On Wednesday night, the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches’ Association (MHSHCA) announced via YouTube, award winners, honorees and Hall of Fame inductees for 2020, highlighted by the announcement of this season’s Mr. Hockey recipient, Brady Rappuhn.
This year’s honorees...
Rappuhn concluded a four-year career with his best season yet, totaling 44 goals and 89 points in 28 games. he recorded at least one point in every game Saginaw Heritage took the ice this season, and got on the scoresheet in 42-of-43 games dating back to Feb. 2nd, of his junior year. In 116 career games, the 6-foot forward scored 109 goals and 246 points while leading the Hawks to three consecutive Division-I Final Fours. This season’s campaign was highlighted by a three-point performance in a 3-0 win over No. 3 Brother Rice, a two-goal game against No. 2 Livonia Stevenson and a four-point outing against No. 8 Hartland. In total, Rappuhn posted eight goals and 16 points in eight games against Top-25 teams this season, elevating his game against the Hawks’ toughest opponents.
Given out annually since the 2002-03 season, 28 athletes and one team have been presented with the Perseverance Award for exhibiting courage and determination while overcoming adversity.
Plymouth junior David Brace showed tremendous courage and perseverance while dealing with his mother’s fight against cancer and subsequent passing. Despite managing her illness, Brace continued supporting his parents, teammates and school with a positive attitude and amazing energy.
Tyler Stelter of Wyandotte Roosevelt served as an inspiration to teammates and coaches through battling a series of injuries and undergoing surgery, only to come back and play in his senior year through mechanical support and pain. His drive serves as a reminder to never give up on your goals or dreams, and keeping a positive attitude through difficult times.
In memory of the late Grandville captain Ryan Fischer, the Legacy Scholarship is awarded to an individual who displays integrity, character and sportsmanship, while establishing and promoting a standard for all amateur athletes in the state of Michigan. Ryan Endres of Forest Hills Northern-Eastern, did just that by maintaining a 4.1 GPA in the classroom and serving as a two-year member of National Honor Society. He also displayed an outstanding record of community service by volunteering at the University of Michigan Metro Health Hospital, serving senior citizens through the Meals on Wheels Program and teaching at vacation bible school. Endres plans to attend college this fall to study pre-medicine.
More than 200 players across three divisions were recognized as First-Team, Second-Team and Honorable Mention All-State recipients. A complete list and breakdown by division can be found HERE.
Both teams and individuals were acknowledged for Academic All-State honors. A total of 79 teams earned the accomplishment by maintaining a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA for the 2019-20 school year, and a complete list of schools can be found HERE.
With a 3.5 or higher GPA over the course of seven consecutive semesters, 276 seniors from around the state were also recognized with earning Academic All-State HERE.
In addition to acknowledging players, coaches and administrators, the MHSHCA also highlighted Friends of High School Hockey, who help in the promotion and growth of the sport. This year’s recipients were John Castine, Ed Rivez and Craig Peterson.
Castine has been a longtime supporter of high school hockey, serving as host of the year-end All-State banquet for the past 17 years. Rivez previously served as secretary and treasurer of the Metro League, and continues to stay involved as a clock operator for dozens of games throughout the season in metro Detroit. Peterson has been a regular contributor to the Michigan High School Hockey Hub, providing coverage and promotion of teams and players from around the state.
The anvil finally dropped.
A decision that hung over our heads for the last three weeks came crashing down on all of us. On Friday, the MHSAA announced via press release, the cancellation of the remaining 2020 winter and spring sports seasons.
I don’t think it comes as much of a surprise following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement earlier this week regarding the closing of K-12 students in the state of Michigan. If the current global climate is deemed unfit for academics, then it’s virtually impossible to justify the continuation of youth sports. While they were two separate decisions from two completely different entities, they very much go hand-in-hand with one another. It doesn’t make accepting either decision any easier, and my heart hurts for the 12 teams who are left forever with the burning question of, “What if?”
We talk a lot about how special it is to end your season with a victory. How hard it is to climb the mountaintop. People can speculate how the Final Fours would have shook out and who would have reigned supreme in 2020, and heartbreakingly, we will never know. Now is probably not the time to speculate; we are all hurting in a time like this and crowning a hypothetical champion isn’t going to do anyone any good.
It’s no consolation and won’t make this any easier to accept, but right now, I think it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate those teams who never got to finish.
The players who didn’t know it was their last game. How different would warm-ups have been at Otsego Sportsplex on March 7th, if Marquette knew that its 5-2 victory over TC Central would be its last? What would Brendan Miles and Kyle Gaffney have said to each other before taking the ice, knowing that the Salem game would be their finale? What would Frank Novock’s final message be to his 10 Country Day seniors in the locker room before their game against University Liggett that Saturday? As coaches, we tell our kids all the time to play every game like it's their last because you never truly know when it’ll be. No one could have ever envisioned this.
What about the coaches and the many hours they put in? To win a state title is a lifetime’s worth of work. Sure, Taylor Keyworth will likely be back with Byron Center next season and it was Rocky Johnson’s first year as head coach for Howell, but that exact moment in time with that group of players and staff is gone forever. People will be quick to say that coaches will have another crack at it and that powerhouses like Hartland and Trenton will be in the mix again in the future, but shouldn’t today’s current climate be an indicator that just about nothing is guaranteed anymore? I can’t sit here and say with confidence that coaches like Dan Giachino and Dick Blasy will for sure get another crack at a Final Four in the future. For their sake, and all 12 coaches’ sakes, I sure as Hell hope so.
For the seniors, I just can’t imagine what you’re going through. At 17- and 18-years-old, you’re being forced to learn one of life’s toughest lessons. It might be the first time you experience this, but I can promise you it won’t be the last time you’re forced to accept that life truly isn’t fair. It’s not any one person’s fault; there’s no one to blame. It’s okay to be mad at the world and scream, “Why me!?” It’s important to know that you are not alone though. It’s not just you, or your team, or the state of Michigan even… ITS AN ENTIRE WORLD of teenagers who have been robbed of some of the most special moments of their lives. Let that sink in for a second.
What you’ll come to learn is that life does go on. The sun will come up tomorrow. There is no reset button in life like there is on your PS4, and you only get one shot at things. It’s not gonna happen today or tomorrow or next week or next month, but I promise you, when you can come to terms with this and accept it, an entire generation of kids will come out of this stronger and smarter than any other graduating class in our lifetime. That internal strength will serve you well in college and trade school, and some day, with your careers and families.
Parents are in a similar boat. You want what’s best for your kids, and you’re heartbroken that they’re heartbroken. Senior years are just as much your swan song as it is theirs and playoff runs are probably more nerve-racking for you than for them. Clinching tightly to blankets while sitting in the stands, biting your lip watching behind the glass, religiously wearing the same outfits as if your wardrobe somehow affects your son and his team’s performance on the ice. If there’s any silver lining, maybe the next few weeks with teenagers forced to stay at home, away from their friends and “stuck” with their families. I know patience will wear thin with our young kids in the house 24/7 for two straight months. Years from now though, I hope you all can look back on long-lasting memories of daily family meals at the dinner table, movie nights, a series of board games and quality time like we’ve never experienced before.
It’s unprecedented times, and we’re experiencing something no one has ever dealt with... ever. Each day, it feels like we’re experiencing something as a community, as a country, as a society, that only exists in novels and movies. Mandatory stay-at-homes? Schools canceled? Professional and college sports in limbo? It doesn’t make the cancellation of the 2020 playoffs any easier to accept, but I feel for all those affected by the decision and know that we are all in this together. Connect with me on Twitter to continue the discussion.
We are in unprecedented times not just in the hockey space, sports both professional and amateur, but the world as we know it.
At 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, less than two hours before Hartland and Trenton were scheduled to take the ice at USA Hockey Arena for warm-ups in preparation for their Division-II Semifinal game, the MHSAA announced that all winter sports postseasons had been suspended until further notice due to concerns of the COVID-19 health risks.
“Based on the events of the last 48 hours and with things changing by the minute, we believe we have no choice but to suspend our winter tournaments immediately,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “This is a suspension until we have a better handle on the situation. The health and welfare of everyone involved is our number one priority.”
The Eagles and Trojans, Brother Rice, Marquette, Country Day, Calumet, Midland Dow, Gabriel Richard, DCC, Byron Center, Saginaw Heritage and Howell's seasons all stopped in their tracks with the State Finals 48 hours away.
Postponed? Cancelled altogether? Will be rescheduled? At this time, it's too early to speculate and the current climate of the situation changes extremely fast. To get up-to-the-minute updates from the MHSAA, click HERE. Looking to vent? So am I, so connect with me on Twitter and we can talk about it together.