Late Monday afternoon, a crowd of hockey players, media, alumni and family gathered in the Junge Family Center for a press conference. Talk buzzed around the room because, as announced earlier that day, the press conference would introduce the Michigan hockey team’s new head coach, Mel Pearson.
A past Wolverine hockey assistant and associate head coach, Pearson spent 23 years in Ann Arbor helping build Michigan’s hockey program. And after spending six years away as the head coach at Michigan Tech, he was coming back to take the driver’s seat for the Wolverines.
As Pearson entered the conference room and the talk died down, athletic director Warde Manuel took the stage to introduce the ninth head coach of the program.
“It is a great day to welcome Mel and his family back to Ann Arbor.”
Welcoming Pearson back seemed to be the theme of the day. It was on social media, it was displayed prominently on the screen behind the podium — this was a time to welcome back a previous key asset to the Michigan hockey program.
Pearson previously served as an assistant coach and associate head coach for the Wolverines for 23 years. During that time, Michigan won two NCAA championships, 11 Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season titles and 11 NCAA Frozen Four appearances.
“I’m very honored, and very privileged and very excited to be back at the University of Michigan,” Pearson said. “When I was a young assistant coach a few years ago, I came down here to apply for a job, and little did I know at the time, when I got that job how it would change the rest of my life. When I accepted that position as assistant coach, I had the opportunity to work with the greatest university in the world.”
In 2011, Pearson left his position as associate head coach at Michigan to become the head coach of Michigan Tech. Under Pearson, the Huskies received their first ever No. 1 national ranking, made two NCAA appearances and recorded both a WCHA regular-season title and Championship.
But Monday wasn’t about any of that.
There wasn’t much talk about anything from the past. Instead, focus was on what was coming up — what Pearson’s goals for the team were and how those goals were going to become a reality. There wasn’t much mention on the specifics, including the status of the rest of Michigan’s current coaching staff. Time wasn’t spent talking too much about the past.
Because despite the “welcome back” theme, Monday was all about the future.
“I’ve had the opportunity to have been given the keys to the prized family car,” Pearson said. “I’ve been given the keys, so I’m the driver now. The car’s in great shape, the car is in great shape. It’s got a great engine, the body looks fantastic. We might have to make a couple of repairs here this summer — minor, minor repairs. And then we’re going to get that car ready to go on the road. And come September, that car is headed in one direction.
“And that direction is St. Paul, Minnesota.”