Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's not just hockey for the MC Monarchs

Team owner Mark Gilman shares a laugh with MC Monarchs coach Jason McCrimmon (Photo courtesy of John Corzine/Hockey Weekly)

“He’s part hockey coach, part Father Flanagan.”
That short summation by team owner Mark Gilman described Macomb County Monarchs head coach Jason McCrimmon.
Following a recent practice at Fraser Hockeyland, McCrimmon gathered a handful of players in his office and closed the door.
“They have developed big heads,” he explained later, smiling.
Who can blame the upstart Monarchs for their confidence? The team opened the season by winning its first six games. Those wins included sweeping a three-game series against the third-ranked Tier 3 Junior team in the country, the Soo Firehawks, as well as a victory over the previously undefeated Detroit Fighting Irish.
The Monarchs were in Traverse City last weekend to play the hometown Hounds.
“Jason is a very well-respected as a coach,” said Gilman. “He can be tough on the players, but he also knows when to laugh. He is not a yeller.”
The Monarchs are a first-year Junior A (Tier 3) team that plays out of Fraser. They are a member of the Midwest Junior Hockey League. The Macomb County team joined the Alpena Flyers, Berkley Bruins, Decataur Blaze, Michigan Ice Dogs, Soo Firehawks and Traverse City Hounds.
The MJHL is an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sanctioned Tier III league. Its stated primary goal is to develop its players on and off the ice for higher levels of junior hockey and to be able to play college hockey.
After the MWJHL’s inaugural season, more than 30 players had secured college hockey offers at the NCAA Division III level and at all three levels of ACHA hockey. That number was similar after the 2013-14 season.
Still, the Monarchs seem to be about much more than wins and losses. A look at the unique resume on the back of McCrimmon’s hockey trading card might provide a clue.
McCrimmon was born and raised in Detroit. He’s from the city and even though Detroit is called Hockey Town by some that is hardly the reality.
“My mom was a social worker. She made me try hockey when I was three years old. I hated it. Why did I want to stand around on some ice and freeze to death? None of my friends were playing,” he said, laughing.
But McCrimmon kept playing, more out of obligation to his mom than anything else. When he was 10, he moved on and played with some teams in Grosse Pointe and then later with Belle Tire.
At 16 he quit. Other priorities beckoned, just like they do for plenty of teens. He did not play again until he was 20 years old.
“I didn’t have any passion for the game,” he explained. “I had other priorities.”
An opportunity presented itself at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. After two years there, he moved on to the University of Massachusetts Boston. He later played for Muskegon and Flint of the IHL, as well as other teams.
McCrimmon had just returned from a multi-year stint as the captain of the Hela-Kiekko professional team in Finland when he met with Gilman, who was intrigued by the 6-4, 260-pound McCrimmon’s story.
“I knew he had a lot of fights in his career and wanted to see the toll that was paid on his knuckles. He made me laugh when he said the worst part about hockey fights was not broken bones in the hand, but that you never get used to being hit in the face. He wanted out,” said Gilman.
Scar tissue doesn’t negate compassion.
The Monarchs have formed partnerships with the Hope Center in Fraser as well as with McCrimmon’s Ice Dreams hockey program in Detroit.
The Hope Center is a non-profit, Christian-based, human-services organization whose purpose is to address the hunger crisis and respond to the needs of county residents. Ice Dreams is designed to introduce ice skating and hockey to kids in Detroit.
“We want these players to be productive citizens. Not only do we want them to get better on the ice but off the ice as well. We are not only building players, but young men, too,” said McCrimmon.
The majority of the players are from Macomb County. Several are Oakland County residents. There are also two on the roster from the Cape Cod area and one from the Czech Republic.
The team will play 46 regular-season games. The playoffs follow the regular season.
“I love hockey. Jason and I are really good friends and he deserves this chance. I’ve seen so much bad coaching and situations where the kids aren’t treated right. We wanted to start a team that would do right by the kids. We’ll follow through on our promises,” said Gilman.
Gilman is the owner of Decus Strategic Consulting and Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Waterford. He resides in Clarkston with his wife, Patti. They have five children in their blended family. Three of them either played or are playing hockey.
“I’m just a hockey geek,” said Gilman.
Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, was a kids geek. The Irish priest believed there were no bad boys. McCrimmon seems to espouse that same belief.
Even those boys who occasionally get big heads.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home