Orchard Lake St. Mary’s junior Troy Clark tries to skate away from University of Detroit Jesuit defenders in a game Jan. 5. St. Mary’s will be participating in the MIHL Showcase, which takes place from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s junior Troy Clark tries to skate away from University of Detroit Jesuit defenders in a game Jan. 5. St. Mary’s will be participating in the MIHL Showcase, which takes place from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Top hockey teams gearing up for 19th annual MIHL Showcase

By: Jacob Herbert | C&G Newspapers | Published January 10, 2019

METRO DETROIT — The Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League Showcase has come a long way since its birth nearly two decades ago. The once 12-team format has turned into a 42-team showcase that spans across three days.

This year’s event will take place Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at Kennedy Ice Arena in Trenton, where all teams involved will play a two-game schedule against elite competition.

Bloomfield Hills Crankbrook-Kingswood coach and MIHL President Andy Weidenbach has worked tirelessly with his staff of over 150 volunteers on the event, and it’s paid off.

“What we always try to do with the event is make it first class,” Weidenbach said. “We have a really nice program that we put together, we have a really nice scout package that we put together, and we have a hospitality room for the coaches and scouts.”

Weidenbach said the growth of the tournament can be attributed to two things. The first is the improvement of high school hockey in the state. He said it was a natural relationship, and as the teams improved, the showcase improved.

Another factor that went into its growth is the countless hours he spent working with other coaches to promote the event and get scouts interested in attending.

“We’ve tried to pay attention to the little details and make it as top-of-the-line as possible,” Weidenbach said. “I think most of the scouts that attend, if not all of them, they notice that. They all make mention that this is one of the best run events that they attend all year.”

Not only are scouts taking notice of the improvements, but there is also a plethora of local coaches who look forward to this showcase each and every year.

“It’s a very professional atmosphere, very business like,” Grosse Pointe North coach Joe Drouin said. “The players that are interested in playing at the next level are excited, because they know this is their chance to impress.”

Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day coach Frank Novock echoed that message.

“The atmosphere is incredible with the amount of exposure and scouting opportunities that present themselves for three days to have junior, college and NHL guys in the building legitimately watching some of the best high school players in the state,” he said.

With no worry of having to qualify for the playoffs, as is the case with high school football, the No. 1 goal of most coaches is to make sure their team is battle tested come playoff time. With the top high school hockey teams from Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio all under one roof, the MIHL Showcase acts as the perfect form of preparation.

“Our staff’s goal is to see every team we could potentially face in the playoffs,” Warren De La Salle coach Sean Clark said.

Clark said the Pilots use the two contests as a measuring stick for their program.

As much as the coaches enjoy participating in the event, it is really built to benefit the kids participating. This showcase gathers 70 to 85 scouts, as estimated by Weidenbach, into one building hoping to find the next player or two to take their respective programs to new heights.

That idea alone is enough to get kids amped up to play.

“That tournament has the best teams in the state playing in it,” Utica Eisenhower coach Bob Hall said. “It’s all about getting ready for the end of the year and giving our guys opportunities to possibly advance their careers and showcase what they can do to play at the next level.”

Teams apply in April to take part in the event. Out of roughly 55-65 applications, 42 total make the field.

Weidenbach is proud of how far the showcase has come since it was first formed. What once was an event that held only a handful of teams has now played a major role in putting high school hockey on the map in Michigan.

“Twenty years ago, high school hockey was kind of an afterthought,” he said. “Now, it’s well-received by junior teams and college programs all around the country.”

Sports Writers Jason Carmel Davis and Zachary Manning contributed to this report.

On the ice

The Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League Showcase takes place from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at Kennedy Ice Arena in Trenton.

The event brings together some of the best high school hockey talent in one arena.

For the schedule of games, visit mihl.pointstreaksites.com. Following is a look at the programs that will be participating this year:

Birmingham Brother Rice, Grosse Pointe South, Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, Port Huron Northern, Warren De La Salle, Trenton High, Grosse Pointe North, U of D Jesuit, Allen Park High, Livonia Stevenson, Alpena High, Macomb Dakota, Brighton High, Midland Dow High, Calumet High, Notre Dame Academy (Wisconsin), Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day, Plymouth High, East Grand Rapids, Riverview Gabriel Richard, Flint Powers, St. Ignatius (Ohio), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Salem High, Forest Hills North Eastern, Saline High, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Saginaw Heritage, Grand Rapids Christian, Traverse City West, Hancock High, Traverse City Reps, Hartland High, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, Houghton High, Utica Eisenhower, Howell High, Woodhaven High, Livonia Churchill and Wyandotte Roosevelt High.