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New team at NLA “cross-checked” by criminal history of investor

Submitted by Phil Heimerl on April 16, 2010 – 11:59 am17 Comments

The past has caught up with one of the investors of a proposed new junior hockey team for Northern Lights Arena.

Joseph Kolodziej, 43, was in Alpena Wednesday night to work out the details of bringing a new Junior A Tier III team to the arena to replace the IceDiggers.  NLA Manager Jeff Gilmet said a tentative deal was reached with Kolodziej, but the deal was not inked. 

The following day Gilmet started hearing rumors about Kolodziej’s past.

True North Radio has learned Kolodziej has an extensive criminal history in at least three states.  He was discharged from a Michigan prison in August 2009 after serving nearly 5 years on a forgery charge out of Emmet County.  At that time, prosecutors dropped five other felony counts.  He was also convicted of check fraud in 1991 in Washtenaw County; fourth-degree grand larceny in 1988 in New York; and of auto theft in 1993 in Florida.

Joe Kolodziej seen here shortly before his release from a Michigan prison in 2009

“It’s a blow to the arena,” said Gilmet, “but I’m glad we found out before a deal was signed.  I think the deal may be dead.” 

Despite his concern, Gilmet and MPAC have given Kolodziej a chance to defend himself.  As of press time he had not returned Gilmet’s call.

If the deal with the new team is dead, Gilmet said he will start to look for a new team, but a contract would have to be signed by mid-May for that team to be ready for play this year.  If that doesn’t happen he will try to expand some current leagues, work with the existing user groups to increase ice time, and explore new opportunities such as developing a curling league.

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Comment by hockeyfan
2010-04-16 15:53:43

Seriously, a curling league? We have to have some type of junior hockey or the rink will not make it. Where was the rink before junior hockey? in a hole. just my opinion

Comment by StuPadaso
2010-04-16 16:49:10

M-Pac is a joke, should of kept the IceDiggers !!!!!

Comment by formercat
2010-04-16 18:39:49

That is the problem with Alpena: We have people in this town that aren’t open to new programs OR they say they are and then don’t show the support the program needs. Does anyone remember Alpena hockey: when Ice diggers AND highschool hockey was big? I mean where both teams had full stands and the whole town went to all the home games? What do you have to say about M-Pac then? To be honest it isn’t MPAC that are making bad decisions, they’re just the ones in the tough position. Maybe the community should do their research and get to know the members of MPAC before they are quick to judge. Or maybe those critics should step up and try to do the job. All I am saying is the politics and finger pointing needs to be put away and people need to come out and put their “money where their mouth is” concidering they are so concerned about the rink.

Comment by StuPadaso
2010-04-16 19:47:52

I don’t understand why get rid of a team and just turn around and get another, thats my question , why not just try and keep them here !

Comment by formercat
2010-04-16 21:10:46

the answer is: IMAC does not want to get rid of the Ice Diggers. The Ice Diggers are unwilling to commit to a new contract. Therefore, IMAC has to look for a new team.

Comment by yourwrong
2010-04-17 09:40:06

curling league would be great fun
bring on the curling!

Comment by NavyJeff
2010-04-17 11:18:26

hockeyfan – curling was just one idea we talked about, the idea is expanding ice rental, not that curling would replace the diggers. I am not sure why they chose to just mention curling, in the article, stop in the rink and I will tell you all the things we have on the table.

Stu – we did not “get rid” of the diggers. Come see me at the rink, we would love for the diggers to stay. The owner has been trying to move since January. Right up until Friday, they were trying to move to Flint, they are not going to, the league is letting Marquette, another unhappy owner situation. MPAC and the arena offered to sign the same deal (which has ice rates at 2008 prices) they said no thanks. The icediggers owner said that if the local community would throw in $100,000 toward team operations he would stay. We actually had a group and were working to get him that, when we got it, he said he wasn’t sure he could do that, he needed more money (it is about a 250-300K budget) Well that soured the guys we had in place, because he changed the rules after the game was started!! We then found out why, he had an offer by a group in Minn or Wisc, they would pay all the budget he just had to bring the team. The deal went south, and then he wanted to offer to restart talks with the investors in Alpena, but they had already had enough of being yanked around, and support had dwindled. The Arena, and MPAC do not have the $$ to keep the diggers, the owner does not want to stay without serious financial backing, the financial backing does not want to do business with the current owner. At any rate, we (the arena) and MPAC do not want the diggers to leave at all. The letter MPAC sent, terminating the diggers contract, was so they (MPAC) could discuss with other teams the idea of coming to Alpena. The diggers deal was up April 30th anyways, but the letter was needed to allow us to talk to other teams, because the diggers had exclusivity clause in their deal, so lawyers recommended the letter, so could shop for another team.

The icediggers do not want to operate in Alpena, and that is why they are planning to leave, I would sign a contract TODAY with them!! Don’t blame MPAC.

Jeff Gilmet Arena Manager NLA

Comment by NavyJeff
2010-04-17 11:22:09

Former cat

You are right about the MPAC guys. I heard horror stories about them, but they are all great Alpena folk, I feel lucky to work for them (most of the time!)

But they get the bad rap, too bad, their meetings are open, come and meet them!!!

Comment by recondon
2010-04-17 11:48:56

Give up trying to get people to participate or show up at meetings to share their opinions Jeff. That’s not how they “roll”. Many of these posters prefer to remain in the background and point fingers or blame those that try to make a difference. None of these people will probably even bother to call you and have a discussion about events to improve the financial stability of the rink. Just keep up the good work you guys are trying to do.

Comment by hockeyfan
2010-04-17 11:58:43

Your wrong, you are correct curling would be fun. Who is going to pay for the rocks and brooms and are you going to pay 100-150 an hour ice time to curl.

My point was that we need to have an additional hockey team here.

Jeff I know curling wasn’t the only thing in the plans and I meant no harm by that. I know you want a team at the rink just as bad as I do, if we do get another team or the icediggers comeback the community needs to show up and cheer.

Comment by toewinger
2010-04-17 12:07:15

Not everyone is a hockey fan. The people that enjoy it are the people who should support it.As far as I’m concerned, I got taxed for something I did not want to support. I’m not complaining that I have to pay, but that doesn’t mean I have show up and cheer. There’s enough hockey people in this town to raise the money. Put it out there and see what happens.

Comment by formercat
2010-04-17 20:41:47

correction on the whole “IMPAC” typo… Jeff you are right. MPAC does get a bad rap but thats because people are mis-informed.

Comment by Hockeynut
2010-04-17 23:39:30

I had a bad taste in my mouth as soon as the diggers came to town with all of the negatives I heard about them off the ice. And most of it enhanced by a host family. I know some of the things kept going on and I won’t support an organization that keeps bending rules. It’s too bad truths don’t come out so people can make their own decisions on whether to support them or not.

Comment by NavyJeff
2010-04-19 11:32:33

RECON Thanks for the support, but we don’t give up!

Hockeyfan. Cheboygan started a league and used frozen milk jugs and regular brooms. They have like 30 teams. Once the ice is in, even if you rent it for $100 an hour it is better than not renting it at all. There are also grants for starting a league like that, harder to get grants to “operate” but start up is a great place for grant money. But actually since curling could have two matches going on at the same time, I think yes we could get $150 for an hour.

I agree the team needs community support. The Icediggers missed the boat because team ownership did not think it was important to have a front office. No one worked on fundraising, communtiy relations, promotions, etc. and I know his intent was to save $$ but in business you gotta spend a little to make it!! Just one person working a couple days a week as a promotions director would have paid big dividends!! That is why I believe a team in Alpena (NAHL or otherwise) is do-able, if you do it right.

As for comments about the team off the ice, I think the team this year was an exceptional bunch of guys. Were there bad apples, sure, but most host families I know (myself included I had 3 seperate Diggers stay with us) would do it again. There were no more “incidents” than any other group of 20 youngsters. I can say this, they got busted by the coach for having a drinking party and spent two weeks in here every morning cleaning the boards with toothbrushes and rags! I feel bad hockeynut would say what he did. Those of us around the rink who know Jimmy Mc or Jason S who always take time and pay attention to the little guys asking for autographs etc, or the IceDigger who “addopted” his host families son and took him to every game and to the 19th hole afterwards, or the ones who voluntarily worked out with the squirts, played with the mini-mites etc, once a school that had rented the ice for the morning brought a little girl in a wheelchair who loved the Diggers, they showed up in uniform and took her (wheelchair and all!) out on the ice and spent some great time with her, most of these young men were and are great kids.

But hey, what do I know!

Comment by StuPadaso
2010-04-19 21:44:23

Please except my apology Navy Jeff, I guess thats what we get for living in a small town and hear nothing but rumors. Yes the IceDiggers could of been promoted better. I heard one reason they were struggling was they don’t have there own bus. They could of had car washes or some kind of fundraiser’s to help the cost for that, maybe donate half to charity (Huron human society or habitat for humanity) and keep the other half for there bus fair maybe if they did that more people would of supported them by going to the games if they did something like that for the community. It is sad to see them go, I enjoyed going to the games. I just hope that NLA doesn’t goe back into the red without them or any Junior hockey team.

Comment by Hockeynut
2010-04-19 22:16:43


I should have clarified further, I am sorry about that. The host family that partied along with them was from last year and they weren’t allowed any diggers this year from what I was told. And I give credit to the organization for that. Although I did hear about an incident involving a truck around long lake that was somewhat disturbing. Don’t know why that never made the paper. I hope it wasn’t because he was an “Icedigger”. There should be no favoritism when it comes to the law.

Comment by ebolda
2010-04-20 07:17:12

At the end of last year, after much work from the Fritsche’s, and with not much help from the owner, the Ice Digger roster was comprised of good kids, and great hockey players. Many community members have agreed to step up, including my family, to particpate in making a 2010-2011 Ice Digger team a success.

I realize hockey, and having a quality Junior team in our town may not be a high priority for everybody, but for those that love the game, and have a strong desire to have a launching team for our local talented players, I suggest we make this opportunity a community one…let’s take stewardship…stop complaining, stop pointing fingers, and focus on making a difference…


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