Grab a stick and sharpen those skates. It’s time for one of Michigan’s most popular winter activities – ice hockey. Whether you are a competitor or a spectator there are opportunities to catch a game across the state.
Who needs a fancy rink? With more than 11,000 inland lakes in Michigan it’s easy to start a pickup game no matter where you are. Because of this, pond hockey tournaments are a popular and growing past time in communities across Michigan.
The Labatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championship in St. Ignace is one of the largest pond hockey tournaments in North America. Played on the wild ice of Moran Bay, part of Lake Huron, this is the only tournament where the 'pond' is actually one of the Great Lakes! Watch all the teams, including the Red Wing alumni team, February 17-19.
Head to Mac’s Marina in Whitmore Lake for the Michigan Pond Hockey Classic January 27-29. Four-man teams battle it out on a 75’ x 150’ rink in both day and night games. In its fifth year, the event attracts players from Michigan, the Midwest and even Canada. Or head up north January 27-29 to the 2nd Annual Cadillac Pond Hockey Classic on picturesque Lake Cadillac.
The 2012 Pond Hockey Championships at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, being held January 27-29, features a skate-up beer tent and grilled food all day long. Between games try your hand at the luge – the Winter Sports Complex has the most publicly accessible luge track in the nation – or take a run with the family down the sledding hill.
Home to the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit is known as Hockeytown when the puck hits the ice. Attending a Red Wings game at Joe Louis Arena is an exhilarating combination of excitement and tradition. With 11 Stanley Cups and more than 50 Red Wings in the Hockey Hall of Fame, the team remains a perennial favorite. But be sure to watch for flying octopuses!
In West Michigan, the Grand Rapids Griffins, an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, play at Van Andel Arena in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Goalie Joey MacDonald has paid tribute to his adopted state, featuring the Mackinac Bridge and Detroit skyline on his goalie’s mask.
The Battle Creek Revolution, part of the All American Hockey League, gets fans fired up in Battle Creek and offers an affordable family outing. Kids under four get in free and tickets start at $5. In Muskegon, the Lumberjacks are a training ground for aspiring NHL players. The teams play at L.C. Walker Arena, and on February 10 will celebrate 50 years of hockey in Muskegon with 1980’s throw-back jerseys.
Last year, the Kalamazoo Wings won the East Coast Hockey League Championship for the first time. An affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks and the New Jersey Devils, the team plays at Wings Stadium with a dedicated Fanzone.
Joe Louis Arena also plays host to several premiere collegiate hockey events. On February 11 the University of Michigan Wolverines will compete against rivals the Michigan State Spartans in an annual showdown at the Joe. Joe Louis Arena will also host the 31st Annual CCHA Championships March 16-17. Each year, the best teams from the Central Collegiate Hockey Association travel to Detroit for championship games to determine a CCHA Tournament champion. The event attracts more than 30,000 hockey fans to the Joe each year.
Leave the stick at home
If you prefer to leave your stick at home, Michigan offers great ice skating for all experience levels. A winter day in Detroit is not complete without a trip to the ice rink at Campus Martius Park, open seven days a week and as late as midnight on weekends. For only $1 you can take make figure eights at the Rosa Parks Circle ice rink in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. There are three ice skating rinks catering to hockey, family skating, and a kiddie rink at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex. Or meander through the 700 ft. skate trail on site. Up in Sault Ste. Marie the Pullar Stadium has been serving up quality ice for open skating since 1939 – and hockey greats, including Gordie Howe, Ed Lindsay, Sid Able and Alex Delvechio, have all skated at the facility.