DETROIT — Last year, the Great Lakes Invitational took the tournament outdoors, playing the four-team event at Comerica Park.
Last year, Andrew Copp was absent from GLI competition as Michigan managed just one goal in its two games out in the winter elements.
Copp competed in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Juniors Championship last year, which forced him to opt out of the winter festival in Detroit. While representing the U.S. in Sweden was a tremendous honor for the Ann Arbor, Mich., native, missing the historic outdoor event was a bit of a disappointment.
“I think it would have been cool to play at Comerica Park, obviously,” Copp said. “The GLI is a pretty big tournament for us each and every year so it was a bummer that I wasn’t able to be a part of it.”
Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 2013, Copp returns to the GLI as the two-day tourney returns to the confines of Joe Louis Arena. Now the captain of the Wolverines, Copp leads his teammates into a pivotal moment in the season.
After starting the season 4-5-0, the Wolverines have won six of their last seven games with the 50th annual GLI tournament quickly approaching. Coming away as champions in a tournament that features four Michigan-based schools would solidify the Wolverines' course for the remainder of the season.
“It would just mean we’re heading in the right direction,” Copp said. “It’s a goal of ours to win the GLI every year so it’s a goal we want to achieve and I think we have the personnel and the coaching that will allow for us to have a good tournament and I think we’re looking forward to it.”
Coach Red Berenson, in his 31st season with Michigan, said leadership is strong with this year’s group and having three captains in three different classes helps touch all levels of the team. J.T. Compher, a sophomore, and Zach Hyman, a senior, serve as alternates to Copp as a junior. Berenson said the 20-year-old Copp has always been a leader and is a great role model on and off the ice.
“I’d say he’s more vocal and he leads by example,” Berenson said. “He’s one of those players who knows what to do. He was a quarterback in high school football and a real good one. He’s got some of that quarterback mentality. He’s not afraid to speak up and lead the way.”
As quarterback at Ann Arbor Skyline, Copp set the Michigan High School Athletic Association record for passing yardage in a single game (557 yards) in 2011. That record has since been broken but as Berenson said, Copp is a born leader and the Wolverines will look to him and his return to the GLI tournament.
“I try not to change too much,” Copp said. “What I did got me here so I don’t want to change too much but I guess just being a little bit more vocal in terms of communication with the guys and try to help out the younger guys especially whether it be on the ice with systems or away from the rink with school or whatever it is. I just try to be vocal and be there for all the guys. Just be there for them in general.”
The four-team tournament will kick off on Sunday, Dec. 28 with a doubleheader between Michigan and Michigan Tech at 3:30 p.m. and Michigan State and Ferris State at 7 p.m. The winners of those contests will advance to the championship game on Monday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m., while the other two will meet in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. on the same day. All four games of the GLI will be televised live on FOX Sports Detroit Plus.
Individual tickets for all 2014 GLI are now on sale at the JLA box office (313-471-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at OlympiaEntertainment.com.