It’s that time of year again when all of us take a much-needed break from the grind of school or work to spend some time together with friends and family for the holidays. If you’re a fan of Michigan Tech hockey, an integral part of these holiday plans include attending the Great Lakes Invitational (GLI) with fellow fans and loved ones. The GLI for Tech fans is a lot like a family reunion; old Huskies meet new Huskies, new Huskies get introduced to alumni, and everybody cheers their hearts out for our guys. But over the years, we’ve started to notice something: why are we the only fans with a noticeable presence during the tournament?
Recently, many Tech fans have wondered why we don’t see much of our counterparts in green and white or maize and blue during our holiday feature? It’s been boggling us as to why our state’s two flagship universities have so few fans in the building for a tournament that has been happening since the mid-’60s. It is not as though it should come as a shock to any of your schedules.
I’m in pretty consistent contact with the man to which I have passed my Mitch’s Misfits Presidential torch, Evan Fuerst. In the months prior to GLI, he spent some time reaching out to the leaders of both the Spartan and Wolverine student sections in order to drum up some support for GLI attendance. Both leaders sounded apathetic to the idea, leaving my friend and successor to wonder what it’s going to take to get our counterparts into the building.
So here I am, using the medium I have available to me, to make a case for GLI attendance for all participating schools. Here’s a rundown of all of the excuses we’ve heard thus far, as well as why they shouldn’t matter.
Students spend this time with family, not coming out to a hockey game.
Listen. I get it. I’ve had more than my fair share of rough semesters and there’s truly nothing like the time you get to spend however you want to unwind and relax after a tough go. But this is a 2 day tournament, you get to see your school friends in a much less stressful atmosphere, and you get to be exposed to one of the coolest atmospheres in college hockey. You can even bring your family along! GLI started as a family tradition for me and it is what forged my love of the Huskies.
A lot of our students are from out of state and wouldn’t come in for two days just for the games.
If you’ve recently looked at a map of the UP, Tech is located awfully close to both Wisconsin and Minnesota, and consequently, we see our fair share of out of students who live far from the venue as well. Sure, there’s certainly travel challenges for these members of our Husky family coming out for GLI, but many of them decide to make the trip anyway. It seems as though the problem isn’t the distance to the event, it’s the culture you’ve built around hockey viewership.
Our schools have Division I football teams in bowl games we would rather watch.
This one I can understand a bit more. Because Michigan Tech doesn’t have a Division I football team, GLI is our event. We don’t have anything splitting our allegiances. Our fans of all ages are eager to attend and our full-fledged, student-led Huskies Pep Band is readily available and is a staple of the tournament every year. However, there is no way every last MSU and U of M student and alum is going to spend the money it takes to travel to a football game in New York or Florida. Certainly there will be fans of both schools who make the trip to these events, but most people can probably count on watching these games from the comfort of a couch or a bar. The Spartans’ Pinstripe Bowl will be over by the end of December 27th, four full days before the beginning of the GLI. The Wolverines will be playing in the Citrus Bowl the day after the tournament is over. While I can almost understand the bowl game excuse for the Wolverines if they are planning on physically attending, this should be an absolute non-issue for Spartan fans.
My father, who helped forge my love of hockey, has been going to GLIs since the ‘70s. He often tells me of times in the mid-’80s when both Michigan and Michigan State had good football teams in bowl games, but Joe Louis Arena was setting hockey attendance records at GLI nonetheless. Times certainly have changed, but especially with all programs seeing some semblance of national spotlight again, the time has come once again to show the world what hockey in Michigan is all about.
Spartans, you’ve been the default invite team since 1979 and I don’t see your invitation being revoked any time soon. The illustrious Pinstripe Bowl will be long over. I know most of you don’t live directly in the greater Lansing area, but for the sake of argument, a trip from Munn to Little Caesars Arena is roughly one hour and twenty minutes long. That trip is comparable to the trip the Misfits take to Northern Michigan University twice every year. Trust me, you can take a couple of days to cheer on your guys, especially since this is the first time in awhile they’re starting to make national noise.
Wolverines, I know we haven’t really been on speaking terms lately, but you literally live in the same metropolitan area as the event. Between all of the students and alumni that must live in or around the area, you should be able to light the building up every time Hail to the Victors plays. The fact that the Michigan turnout always seems to be lowest among the staple teams is nothing short of laughable.
Neither of you can tell me that you don’t have enough nearby students or alumni to make this a highly attended event for both of your schools. Each year, all three of us are presented with the opportunity to create the greatest atmosphere at any college hockey rink and in recent years, it only seems like us Huskies, representing a school located 10 hours away from the venue, are the only ones holding up our end of the bargain. I challenge you both to be better in the coming years because frankly, I think the future of hockey in the state of Michigan depends highly on a strongly attended Great Lakes Invitational from all 3 of the staple schools.
This tournament represents the entire state of Michigan and it’s high time more than just one of us acted like it.