This article was updated to include statements provided by Michigan and Michigan Tech, as well as additional context regarding the 2021 GLI Tournament.
After nearly 50 years of playing in the Great Lakes Invitational, the Michigan hockey team will not participate in next season’s tournament.
As reported by Jess Myers of The Rink Live, the Wolverines opted not to play in the tournament and will be replaced by Ferris State University of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. This marks the first GLI held without Michigan since 1973, and only the fourth in the tournament’s history.
Michigan Athletics suggested the Wolverines will not participate because playing in the GLI meant making some changes that did not work out.
“The decision not to participate in the Great Lakes Invitational was made following discussions and a series of factors, including trying to make some adjustments that ultimately were not possible,” Michigan’s statement said. “We respect the long tradition of the GLI, and we look forward to the possibility of building new traditions in the future.”
The tournament’s time frame normally occurs during the World Junior Championship, which has drawn top Michigan players in the past. Playing in the tournament would mean missing those players for key non-conference games.
A statement from Michigan Tech Athletic Director Suzanne Sanregret suggested that the Wolverines withdrew because they did not want to play in a holiday tournament, which clashed with the GLI’s traditional timeframe.
“When planning the future of the GLI, Michigan Tech and Michigan State were committed to continuing with the three traditional teams and one invitational team,” the statement read. “In the process, Michigan indicated that they did not want to play in a tournament between Christmas and the New Year.
“Event organizers did not want to alter the 56-year tradition of playing the GLI between December 26-31 and the four schools participating are very excited to keep that tradition alive. We certainly will miss a prestigious program like Michigan and hope they can return to participating in the future.”
The move comes after controversy surrounded the Wolverines’ cancellation of a GLI matchup with Western Michigan last season. Michigan opted not to play the first game due to roster limitations induced by the World Junior Championship and health protocols. This decision was puzzling to many as the Wolverines chose to play their game before that contest against Michigan Tech, drawing criticism that they were “ducking” Western Michigan, a team that had beaten them at Yost Ice Arena in October.
Michigan coach Mel Pearson added to the controversy by stating that he had no involvement in the decision to cancel the game against the Broncos. However, Pearson’s emails obtained by a FOIA request later showed that he played an active role in calling for the game’s cancellation.
Considering that context, it is not surprising that Michigan will be absent from next season’s GLI. Pearson’s emails displayed that he did not want the Wolverines to play those tournament games dating back to last summer. The statement from Michigan Tech suggests that those wishes guided Michigan’s removal from the tournament for this upcoming season.
No indication has been given about whether Michigan will return to the tournament in the future, though organizers claimed they would welcome the program back in the future. However, the loss of Michigan’s longtime holiday tournament marks a drastic departure from decades of Michigan hockey history.