Detroit — It would be safe to say no one loves the Great Lakes Invitational Hockey Tournament more than Mel Pearson.
Pearson, now in his sixth year as head coach of Michigan Tech, has been a part of more GLIs (39) than any other person, winning championships in the prestigious tournament as a player (4) for Tech at the old Olympia Stadium and the first year at Joe Louis Arena in ’79, then earning multiple titles (12) as an assistant coach at Michigan before winning one as head coach of the Huskies in 2012.
“This will be my 39th GLI, four as a player with Tech, then six more as an assistant there and 23 at Michigan and six now,” Pearson said of Tech (12-7-3), which will play Michigan at 3:30 Thursday at JLA. “I started at the Olympia as a player, went down to Joe Louis and God willing will be next year at the new building (Little Caesars Arena).
“It’s been fantastic, so many incredible memories. There’s been a lot of neat things that have happened down there. I think it’s the premier college hockey tournament. I’ve won it as a player, won it as an assistant coach and won it as a head coach. It’s the people and I enjoy coming down.”
How good has Pearson been since taking over as head coach of his alma mater?
Tech had a 70-197-37 record in the eight years prior to Pearson’s arrival. He owns a career record of 107-84-25, earning WCHA Coach of the Year honors in 2011-12 and again last year.
Pearson is also a member of the NCAA Hockey Selection Committee, which also plays a role in finding future Frozen Four sites.
Pearson plans to stay a couple of days in Detroit after the GLI to take a tour of the new Little Caesars Arena which will be site of the GLI next December.
“I’m hoping to take a tour next week because we’re staying down here since we’re playing next week at Notre Dame and they’ve invited me to take one,” said Pearson. “I’m also on the NCAA Ice Hockey Selection committee and we have selections coming up so I’d like to see what their layout is and what they have going on over there.”
So, does Pearson feel a Frozen Four could be in the cards at the new arena?
“I think it would be, hockey is so big in this community,” Pearson said. “I think it’s a no brainer, but I only get one vote.”
The United Center in Chicago will host the Frozen Four this season (April 6-8), followed by the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul in 2018.
Pearson could be in high demand if coaching changes are made in the near future. Michigan coach Red Berenson decided to remain head coach of the Wolverines for a 33rd season and is still going strong at age 77.
“Well, I tell people he looks fantastic and still has the passion and fire so don’t think this guy is just going to retire,” Pearson said. “He’s got some good kids coming back next year. They’re young this year and they’re still a pretty good team and they’ll be even better next year, but you never know.”
Tom Anastos has yet to get MSU back to where it was a decade ago when it was making NCAA tournament appearances and winning the national title in 2007. He guided MSU to the NCAA Tournament in 2012 with Rick Comley’s players, but hasn’t been close since.
Comparing six-year coaches:
Mel Pearson at Michigan Tech – 107-84-25. Eight years prior to his arrival – 70-197-37.
Tom Anastos at Michigan State – 75-107-21. Eight years prior to his arrival – 163-126-37.
Great Lakes Invitational
■ Michigan (7-8-1) vs. Michigan Tech (12-7-3), 3:30, FSD
■ Michigan State (4-9-1) vs. Western Michigan (8-5-3), 7
■ Consolation, 3:30
■ Championship, 7