Muskegon Elite Hockey Academy
The Muskegon Area has a long history of producing world-class athletes. Our local athletic programs have helped developed scholar-athletes that have competed at the highest collegiate levels, and well as professional athletes in nearly every major sport. For decades, our community has focused its attention on sports like football and basketball – producing several Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football winners, hundreds of All-State selections, and many Division-1 and Division-2 athletic-based scholarships. Beginning in 2020, Muskegon’s efforts to build superior, elite athletes is taking another great step forward to focus on building world-class ice hockey players.
The 2020-21 school year will be the inaugural year of the Muskegon Elite Hockey Academy. The partnership between The Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League, Orchard View Schools, and Mercy Health Arena, will bring world class coaches, facilities, and educators together to build elite players, high-quality students, and strong leaders.
Student Players will spend more than 12 hours each week in on-ice instruction, as well as seven hours in off-ice instruction. The Mercy Health Arena features one USA-Hockey regulation ice sheet and a 10,000 square foot off ice facility with shooting stations, weight training, turf training, and one skating treadmill. The ice facilities are shared with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, and students will have significant opportunities to train alongside some the best amateur hockey players in the world. When students are not practicing or working out, they will have access to teachers and classroom space. This space is provided through Orchard View Schools’ adjacent Alternative Education Classroom at Muskegon Community College’s Downtown Campus. The combination virtual and classroom learning experience will be valuable to students focused on playing NCAA-level hockey, as the program has been designed to meet the admittance requirements of traditional Division 1 schools.
Coaching will be provided by the Muskegon Lumberjacks coaching staff; lead by Head Coach Mike Hamilton and Assistant Coach Josh Nelson. Mike Hamilton has led the Lumberjacks since the 2018-19 season. Hamilton, who is the father of former Lumberjack captain Trevor Hamilton, is a native of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Prior to joining the Lumberjacks, he coached youth hockey for 18+ years as part of the Honeybaked youth hockey program, and also spent time coaching with Compuware and Little Caesar’s. Hamilton played collegiately for Minnesota State University, and played junior hockey for the Detroit Freeze. “My love for the game keeps me excited about coaching,” said Hamilton. “My drive and passion is to give players the support they need to become better players. I’m here to not only support the players, but also the staff.”
Josh Nelson as served as assistant coach for the Lumberjacks since the 2017-18 season. Nelson was raised in central Wisconsin, where his playing career began at Wisconsin Rapids High School. A defenseman, he moved on to play in the North American Hockey League for the Marquette Rangers, Bismarck Bobcats, and Fairbanks Ice Dogs. In a junior career that spanned more than two seasons, Nelson racked up 14 goals and 50 assists. Nelson then played four years at Minnesota State, but injuries during his senior campaign ended his playing career. Despite that frustration, Nelson was able to find a new passion: coaching. His teaching started under John LaFontaine at Shattuck St. Mary’s, where Nelson worked with younger players. He wasn’t there long before LaFontaine grabbed him to be his assistant coach in Wichita Falls. After LaFontaine’s departure for the USHL, Nelson took over the head coaching duties in November of the 2016-17 season, guiding the Wildcats to a playoff berth.
The opportunities provided via our partnership with the Muskegon Lumberjacks are invaluable. Players will follow the same workout schedule as the USHL team; they will share the same USHL coaches; they will share the same USHL facilities; they will be held to the same high team standards. If your child’s goal is to play at the USHL level, this partnership will prepare them for the expectations of elite organizations and coaching staffs.
The program is designed to allow students to continue playing with their current/preferred amateur hockey associations. There is no obligation to join a specific youth hockey organization. In the near future, the Muskegon Elite Hockey Academy hopes to field elite teams at various age groups, including U12, U14, U16 and U18 levels. At that time, preference may be given to players participating in one of these elite teams. All elite teams associated with the Muskegon Elite Hockey Academy will play a schedule that mirrors the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. When the Muskegon Lumberjacks are hosting an opponent at the Mercy Health Arena, our elite teams will also be hosting opponents. This will give our players as well as the opponent players access to observe USHL-level scouting, game preparation, and game execution. The connection to the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL will help set Lakeshore Elite Hockey Academy apart from all other hockey schools.