Hartland won’t get the opportunity to defend its state Division 2 hockey championship next season.
Instead, the Eagles will be playing in Division 1 as a result of a restructured classification procedure for hockey that was announced Friday by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
The MHSAA’s Representative Council approved a proposal to classify teams by enrollment based on whether they are standalone (one school) or co-op (multi-school) programs.
Among the 70 schools that don’t co-op with other schools, Hartland ranks 14th in enrollment, putting it squarely in Division 1. Brighton and Howell have opted up to play in Division 1, but will no longer have that option. Howell is fifth and Brighton 12th in enrollment among hockey programs from only one school.
Four times in the past 10 seasons, Brighton and Hartland have each reached the state championship game. The only way that could be possible now is if the neighboring schools do not end up in the same regional, quarterfinal or semifinal.
“I’m extremely curious as to how the divisions will look after the realignment is completed,” said Rick Gadwa, who has coached Hartland to three of the last four Division 2 championships. “Regardless, I’m optimistic it will add balance to all three divisions, which is a win for the state.
“As for us, if we are placed in D1, I wouldn’t say it’s going to be easier or harder, just different. I do feel with several teams moving to D1, it will strengthen the division as a whole. The idea of playing Brighton in a regional just doesn’t feel right. However, a Brighton-Hartland playoff has to get everyone excited. “
Being in neighboring districts does not guarantee Brighton, Hartland and Howell will be in the same regional. Howell went north to a regional hosted by Saginaw Heritage this past season, while Brighton hosted its own regional. The possibility existed that Brighton and Howell could have met for the Division 1 championship. When Howell played in Division 2 in 2019, it didn’t play in the same regional as Hartland.
“If you look at it, Livingston County’s one of the best hockey counties in the state,” Howell coach Rocky Johnson said. “It’s a great competitive thing for the KLAA and for us, Brighton and Hartland. Sadly, we’d beat each other up to get to the state finals.”
The change should strengthen Division 1, which has had only a handful of legitimate state championship contenders over the years.
Either Brighton or Detroit Catholic Central has been in the last 10 state championship games. On five occasions during that span, both teams reached the final.
The last time neither team advanced to the final was in 2011, when Novi beat Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Division 1 had 34 co-ops and only 14 standalone programs last season because the MHSAA used combined enrollment to determine divisions. Of the 14 standalone programs, all but Macomb Dakota opted up to Division 1.
Being able to draw students from multiple schools hasn’t been an advantage for co-op teams. No co-ops have won a state championship and only three have reached the title game – Dearborn in 2006, Forest Hills Eastern in 2017 and Byron Center in 2021.
Under the new policy for classifying co-ops, Pinckney could remain in Division 3 if, as expected, he enters into an arrangement with one or more schools.
Other notable Division 2 teams that would move up to Division 1 based on this school year enrollment are Ann Arbor Pioneer, Canton, Clarkston, Davison, Livonia Stevenson, Novi, Romeo and Saline.
In another change that impacts the postseason hockey, the Michigan Power Ratings system will be used to seed the entire regional round. Also, a seeding committee will reseed teams at the semifinal round, with the top seeding facing the fourth and the second facing the third.
The Representative Council also made a significant change in boys wrestling, switching from the current weight classes to those determined by the National Federation of State High School Associations. The new weight classes are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285 pounds. The Council changed one girls weight, lowering 255 to 235, to align with the NFHS weight classes.
New opportunities to use video replay were enacted, as well.
MHSAA staff will have the ability to review video of an ejection and modify subsequent penalties if three instances: when it’s clear the wrong athlete was ejected, when the participant was ejected as a result of a rules misapplication or when video clearly shows an ejection or suspension for flagrant contact was in error.
At the state football finals, head coaches will be allowed one challenge during the game for reviewable calls.
Contact Bill Khan at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.