Grand Rapids Hockey: The Grand Rapids Griffins
Grand Rapids is known as Beer City USA, but that doesn’t mean that’s all the city has to offer. The Grand Rapids Griffins are the local professional AHL hockey team, and are the affiliates of the Detroit Red Wings. This means the players for the Griffins can be traded up to the Wings, or down from them at any time! The Van Andel Arena serves as the home ice for the Griffins, as well as a concert venue for many major artists.
While Grand Rapids had hockey teams known as the Rocket and The Owls in the 1950’s and 70’s,  the Griffins didn’t become a franchise until 1996. With the construction of a 10,000 person stadium, the new hockey team needed a mascot. The ensuing contest yielded the name The Griffins for the new IHL team. Once the team was formed, Bob McNamara became the first GM, and subsequently hired Dave Allison as Head Coach. Dave had just finished up a short term as the head coach of the Ottawa Senators just before being hired. This launched the Griffins into the league with a good amount NHL expertise. More ex NHL players were added to the team during the inaugural season. The Griffins won their very first game on the road against the Muskegon Ice.
In 1997, the Griffins hosted the all star game at home, in front of a crowd that numbered over 10,000 fans. They also sold 7,000 season tickets that year, and only two home games failed to sell out completely. The Griffins set an attendance record for the number of fans attending games for the 1997 season. 1998 brought with it a flurry of roster changes, and a rough season. Guy Charron was hired as the new head coach of the Griffins after coaching 5 years as an assistant coach for the Calgary Flames. Many of the Griffins’ players earned NHL contracts during the season, and left the team. The Griffins failed to make the playoffs that year.
In 1999, the Griffins sought an NHL affiliate team. After heavy lobbying of the Ottawa Senators, the Griffins landed a two-year deal. This would prove invaluable in the upcoming seasons, as the Griffins hosted many NHL players. Each year of the contract, 12 Senators prospects were required to play “down” with the Griffins. The intent behind signing the affiliate contract for the Griffins, was to improve their record and be contenders. It worked too. In the 1999 season, the Grand Rapids Griffins won their first regular season IHL championship.
The Griffins signed an affiliate contract with the Detroit Red Wings in January 2002. They immediately won the West Division Championship in April of that year. The next year, they won the Central Division Championship the following year. In 2002, the Griffins won their first Calder Cup, and added an additional one in 2017. Much of the new success could be credited to the players vying for places on the Red Wings’ roster. The new contract required the Wings to send 13 players to the Griffins every year. The roster today is still populated with Red Wings’ prospects and players.
Programs and Community Outreach
Today, the Grand Rapids Griffins are fully involved with their local community. One of the major programs that the Griffins host every year is “Put a Lid On It”. This community outreach program provides kids with bike helmets, who are elementary and middle school aged, while educating them on head safety. The Griffins also host a youth hockey league. “Growing with the Griffins” features player visits to teams, and free lessons on hockey basics. On top of these, the Griffins host a teddy bear toss every year, and donate all of the bears to charity in Kent county. For more information on the Griffins’ community outreach programs, check out their community page.
Tickets and Deals
Tickets can be purchased through a variety of avenues, such as the box office. Season tickets are also available online for the die-hard fan who doesn’t want to miss any of the action. The prices for these vary, so you must fill out a form to get more information on buying season tickets. Friday nights feature specials when it comes to deals on concessions. Every Friday is $2 beer and hot dog day, which is a popular draw for fans. You can also buy tickets for the D-Zone, where you can get in-seat service throughout the game, and still take advantage of the Friday Deal! Regular tickets can be purchased as well, and range from $19 to $40 for VIP glass seats. These prices reflect day-of-game purchases, and if you buy ahead of time, the tickets are slightly cheaper.
Let’s Go Griffins!
If you need something to do for your Friday night, the Griffins are the perfect evening event! This local professional hockey team is consistently a contender for the Calder Cup, and always give you a good show! Be sure to take advantage of any discounts and deals that you can find online, and buy your tickets in advance to save time and money. Also, be sure to check out how you can get involved in the community with the Griffins organization and make a positive difference in someone else’s life!