Belle Tire AAA 18U hoist John Kay Cup on way to Nationals
Having an opportunity to win a national championship is always special, but that chance takes on more significance for this year’s AAA Belle Tire 18U team.
The squad is headed to the Nationals tournament in Philadelphia this week thanks to winning the Michigan Tier 1 18U title and the trophy that came with it – the newly renamed John Kay Memorial Cup.
Kay, longtime hockey director for the Belle Tire Hockey Club, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 65 last November.
“He used to come into the locker room all the time and say hi to the kids,” Belle Tire 18U coach Bob Mantha told Red Line Editorial, Inc. “Anyone who was always around the Taylor Sportsplex, you got to know him and he got to know the kids.
“He was a guy who always cared.”
Belle Tire (51-19-4) won the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association state championship at the Taylor Sportsplex last month by defeating Compuware in two straight games in a best of three series.
“It was kind of ironic that the first year that MAHA does a trophy to honor John, our 18 team … ended up winning it,” Mantha said. “I’m sure he’s quite proud.”
Belle Tire is not the only area team going to Nationals. Three Kensington Valley Ravens teams will compete at the National Girls Tier II Tournament that gets under way April 5 in Marlborough, MA.
The KV Ravens 14U, 16U and 19U squads all won their respective MAHA state crowns at the Dearborn Ice Skating Center on March 11.
Plymouth’s USA Hockey Arena will host the Tier I 15U National Championship, also beginning April 5. Representing Michigan and MAHA in that tournament will be the Little Caesars 15U team coached by former Red Wing Kris Draper. His core group of players has won five MAHA state titles in the past six years.
Other USA Hockey National tournaments this week and weekend are Youth Tier I 14U in Charlotte; Youth Tier I 16U in Philadelphia; Youth Tier II 14U in Amherst, NY; Youth Tier II 16U in Wayne, NJ; Youth Tier II 18U in Green Bay; Girls Tier I in Marlborough, MA, and Women’s B and C in Bedford, MA.