Cranbrook’s Weidenbach reflects on career as retirement nears
Among the things Cranbrook’s Andy Weidenback is most proud of is helping to grow High School hockey.
Andy Weidenbach has won 10 Michigan High School Athletic Association state championships at Cranbrook. But they are not what he takes the most pride in during his tenure at the school.
“The banners that hang in the rafters are a visual representation of the success we’ve had here at Cranbrook,” Weidenbach said. “But … ”
What’s he’s most proud of is considerably raising the school’s on-ice standard, modernizing the Cranes’ home of Wallace Arena (he was also been the rink manager for most of his tenure) and helping to grow High School hockey.
This will be the 67-year-old Weidenbach’s last season behind Cranbrook’s bench. He and his wife, Martha, who also works at Cranbrook as an administrative assistant in the boys boarding program, are retiring together at the end of the school year.
“We both love our jobs, like what we do and love our school,” Weidenbach said. “But at the same time, let’s enjoy life.”
The couple plans to move to Florida, but still spend more time with their sons Andy Jr., John and Eric and their 11 grandchildren.
Weidenbach has a rich legacy at Cranbrook.
When he was hired as Cranbrook’s coach in 1993, the hockey program was down and under MHSAA sanctions for rules violations, Wallace Arena was a shell – open only during the hockey season – and High School hockey in Michigan was barely an afterthought.
But as 2019 begins, Cranbrook is one of the most successful and prestigious High School hockey programs in the country at 10-3-0 and ranked No. 7 in Division 1 this season; Wallace Arena is a modern, state-of-the-art facility that’s open year-round, and interest in High School hockey has exploded in Michigan and the U.S.
Weidenbach has played a major role in all of it.
He started the first High School fall league in 1993 and originated the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League Prep Showcase in 2000. In the almost 20 years since its inception, the showcase has become one of the biggest and most heavily scouted events nationally in High School hockey and has grown from 12 to 42 teams.
Weidenbach was also the impetus for expanding the length of periods in Michigan High School hockey from 15 to 17 minutes. He served on the rules committee and on the board of the National Federation of High School Hockey, was the president of the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association – he was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2009 – and is the longtime president of the MIHL, of which Cranbrook is a member.
“It’s what we did for the greater good of High School hockey,” Weidenbach said.
But his influence on the sport is not limited to the High School level.
In the 15 years before he came to Cranbrook, Weidenbach coached at the Youth, Tier I Junior and Major Junior levels, working with Hockey Hall of Famers Mike Modano and Eric Lindros along with future NHL standouts Doug Weight, Brian Rolston, Pat Peake and Todd Harvey, among others.
He began as a Youth coach in Allen Park and eventually moved on to the AAA ranks, where he coached Modano, Weight and Rolston. Weidenbach then became the coach of the Compuware Ambassadors of the old Junior A North American Hockey League, where he coached Lindros for a season. And when the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors made their OHL debut in in 1990, Weidenbach was the team’s first head coach. That’s where he mentored Peake and Harvey.
Weidenbach was also a scout for the Compuware organization.
Of course, many of his Cranbrook players also went on to play at hockey’s highest level, including Casey Wellman, Andrew Miller and Patrick Brown, the son of former Red Wing Doug Brown).
Another of Weidenbach’s former Cranbrook players, defenseman Alec Regula, was taken by the Red Wings in the 2018 NHL draft.
But it’s not just the players who have gone on to professional hockey that gives Weidenbach gratification.
“Some of my best moments in hockey have been when they come back,” he said. “They’re out of college and have families, and they thank you for what they learned.
“I’m not minimizing the record, but that’s probably the best reward a coach can get.”