Hockey sustains success despite club designation
The bar has been set high with the success of the Grand Valley State University Division II club hockey program over the last six years, and attracting high-caliber players keeps the program near the top of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Without a typical recruiting process, GVSU academic standards have just as much to do with players coming to Allendale as the reputation of the hockey program. With the team hosting 80 to 90 participants at tryouts every year, head coach Mike Forbes cites the amount of participation from potential players when it comes to interest in the program.
“My first concern is whether or not our student athletes get into the school,” Forbes said. “We look for the best hockey player we can find that gets accepted to Grand Valley. Since we have had success on the ice, it helps us attract a better quality player.”
The reputation of the school and hockey program attracts high school, junior college and transfer players. Some of the top performers from the last couple seasons made a choice to come to GVSU based on the academic standards of the school more so than being recruited.
“I wanted a good education and to play club (after juniors),” said freshman forward Tyler Stroller. “Also the team (has) won a national championship and appeared in the finals last season.”
Returning players can make some of the best recruiters with connections to high school and junior teams.
“With all the hockey players out there, all you need is one guy to tell his friends who are interested in looking at a school,” said senior defenseman Craig Marrett. “The successful program GVSU has comes into play with a guy’s decision to come here.”
An online recruiting form, which last season had 140 applicants, helps the coaching staff reach out to players without a formal scouting staff. Three times over the summer, coaches put on camps for potential players to come skate and get a feel for what playing at GVSU is all about. Sixty to 70 participants attend each camp with those who are admitted to GVSU invited to tryouts.
“It’s a good test to find out what kind of player they are, lets them meet the coaching staff and skate with some other players,” Forbes said. “We’ve been very fortunate to be able to attract some good players. We have smart kids who want to play hockey, just like the ACHA programs at (Michigan State University) or (the University of) Michigan.”
There are no scholarships for club hockey players, and with more strict academic standards to get into GVSU compared to other area colleges, the coaching staff knows they face a tremendous obstacle when it comes to replenishing the roster year after year.
“I think it’s remarkable we’ve been so competitive given some of the challenges we have,” Forbes said. “It’s not GVSU’s fault, it is just the reality of our situation.”