Posts Tagged ‘michigan nationals’

HOLLAND, Mich. – Michigan is known for having some of the best youth hockey teams in the country, especially at the Tier I, or AAA level. Little Caesars, Honeybaked Ham, Belle Tire, Compuware, and a host of others are known nationwide for producing highly competitive teams. Unfortunately, west Michigan youth hockey players have had to travel to Detroit or other areas of the state in order to roster on one of these teams because the sunset side of the state lacked its own AAA hockey club. A new hockey program launched recently in Grand Rapids and Holland has changed all of that, however.

The Edge, which owns and operates the Edge Ice Arena in Holland, has purchased an additional facility in Byron Center, south of Grand Rapids. This rink, formerly known as Southside, will host teams at every level, from house and travel (Tier III) to Tier I and II. Both rinks will operate under the name Michigan Nationals. This means that Holland’s highly successful hockey club, the Ice Dogs, will be undergoing a name change for the upcoming 2011-2012 season. Their programs at every level will remain the same, however.

The co-directors for the two hockey programs are Travis Richards (Holland) and Mike Slobodnik (Grand Rapids). Richards was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1988 Early Entry Draft and played for University of Minnesota as a defenseman from 1989-1993. He was a member of the 1993 USA National Team and played three games in the NHL for the Dallas Stars. Richards played in both the IHL and in the AHL for the Red Wings affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins for several years. With the Griffins, he set a record for games played at 642, and was the first player to have his jersey retired in the history of that hockey club.

A native of Kentwood, Michigan, Slobodnik played Junior A hockey for the Cleveland Barons and four years for Wisconsin at Stevens Point. He is a former assistant coach at East Kentwood High School, coached various other travel clubs, and was the hockey director at Walker Ice Arena, located south of Grand Rapids. Between the two rinks the Edge now operates in Holland and Byron Center, western Michigan youth hockey players of all ages and skill levels will have the opportunity to play and develop under the supervision of an experienced group of staff and coaches.