The following 50 people are the men and women we think have the most impact on the game of hockey in Michigan. They influence our young players, and they impact the policies and rules associated with the game. They are the game-changers, the people who affect hockey on and off the ice every single day.
We led with who we think are the five most influential people right now. The rest is alphabetical – there is no ranking system past the first five.
Disagree with our list? Tell us who you would have put on the list, and we’ll share your stories. E-mail editor Michael Caples at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike and Marian Ilitch
Since buying the team in 1982, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch have built the Red Wings into the best team in hockey. Between the Wings, Little Caesars’ AAA program, and the Little Caesars’ Amateur Hockey League, the Michigan natives truly are the foundation of “Hockeytown”.
Peter Karmanos Jr.
Been to Compuware Arena recently? Thank Mr. Karmanos. The Compuware CEO owns the Plymouth Whalers, annually a contender in the OHL. The Compuware AAA program is one of the best in the state. And the Detroit native happens to own the Carolina Hurricanes as well.
The new coach of the Spartans has been actively involved in all levels of the game for years. The former CCHA commissioner played important roles in the growth of college and youth hockey across the state, and now he aims to bring MSU back to national prominence.
The president of the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association directs all the major activities at the grassroots level in Michigan. Atkinson will be guiding Michigan’s youth hockey scene through major changes with the American Development Model and competition, as teams consider joining the Amateur Athletic Union.
University of Michigan fans have been lucky enough to have Red Berenson running their hockey program for the last 28 years. One of the top coaches in all of sports brings elite talent to Ann Arbor every year, and is one of the faces of college hockey across the nation.
Between scoring the game-winner in the NCAA title game for MSU and earning plenty of ice time for the Red Wings these days, Abdelkader has become the pride of the west Michigan.
The head of all high school hockey in Michigan is seeing that level of play continue to grow.
The bench boss for the best team in all of hockey – need we say more?
Now director of strategic hockey alliances, Bayoff has long served as the connection between the Red Wings and college/youth hockey.
Gordon Bowman/Jack Witt
The MAHA VP of coaching and the USA Hockey district coach-in-chief play a crucial role in educating coaches of all age levels in the state.
Cullen is active in all facets of Little Caesar’s hockey, both the biggest league in the state, and one of the top AAA programs.
Ken Daniels/Mickey Redmond
The voices of the Red Wings provide wisdom and entertainment for hockey fans across the state, and even the country.
Pavel Datsyuk/Henrik Zetterberg
The ‘Eurotwins’ continue to amaze fans on a nightly basis, and continue to inspire young hockey players across the Mitten.
USA Hockey’s president is a frequent visitor to our state, and his governing body dictates much of how hockey is played and perceived in Michigan.
The leader of the Big Ten is about to start a hockey league, and it has meant significant changes in the college level in the entire Great Lakes region.
The former Stanley Cup champ with the Red Wings is now actively involved in youth hockey in Traverse City, as well as co-owning the city’s NAHL team. When Drake speaks about youth hockey, people listen.
The commissioner of the Little Caesar’s Amateur Hockey League oversees the largest league in the state, with both house and travel programs.
The co-owner of the OHL’s Saginaw team has built the Spirit into a major player in a league dominated by Canadian squads.
One of the top execs at Fox Sports Detroit, Hammaren plays a big role in what hockey people across the state see, and how they see it.
As the Red Wings evolved into a modern-day dynasty, the hockey fan base and player participation grew along with it – and is still growing today. The Wings’ GM deserves much of that credit.
Michigan’s referee-in-chief oversees the stripes across the state – he leads the thankless troops in our game.
The commissioner of the Tier 1 Hockey Elite League, Johnson is in charge of a league that holds some of the top talent in the country.
The bench boss for Detroit Catholic Central is responsible for maintaining the success of one of the top high school programs in the state.
The director of Belle Tire hockey – one of the top organizations in the state – also serves on the Tier 1 Hockey Elite League’s board of governors.
The head of College Hockey Inc. is leading the fight to keep American-born players going to U.S. colleges, and not Canadian juniors. With both major Div. 1 schools and OHL teams just miles apart, Michigan is a focus.
Kesler is the latest role model for young hockey players in Michigan – his continued to success at the NHL level shows Michigan-born players they can make it, as well.
The program GM for the Honeybaked hockey program, Knapp directs one of the top hockey programs in the state of Michigan.
The long-standing MAHA member is the VP of adult hockey – helping people of all ages continue to stay connected with the sport they love to play.
The former NHLer is now the bench boss at Novi High School, and led them to a Div. 1 state title last spring. He also coaches for Compuware.
Jean Laxton/Patty Madden
Laxton and Madden lead the girls/women program for MAHA, an ever-growing segment of hockey in Michigan.
The Red Wings’ captain is the face of the team, and while he’s an ambassador on the ice, he’s just as good off of it. Lidstrom is present at local rinks across the state for his kids’ games all months of the year.
The regional manager of the USA Hockey Athletic Development Model is in charge of bringing the new hockey program to Michigan. The ADM has been a hot topic of discussion across the state.
The VP of youth hockey for MAHA plays a crucial role in managing amateur hockey across the state, along with serving as the chairperson for the state playoffs.
The owner of the Muskegon Lumberjacks – the only USHL team in the state – is bringing in some of the best talent in America, and helping them get to the next level.
The pride of East Lansing is an ambassador for both Michigan State and the entire Mitten at hockey’s highest stage.
The president of Warrior is leading a hometown company that is becoming one of the hockey industry’s best equipment providers.\
The former NHL bench boss is now the head coach for the Western Michigan Broncos. Will he be the right fit when they move into an ultra-competitive National Collegiate Hockey Conference in two years?
The Red Wings’ assistant GM is also overseeing Detroit’s scouting, and watching over the Grand Rapids Griffins. Without Nill, the neither team would be where they are today.
The Perani family
It wouldn’t be fair to give it to just one of them. Bob Perani started what is now the biggest hockey supply company in the state (and potentially the world), and the family has been remarkably supportive of every level of hockey.
Phair is the executive director of Suburban Sports Group, which owns or manages six ice arenas in Michigan, director of the Honeybaked Hockey Club, and chairman of the board of the newly-formed High Performance Hockey League.
The commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association will guide the league through their final two seasons.
The only woman to play in an NHL game continues to help grow women’s hockey across the state.
Perhaps the most famous woman to ever play hockey, Ruggiero continues to serve as a role model for young female hockey players across the country.
Schwanger is MAHA’s lead for disabled hockey in the state. The long-time member of MAHA has helped people across the country experience playing the greatest sport there is.
Jeff and Joe Spedowski
The Spedowski brothers run the Adray youth hockey league, the second biggest league in the state.
The coach and GM of the Plymouth Whalers helps develop talent both in the OHL, and at the youth level, as Vellucci is also active in the Compuware youth club.
The bench boss for Cranbrook for almost two decades, and he’s been nationally recognized for his accomplishments with the storied program.