LEGACY Global Sports puts the Event Spotlight on our largest hockey tournament of the calendar year, the Motown Classic. We sat down with Sasha Ristic, Growth Director at LGS Hockey, who helped establish the tournament that has become a mainstay in the amateur hockey schedule every October. Take a deep dive into the history of this event in a great Q-and-A session with Sasha below.
LGS Media: When was the Motown Classic first established and how has the event evolved over the years?
Sasha Ristic: “The tournament started in 2005 with just the 1997 age group. That was my son’s age group back when I managed his team. We had 32 teams the first year in the event and then we added the 1996’s and 97s the following year for a total of 46 teams. We added the 98’s in 2007 but removed the 96s. Every year after that we added the next youngest age group. So basically, it started with 32 teams and now it is all the way up to 350 teams.”
LGS: How would you describe the level of competition at this event?
SR: “The competition level is some of the best in North America for AAA. Because of the location, we are able to attract Midwest teams, Ontario teams and others. Teams that want to play against these teams come to the Motown Classic to see how they stack up. Every year we get some teams that come from very far away, even some European teams.”
LGS: What type of teams thrive at the Motown Classic?
SR: “Teams that can play in high pressure situations typically will do well. The tournament format allows for three round-robin games, so there is not a lot of room for error. We try to keep some wildcard spots open for the quarterfinals because the competition is so high.”
LGS: What separates the Motown Classic from other hockey events?
SR: “This event separates the competition level so that it’s very competitive. We will have as many as three division levels at some age groups. We do this with the intention of avoiding any blowouts. They occasionally happen anyways, but we do our best to ensure that everyone plays a competitive schedule. The other really important thing we try to do is to keep the teams away from the teams they would play in their normal schedule. For example, we will try to have pools that consist of a Michigan team, an Illinois team, an Ontario team, and then a team from anywhere else. When teams travel, they are interested in playing competition that they won’t see during the year, and because of our draw, we are able to make that happen. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable where people will have to play someone from their league or close to each other geographically, but we do our best to avoid that situation.”
LGS: What off-ice activities have players, coaches and parents enjoyed while attending this event?
SR: “The revival of the Detroit downtown area has been great for the city. People are interested in going to the new Little Caesars Arena to watch the Red Wings play. When they are in town during the event, we get a lot of requests for group tickets. Also, we are so close to Ann Arbor and East Lansing that people can go see some of the best college programs in the nation. Another great option is to go see the U.S. National Development Team play. The U-17’s and U-18’s play in the USHL and you can catch tomorrow’s future stars play while you’re in town. Finally, when it comes to hockey we are also very close to 4 OHL teams: Flint, Saginaw, Sarnia, and Windsor. So if you are interested in catching an OHL game you can do that as well.
“Outside of hockey, people have loved visiting the Henry Ford Museum. There’s also a Ford Motor Company tour where people can see how cars are manufactured. For those outside the Motor City that’s a very cool thing to see. The Detroit Zoo is also a popular attraction, as well as some great shopping outlets (high-end mall, outdoor malls, outlet malls, etc). Like all major cities, Detroit has all the restaurants you can imagine and some you can’t find anywhere else. We have three casinos in downtown Detroit for those who like to gamble. There’s something to accommodate everyone during Motown Classic downtime.”
LGS: What’s new at the 2019 Motown Classic?
SR: “We are planning a larger Thursday night welcome party for those who want to participate. We will announce some top exhibition games for that evening amongst other activities. We will also be moving a division into Ann Arbor, one of the best college towns in North America. With the University of Michigan football team away that weekend we can fit into the area with no concerns. Ann Arbor has a great facility and the people that are playing in that town will really enjoy it.”
LGS: Who are some of the alumni of the Motown Classic?
SR: “The alumni list keeps growing every year. We have so many players in the AHL, OHL, & the NCAA. Some of the more prominent names are Jake Chychrun (at the first event in 2005), Alex Debrincat, Christian Fischer, Max Jones, Clayton Keller, Luke Kunin, Charlie McAvoy, Victor Mete, Jack Roslovic, Dylan Strome, Troy Terry, Brady and Matthew Tkachuk, Andre Svechnikov, Zach Werenski and Cayla Barnes (USA Women’s Olympic team).”
For more information, or to register for the Motown Classic click HERE. Register by April 5th for a discounted rate!