John MacInnes - 1999 Legend of College Hockey
There are legends and then there are legends. John MacInnes no doubt fits the latter.
The longtime Michigan Tech men's ice hockey coach, who has been sitting watching college hockey continue to develop from a higher place since he passed away back on March 6, 1983, is a person that is recognized as a true pioneer of the game of ice hockey at the collegiate level.
"John Maclnnes had foresight," says Rick Yeo, Michigan Tech's director of athletics and a person that both played for and coached with Maclnnes. "He was a tremendous hockey coach and also a tremendous person. Parents knew that when they left their son with John that they were in good hands and with someone that would help them develop as a person and as a player."
Maclnnes coached the Michigan Tech hockey team for 26 years, from 1956-82. His record is incredible, considering some of the obstacles lie had to overcome. Consider the fact that Michigan Tech has a primarily engineering-based curriculum that is certainly very challenging and not suited for just any student. In addition, the school is tucked away in Houghton, part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula — and while a beautiful place to live — it's remoteness and snowy winters no doubt present difficult challenges in the tough recruiting wars for players.
"John always said that Michigan Tech is not for everyone," says Jerry Maclnnes, John's wife who still lives in Houghton. "But John also said that with hard work and determination anyone can succeed in any situation."
And it was that attitude that under Maclnnes helped bring Michigan Tech success both on and off the ice. Under Maclnnes, the Huskies brought home NCAA titles in 1962, 1965, and 1975. Tech also won seven Western Collegiate Hockey Association crowns with Maclnnes at the helm, including titles in 1962, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1976, and 1981.
But most important to Maclnnes — more important than all the national and league titles and more important than the 20 All-Americans he helped mold — was the fact that his teams graduated more than 94 percent of the players in the program over his career.
Before his passing, Maclnnes said, "I would hate to be a part of a hyp¬ocritical situation — part of an educational system and encourage boys to come here just to play hockey. I don't ever want to be part of an "athletic factory" in a university. Regardless of what hardships we place on the boys through athletics, our main goal is still to get a degree for them."
One of the characteristics most talked about Maclnnes was his willingness to help college hockey grow.
"John was always out for the good of the game," said Ron Mason. college hockey's all-time winningest coach and currently the head coach at Michigan State. "In my younger years, John was certainly an idol. In the early stages of starting our program — when he certainly didn't have to — John helped in every way he could. He gave us a chance to play some of the better teams, teams that we finally began beating. I've remembered it as a vivid lesson about giving emerging programs a shot at bigger things."
Maclnnes was the main force behind the founding of the Great Lakes Invitational back in 1965 — a four-team holiday tournament played at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena each year during the Christmas holidays. Today, some 34 years later, the GLI has drawn almost a million fans and continues to be the cornerstone of college hockey holiday tournaments.
"John felt that college hockey could gain some great exposure by a holiday tournament in the Detroit area," said Yeo, who played in the first-ever GLI at Detroit's Olympia Stadium, the original home of the event. "As you can see by the success of the tournament for almost 35 years to date, he was exactly right."
Maclnnes was born in Toronto, Ontario, on July 1, 1925, and was a product of Toronto's extensive junior hockey program. A goaltender, he played college hockey at the University of Michigan and helped the Wolverines to a third-place finish in the 1950 NCAA Tournament. He graduated from Michigan in 1950 with a degree in business adminis¬tration.
After graduation, Maclnnes went into business and signed on with Wall Wire Company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He remained close to hockey, though, serving as the director of the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association. It was during his tenure with the AAAHA that a trophy in his name was instituted by the American Amateur Hockey Association in recognition of his work in initiating the Bantam classification of competition. The AAAHA also has a sportsmanship award in Maclnnes' name.
Michigan Tech can thank a couple of different entities for Maclnnes' arrival in Houghton. Ironically, one thank you would go to the University of Denver, which turned Maclnnes down for its head coaching position in 1956 in favor of Murray Arm-strong. The other thank you would go to Wall Wire Company itself. Wall was mov¬ing its offices from Plymouth, Mich., to Tennessee and wanted Maclnnes along. But instead, he elected to remain in Ann Arbor and accepted a job as office manager for a local construction company while continuing his work with the AAAHA.
By August of 1956, two months after turning down Michigan Tech for the first time, he was unhappy. As luck would have it, Michigan Tech had not yet filled its hockey position and they offered it again. This time he interviewed and accepted.
And the rest they say is history. During Maclnnes' tenure, his team posted a winning record against every WCHA team and only Denver could match MTU's achievements of seven titles and five second-place finishes. No team finished in the top four in the WCHA more often than the Huskies, who did it 17 times. Maclnnes-coached teams earned a spot in the WCHA playoffs each of the years in which he coached them.
When Maclnnes decided to retire, fol¬lowing the 1981-82 campaign, he was the winningest coach in college hockey with a record of 555-295-39. He had been named the NCAA Coach of the Year twice (1970, 1976) and six times earned WCHA Coach of the Year honors.
There are many other honors Maclnnes has received — the NHL honored him with the Lestcr Patrick Award back in 1986; he is a char¬ter member of Michigan Tech's Sports Hall of Fame; the Great Lakes Invitational MVP trophy is named in honor of Maclnnes; and Michigan Tech's ice arena is named after Maclnnes — just to name a few.
It is safe to say — John Maclnnes truly is a Legend of College Hockey