Great Lakes Invitational moves to Grand Rapids; Michigan hockey not in field

Richard Silva
The Detroit News

The Great Lakes Invitational is heading to Grand Rapids on Dec. 27-28 after spending five-plus decades in Detroit, and has one notable absence in its four-team field.

Michigan State, Western Michigan, Ferris State and host Michigan Tech make up the field playing at Van Andel Arena. Michigan is not included.

Michigan Tech won the Great Lakes Invitational title in 2019.

The Wolverines have been one of the four teams involved in the GLI every year since 1973, but last year canceled their game against No. 4 Western Michigan, despite playing a regularly scheduled game against Michigan Tech the night before..

The Wolverines cited “health and welfare protocols” for the game not being played, but accusations that they were ducking the Broncos swirled. 

"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," a Michigan hockey spokesperson said in an email to The Detroit News. "We respect the long tradition of the GLI, and we look forward to the possibility of building new traditions in the future."

Nevertheless, the invitational will go on, and for the first time in its 57-year history, will be played in Van Andel. The first round will feature Michigan Tech going up against Western Michigan at 3:30 p.m, on Dec. 27, and Michigan State taking on Ferris State at 7 p.m.

The championship game is Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. The third-place game is at 3:30 p.m.

It’s only the third time in GLI history that Ferris State will play in the event, with 2014 and 2019 being the only other instances.

“We are proud to be playing in this year’s Great Lakes Invitational Tournament," Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said in a statement. "This is a storied, and longest-running collegiate hockey tourney in the nation, and has a great history of memorable champions."

“The fact that it is the inaugural time it is being held (in) Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids only adds to the excitement. We (look) forward to a large turnout from the Bulldog Nation to help root us on to victory.”

Michigan State has won the invitational 11 times, and coach Adam Nightingale has participated as both a player and coach.

"The ability to compete for a tournament championship in the middle of a season is exciting, and I was lucky enough to win a GLI title when I was a player," Nightingale said in a statement. "Michigan State is proud to be a part of the great tradition of this tournament — Grand Rapids is a great hockey town and we look forward to playing in a packed Van Andel Arena."

The event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and a non-tournament showcase was played in 2021. The defending champion is Michigan Tech, which defeated Michigan State in the semifinals and Michigan in the championship game in 2019.

The GLI was first played in 1965, and has been played at Olympia Stadium (1965-78), Joe Louis Arena (1979-2012, 2014-16), Comerica Park (2013), and Little Caesars Arena (2018-19).

Great Lakes Invitational

When: Tuesday-Wednesday, Dec. 27-28

Where: Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids


Dec. 27: Michigan Tech vs. Western Michigan, 3:30 p.m.; Michigan State vs. Ferris State, 7 p.m.

Dec. 28: Third-place game, 3:30 p.m.; championship, 7 p.m.

Twitter: @Rich_Silva18