Much more than hockey

HOUGHTON – For more than 40 years, the Great Lakes Invitational has served Michigan Technological University as much more than just a hockey tournament.

The GLI has gained status as an unofficial alumni reunion, drawing massive groups of former Tech students each year, many on an annual basis.

The 49th edition of the tournament, held for the first time outdoors Friday and Saturday at Detroit’s Comerica Park, was no different. Black and Gold supporters could be found all over Detroit and were seen dotting Comerica Park with Husky sweaters and apparel.

For Katelyn McLean, an employee of the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena who is a Houghton High graduate (2005), it was a little taste of home to see the Copper Country flood Detroit for a weekend.

“It’s great to see so many Yoopers down here,” said McLean, who started working with the Red Wings in October and played locally with the K-Wings. “It is funny, when people (in Detroit) ask where I am from, and I say ‘Houghton,’ they automatically assume it is Houghton Lake. So I say, ‘no, I’m from way North,’ and they always say, ‘Ohhh, you are one of those.’ So I feel like we have a reputation to uphold in a good way of course.”

Those in attendance at Comerica saw a smorgasbord of hockey jerseys this weekend, with Michigan and Michigan State fans intermingling with those bearing Husky sweaters.

It was an opportunity for the mixing of cultures not often seen at such a large scale between Yoopers and residents of the Lower Peninsula.

“It gives us our time to shine,” McLean said. “It gets a little bit more respect for us.”

With the GLI held yearly in Detroit – usually at the Joe Louis Arena before this year’s excursion to Comerica – the tournament continues to serve as an outlet for Michigan Tech alumni not able to make it back to Houghton to catch a game.

Even Tech coach Mel Pearson recalls seeing a consistent turnout of Husky fans when he was an assistant coach at Michigan.

“I have been to this tournament 33 years, and I always notice the Tech fans,” Pearson said. “We have a great alumni base, a great fan base here in Southeast Michigan and really in all of Michigan.”

The Michigan Tech Alumni Association makes sure to provide every reminder of Houghton they can for former graduates residing in the Lower Peninsula.

One of the most popular promotions comes from the selling of “Doghouse” pickled eggs to raise money for a scholarship the MTAA Detroit chapter hands out each year.

“We have been hosting an event with the GLI for many, many years,” Brenda Rudiger, of the Michigan Tech Alumni Relations Staff, said.

“It has taken many forms but it has kind of evolved into a social soiree before the game. and they always grab pickled eggs from the Dog. Just a little taste of Houghton. It is just a memory that alums have. You study hard and then you play hard. So a beer and a pickled egg was a big deal for many, many years at Tech.”

With GLI contract set for next year with Michigan and Michigan State in tow, many of the same fans will be making the trip again in 2014.

“I don’t know if we have the most fans,” said Dennis Wallikainen, of Tech’s University Marketing and Communications office. “But we have the best fans.”