By @MichaelCaples –
PLYMOUTH – Welcome to the Mitchel Kiefer Memorial Rink inside USA Hockey Arena.
On Dec. 6, the Detroit Catholic Central hockey family gathered for a game against rival Warren De La Salle and for an incredible tribute to one of their departed goaltenders.
With a formal rink dedication ceremony, the Olympic ice sheet at the Plymouth-based facility – the longtime home of the Shamrocks hockey program – was officially named the Mitchel Kiefer Memorial Rink.
New signage on the boards and throughout the building spreads the Kiefer family’s message; their battle against distracted driving now has a new home and a new platform as they remember and honor Mitchel, the former DCC goaltender who passed away in a car accident in the fall of 2016.
“It’s almost difficult to put into words, the emotions around something so meaningful,” said Steven Kiefer, patriarch of the Kiefer family. “I mean to have an amazing facility like this named after your son is really such an honor. Mitchel loved hockey, he loved his CC hockey team, and he’s so proud of his state championship win here at this facility, so it seemed very fitting we’d try to do this in his memory.
“But he’s also a very humble young man, so I think he would definitely want it to be more about the distracted driving message than Mitchel Kiefer’s memory. And that’s why everything we do we talk about Mitchel, but then we talk about how he was taken from us by just a senseless, selfish act of distracted driving. And we’re all guilty of it, so we just have to change behavior to get people to stop doing it.”
Months of planning went into a new partnership between USA Hockey, The Kiefer Foundation and Detroit Catholic Central to create a unique honor for Kiefers while spreading awareness about distracted driving.
“This is kind of a culmination of an ongoing project with Steve Kiefer and DCC,” said Scott Monaghan, vice president of USA Hockey Arena. “DCC is a long-term user and group in the building, and over the course of the last year, we negotiated a long-term agreement with them. We want them to be in the building for the long-term, they’re a great customer, they drive in a lot of business, so that was Part 1.
“Part 2 was that Steve approached us at a point last fall after Mitchel had passed away about doing something in his honor with the rink because Mitchel played here…so that discussion went on throughout the course of the year, and really they’re two separate items, but they’re tied together. We want this building to feel like DCC’s home. You can see some of the branding elements that go into it over the course of this year, and we feel like by the end of this season, they’ll be able to walk in here and feel like they’re on campus. So that was the objective and tonight is about celebrating both Mitchel Kiefer and DCC.”
The Keifer Foundation’s message will get a substantial amount of exposure with the new partnership, as USA Hockey Arena is home to a great deal of tournaments and events, along with their primary residents in the National Team Development Program.
“I think the hockey community is so strong, so tight and this facility with all the activities that are hosted here, I think there’ll probably be 500,000 people per year that cycle through this facility and every one of them will see the signs of distracted driving,” Kiefer said. “There’s further enhancements we’re adding. We’re actually adding a small memorial case for Mitchel, and I think it’ll just be very meaningful for people to see hockey player that whether they knew Mitchel or not, they can relate to having a young man, a son, a brother that played hockey and then to see how – in such an instant – life can be taken away, I hope that’ll be very impactful and just change, hopefully, generations of hockey players and their families and their parents and hopefully will save some lives.”
The Kiefer family is getting support from many members of the hockey community. An impressive group of hockey player featuring the likes of Chris Chelios, Igor Larionov, Tie Domi and Zach Werenski showed up for a charity game in August, and Michigan goaltending legend John Vanbiesbrouck was the man responsible for building the connection between the new foundation and USA Hockey. The vice president of the junior council for USA Hockey and the general manager of the Muskegon Lumberjacks was on hand to serve as a guest speaker during the rink dedication, as well.
“I’m here representing USA Hockey, I was involved in the relationship and trying to bring it together,” Vanbiesbrouck told MiHockey. “Also part of Goalie Nation, very proudly represented. Obviously it’s unfortunate for Steven to lose a young son and Mitchel being a goalie, it’s a good fit for me to kind of give a goalie blessing if there is such a thing.”
Countless people from the hockey community have been helping the Kiefer family on their new mission, and, according to Steven Kiefer, the support from his son’s high school hockey program and alma mater has been remarkable.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “It just seems like every year there’s another tragedy. We’ve had several over the last few years. In every case, you see the CC families step up and help the families through it. Every family that’s been through something like this at CC, they will all say that they couldn’t have gotten through it without the strong support of the CC family.”