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Hockey Tournament Expands To Three Divisions & Remains In Flint

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- March 31 -- Hockey matters, including the reclassification of its tournament into three equal divisions beginning next year, highlighted the actions taken by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association during its annual Winter meeting here on March 26.

The reclassification of hockey from Classes A and B-C-D will result in three nearly equal divisions of approximately 43 schools each. The rapid growth of ice hockey as an interscholastic sport in recent years, particularly in Class A, had necessitated the addition of a district level to that tournament. The reclassification will return the ice hockey tournament to a regional-final round format, with most regionals consisting of five teams.

The Council also voted to keep the MHSAA Ice Hockey Finals in Flint through the year 2003. The first two years of the extension will be played in the current IMA Sports Arena, and beginning in 2002, the games will take place in a new, 8,500-seat IMA, which will be constructed alongside the existing facility.
Flint has hosted all divisions of the Ice Hockey Finals from 1979 to 1987, and each year since 1992, and has hosted finals in 23 of the 25 years since the MHSAA began sponsoring a tournament in that sport in 1975. Other sites considered were Cobo Arena in Detroit, and the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids.

"Flint offers the most experienced and interested local management for the Ice Hockey Finals, and conducts games in the MHSAA tournament at the district, regional and quarterfinal levels every year as well," said John E. "Jack" Roberts, executive director of the Association. "Flint is the best North to South location for this tournament final, and we're looking forward to playing in the new IMA Sports Arena, even as local management works to improve the existing facility."

Conduct concerns in ice hockey were also addressed by the Council, in light of a season which saw 97 player ejections, a record 9 coach ejections and 1 suspended game during the recently-completed season. A vote was taken to seek input from tournament managers at all levels of the 1999 tournament, and to consider at its May meeting, proposals which would assign the MHSAA Ice Hockey Committee the responsibility of taking action to restore confidence that interscholastic hockey in general and the MHSAA postseason tournament would be conducted in an atmosphere that is appropriate for educational athletics; and to conduct a mandatory meeting of administrators of all ice hockey sponsoring schools if their team wishes to play in the 2000 MHSAA tournament.

Girls soccer will also be reclassified based on its continued growth into four equal divisions, effective in 2000. The girls soccer tournament had been expanded to three divisions in 1998, but with the addition of more schools, will go to four nearly equal divisions of approximately 80 schools.

The Council also voted to approve additional procedures related to the expanded MHSAA Football Playoffs, including penalties for schools which break football contracts for reasons other than league actions; the reclassification of teams wishing to play at a higher classification; and approving the use of home fields prior to the Regional round of the tournament, regardless of the distance between the two schools.

A school which is found to break a football contract for reasons other than league actions will be required to forfeit that game as far as the playoffs are concerned, and the opponent will receive a forfeit win, which will count towards playoff qualification. If the school breaking the contract schedules a new opponent, the game will not count for either school towards the MHSAA Playoffs. A school which has been forfeited to as a result of an opponent breaking a contract may secure a new opponent, and then that game will be counted towards the playoffs instead of the forfeit victory.

For those schools wishing to opt up to a higher classification for the football playoffs, their enrollment will be set at the mid-point of the higher classification. For the two District games in the playoffs, home fields will be designated, even if the competing schools are 200 or more miles apart. Previously, neutral sites were assigned if two schools were 200 or more miles from each other. That rule will continue to be applied at the Regional level of play.

The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities; and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.