HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech hockey coach Mel Pearson doesn't want anything to distract from what takes place on the ice at this weekend's Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, but attention will inevitably be directed behind the benches today when his Huskies face the Michigan Wolverines at 7 p.m.
Western Michigan and Michigan State square off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday with Sunday's start times set for 3:30 and 7 p.m.
Pearson served as an assistant coach at Michigan for 23 years, all under current 28th-year head coach Red Berenson, before accepting the job at Tech, his alma mater, going into the 2011-12 season. Today will be his first meeting against the Wolverines since then.
Michigan Tech hockey coach Mel Pearson, pictured in this 2011 file photo, served as an assistant at Michigan for 23 years. The Huskies and Wolverines meet today in the Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena in?Detroit. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette file photo by David Archambeau)
"It's not me versus Red, it's Tech versus Michigan, and that's how we're looking at it," Pearson said, "but I guess it's a little different, obviously, being there so long. It's weird, but very exciting at the same time.
"I can't say that I'm looking forward to it. I want Michigan to do well, except when we play them. It's a unique situation. I have a lot of friendships over there and I respect their team and the way they play."
While he doesn't want the attention on the coaches, he knows his time at Michigan could serve as an advantage in terms of preparation.
Pearson estimates he played a role in recruiting about 80 percent of the current Michigan roster.
"There won't be many surprises, not that there is in college hockey anyways with all the film, but I have a little insight to their better players, and that's an advantage for sure," Pearson said.
He has plenty of understanding about the GLI, too, having been involved in every one since 1977 when he started his four-year playing career at Tech.
Pearson won the tournament every year as a player, including scoring the tournament-winning goal in triple overtime against Michigan in 1979.
He was an assistant coach at Tech from 1982-88, a period in which Tech never won the championship. He then became an assistant coach at Michigan in '88 and helped the Wolverines to nine straight GLI championships. The Maize and Blue followed that with a 10-year championship drought.
"It goes in cycles, and every year is different," Pearson said.
Altogether, Pearson has been involved in 16 GLI championship-winning teams. The Wolverines are the defending champions and Tech has not won since 1980, Pearson's last year as a player.
The 2012 GLI was originally set to be played outdoors at Comerica Park, however, the canceling of the 2013 NHL Winter Classic due to the NHL lockout forced this year's tournament back indoors to Joe Louis Arena.