Former Tech star Tanner Kero returns home

HANCOCK — Former Michigan Tech Huskies star Tanner Kero signed autographs and posed for photos with friends and fans alike to celebrate the grand opening of the Keweenaw Buick GMC in Hancock last week.

Kero, a Hancock native, was a center and left winger for the hometown Huskies from 2011 to 2014.

Kero signed with the Chicago Blackhawks shortly after his tenure at Tech. He spent the last three seasons playing with the Blackhawks and their AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs.

In June, a month before his 26th birthday, the Blackhawks traded Kero to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for center Michael Chaput.

Kero said he’s excited about his first training camp with his new teammates. But before he headed west, Kero had one last public event he wanted to be a part of in his hometown.

“It’s always special to come home,” Kero said. “I’m fortunate enough to have a job that I can come home in the summers (to) spend time with family.

“Being around the community is awesome. It’s where I grew up playing hockey, it’s where all of my friends and family have been from. The support from the community has been tremendous throughout my career so it’s fun to come back and be a part of it.”

Having grown up playing in the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association before playing at Hancock High School, Kero said he loved playing locally while developing his skills before moving on to juniors. He said the transition is not an easy one.

“It’s obviously an adjustment at first, moving away and you know, going to a bigger city and bigger city life,” Kero said. “You kind of get used to that a little bit. It’s also nice to come back to more of a small town in the summers and kind of get away from that hectic busy life a little bit — relax and enjoy the summers.”

Kero played juniors for the Marquette Rangers of the North American Hockey League and then the United States Hockey League’s Fargo Force in 2010, where he played one season before moving back home to play at Tech.

Since signing his first professional contract, Kero has continued to work on improving himself at least a little bit each year.

“Every time when you move up a level it’s a little bit of an adjustment,” Kero said. “The players are a little bit better, faster, stronger so it takes a little bit of time to get used to it but once you get into it and get going then you just play your game.”

Even though Kero’s time with the Huskies has passed, he has enjoyed coming across former teammates and alumni around North America.

“It’s awesome,” Kero said. “You’re always bumping into former Michigan Tech students or athletes wherever I go, so it’s pretty cool.”

Tom Colombe, general sales manager of the Keweenaw Buick GMC, was happy to have Kero come in and help celebrate the grand opening of the Hancock store.

“I’ve known the (Kero) family,” Colombe said. “My kids are in sports. Anybody that knows that family, they’re all athletic.

“I mean, what he’s accomplished for being from such a small area is great. The fact that he’s down to earth, I mean (he’s) just like you and me (that’s) a special thing and having him here is great for the kids.”