LAPEER –The Mid-Michigan Hockey Conference (MMHC) has seen two teams leave and will welcome in two new ones for the 2017-18 winter season.
The Alliance (LakeVille, Goodrich, Almont, North Branch, Imlay City), for which LakeVille High is the primary, the FNV Griffins (Freeland-Saginaw Nouvel-Saginaw Valley Lutheran), Fenton-Linden, the Bay Area Thunder and the Mid-Michigan Storm were part of the MMHC last season. The Bay Area Thunder and the Storm will not be part of the league this year after the Storm put its season on ice because of disciplinary reasons last year. The Bay Area Thunder will seek an alternate league.
Swartz Creek/Clio/Flushing and the United (Kearsley, Brandon, Holly, Lake Fenton) will be the two new members of the league, citing the desire to belong to a league where its kids can compete for league honors.
Alliance coach Tom Ferreri said the change keeps the league viable and competitive.
“It’s an awesome league and it gives our games more importance,” said Ferreri. “We have the all-league options for everyone now so it was a no-brainer for all the schools. We’re glad to have all the schools competing and since we already play a great deal of them, the change won’t be that big of a deal.”
Kearsley athletic director Paul Gaudard said in the Kearsley Eclipse student newspaper “It provides us with an opportunity to be part of a new league. For our players to have an opportunity to earn All-League honors, as well.’
“I think it is great,” said Swartz Creek/ Flushing coach Ben Guzak. “This will afford our players to play more local teams and then be eligible for yearly honors.”
Because teams that form co-op programs cannot compete across league lines, area teams have not been able to compete for league honors for quite some time. The only standalone hockey programs in the area are Davison, Lapeer, Grand Blanc and Flint Powers Catholic. Lapeer is rumored to go dark for the upcoming season, but that’s not been verified. A parent meeting took place in June to discuss the school’s status as far as offering hockey for 2017- 18.
High school hockey in Michigan fields the largest number of co-ops said Michigan High School Athletic Association Associate Director Tom Rashid, who oversees the state’s co-op programs.
Rashid said that rules are in place to prevent schools from forming a powerhouse program. Notably, no co-op can have a combined enrollment greater than 3,500. The Alliance’s enrollment as of last February was 2,820. The United, formerly KBH (Kearsley, Brandon, Holly) added Lake Fenton last season to try to bolster its numbers. That co-op now stands at 3,248. Swartz Creek/Clio/ Flushing, also suffering from low numbers, sits below 3,500.
Many of the teams continue to see participation numbers drop and more than a few ended the season with 12 or fewer players.
Rashid noted that there is allowance rule that would allow any school that drops hockey from its offering to get a three-year allowance to exceed the 3,500 enrollment mark.
Going forward, the teams in the MMHC will play each other twice during the season, once at home and once on the road.