connor credited Dave Inman and Earl Fatheree with leading this effort. Float-Rite Park and Archie Montpetit donated 3.3 acres that helped secure the deal. In 1996, Somerset’s indoor hockey arena became a reality.
Connor has remained involved in Somerset hockey ever since getting involved in the sport, but in the late 1980s his focus became geared more toward hockey at the state level.
In 1996 Connor nearly died from a staph infection that resulted after he had back surgery. The following year ATT, where Connor worked as a national service manager, made an early retirement offer. He took the offer and began devoting even more attention to hockey.
“I got my wish. I get to spend every day in hockey,” Connor said.
He has put in countless hours of service for WAHA, USA Hockey and the USA Hockey Central District. He estimated that he is involved with hockey for 26 weekends of the year and spends nearly every day working with some aspect of hockey.
Among Connor’s hockey involvement are these areas:
-- He is the region 6 WAHA director;
-- As the assistant state coaching director, he has helped with WAHA coaching clinics and workshops since 1986;
-- He has been the WAHA state first vice president since 1991, in charge of high school hockey;
-- He has been on the state Hockey Hall of Fame Board of Directors since 1993;
-- For more than 20 years he has been a part of the staff organizing bantam and midget elite and girls elite state tryout camps and festivals;
-- From 1999 to 2006, he was part of the national USA Hockey festivals.
Connor was a driving force behind the founding of Team Wisconsin and was the first general manager for the Midget Major team, which won the national championship in 2002. Many Team Wisconsin players went on to stellar college and professional careers. Among them are current NHL players who were members of Team Wisconsin are Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks and Jack Skille and Adam Burish of the Chicago Blackhawks.
In 2002, Connor helped forge the first ever prep high school league that would bring together the best high school players from Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Two years ago, Connor helped to create the Wisconsin Elite Hockey League, which last year gave 565 state players the opportunity to compete in a more extensive hockey season.
In addition to his work with hockey, Connor has been a member of the Somerset Board of Education for more than 20 years. He has been a member of the Somerset American Legion Post since 1972. He also was a formidable athlete, playing fastpitch softball for 36 years. He and his wife, Barb, have three children, Shane, Brian and Shelly.
Connor’s dedication to hockey has been a product of his precise organizational skills and his passion for the game.
“It was all for the love of the game,” Connor said. “All I was doing was having fun.”
The Hall of Fame inductions are open to the public. Anyone interested in tickets for the induction can contact Joe Boxrucker at (715) 479-9772 or Don Kohlman at (866) 479-9242.