Header image courtesy of Western Michigan University Athletics
On Monday evening, Michigan Hockey’s Twitter account unceremoniously tweeted that they have canceled their GLI Showcase game against Western Michigan.
For those that are not inclined to read the brief article attached to the tweet, here is the short of it:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan and Western Michigan athletic departments announced today (Monday, Dec. 27), the Great Lakes Invitational contest scheduled for Thursday (Dec. 30) has been canceled due to health and welfare protocols within the Wolverines’ program.
Fans who purchased single-game tickets will receive a full refund. Further information will be provided by the ticket office as soon as possible. Fans with questions may contact the U-M Ticket Office via email MTickets@umich.edu.
Michigan’s GLI game on Dec. 29 against Michigan Tech will be played as scheduled at 7 p.m.Credit: University of Michigan Athletic Department
Obviously during these times, while the NHL has been having rampant covid problems canceling games, fans are automatically left to assume that this must be a covid issue. Fans are initially led to believe that it must be a problem within the Michigan program. However, for that to be the case, why would Michigan opt to cancel their game against Western Michigan and not their game against Michigan Tech the day before? Why would it be okay for Michigan to pass their covid problems on to Tech, but not Western Michigan?
Assuming this was a weirdly-worded way to say that Western was having covid issues, why hasn’t Michigan State made a similar announcement?
Nope, it’s not any of that. Put your covid panic button away on this one. According to Michigan’s student newspaper, the Michigan Daily, it appears as though with just three days before their matchup, the Wolverines have decided to cancel their game against Western merely because they don’t feel like getting beaten by the Broncos.
Already short five players, @umichhockey canceled its game originally scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 30, against @WMUHockey due to health and welfare protocols — the cancellation is not COVID-19 related.@ConnorEaregood with more: https://t.co/CFWi7VB6cX— Michigan Daily Sports (@theblockm) December 27, 2021
The Wolverines are short five players due to the ongoing World Junior Championship in Canada. A team spokesperson told the Daily that playing games on back-to-back nights would create wear and tear on the already depleted roster. The spokesperson maintained that the cancellation is not COVID-19 related.
Michigan’s matchup with No. 18 Michigan Tech in the Great Lakes Invitational will continue on Wednesday, Dec. 29.Credit: The Michigan Daily
It is completely understandable that the Wolverines’ roster is going to be depleted, with five of their players having garnered the honor to represent their nations at the World Junior Championships in Alberta, Canada. But, it’s also not as though this situation was a shock to their schedule. Just as Michigan’s hockey program has to be aware that the GLI is an annual tournament they’ve participated in for more than a half century, they are also aware that they have a large cadre of players that have the potential to get selected to the World Junior Championship.
As much as we hate to admit it here on the Tech side, it’s an incredible notch in your belt to have that many players selected to the premier Under-20 tournament in the world. Even if it hasn’t translated to a lot of success at the NCAA level, Michigan is swiftly turning into a factory of NHL talent. And it’s a fact that any roster missing five players is going to struggle. However, it’s questionable at best (and just plain scummy at worst) to cancel a game that you knew was on your schedule well more than a calendar year in advance, completely knowing what your team’s situation will be, just because Michigan decided it would “create a lot of wear and tear on a depleted roster.”
Simply put, this is poor management and poor coaching. The fact that Michigan is too scared to play Western, especially when they are knowledgable about the situation of their program, should absolutely not fall on the shoulders of the Broncos.
The college hockey world has been absolutely abuzz with how underhanded this move appears to be.
Without explanation, impression is “we don’t want to play a game vs. Top 5 team without 4 top players at WJC”…. Tell me I’m wrong— Adam Wodon (@CHN_AdamWodon) December 27, 2021
And the Red Berenson Award for Dodging an Opponent with a Pulse Goes to … https://t.co/NYQP8kJCsD— Mike Eidelbes (@INCH) December 27, 2021
Dec. 30 vs. WMU – cancelled— Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonCHN) December 27, 2021
Dec. 29 vs. MTU – game on
The final question on the minds of fans just seems to be: how? How can a program that made a commitment to a game at the beginning of the season just decide to pull out of it scot-free with 3 days left? Can a team just cancel games that might negatively affect their pairwise — at will? Even with essentially no forewarning and no covid issues to speak of, the Wolverines can walk away from this situation without having to accept a forfeit?
With the rules currently as written, the answer unfortunately appears to be “yes.” Rule 77, “Refusing to Start Play,” appears to only apply when a game is scheduled, both teams get to put their skates on the ice, and then one of them flat out refuses to play.
What this means is that as written, Michigan has done nothing wrong or outside of the rules. That doesn’t make it any less scummy. Bottom line: the rule needs to change. This isn’t fair to Western’s program, especially since the Broncos players seemed to want to play this game that has been on their schedule the entire season.
All of this amounts to extremely poor management by the University of Michigan’s hockey program, and that rests solely on the shoulders of our old friend, Mel Pearson. If he didn’t believe in his team enough to play that game against Western, he should have never scheduled it to begin with.
As Michigan Tech-centric media, we obviously attack a lot of these issues with a bias and agenda favoring our preferred school. At the end of the day, though, this entire situation just stinks to high heaven. This is a disgraceful move by the Wolverines and I would call upon the NCAA to take a look at their rules on forfeiture, because the Wolverines absolutely deserve a forfeit loss for this endeavor. A team should not be at liberty to decide that they simply do not want to play a scheduled game without valid reason and without repercussion. If you aren’t ready to play the schedule you committed to playing, accept the loss.
Matt Cavender graduated from Tech in 2018 and is a former President of Mitch's Misfits, serving two terms. Matt serves on the Tech Hockey Guide staff as Editor in Chief. He currently works as a Digital Marketing Specialist in Grand Rapids, MI