Yes, there are a couple D3 programs and ACHA “D1” programs, but if Michigan born players are going D1, they’re going to have to go to school out of state. There are seven schools across the state with men’s hockey programs, but not one of these schools has a competitive women’s program that would give homegrown players a place to play.
The University of Michigan and Michigan State University are the two biggest schools in the state, both card-carrying members of the BigTen, but have yet to implement a women’s hockey program (even if they have tried in the past). Many people who follow U of M hockey have heard the rumors that former head coach Red Berenson pushed back against efforts to add a women’s team because it would take space and ice time away from the men, given that Yost Ice Arena is already cramped with no room for expansion. Maybe this is a valid excuse, but it’s not like there aren’t three other rinks in the Ann Arbor area…
While on the topic of Michigan, their excuse that it would be too expensive is simple bullshit, given that they consistently sell out the largest football stadium in the country and just added a new track and field facility. I don’t know much about the situation at MSU, but they’re not exactly scrambling for funds either given their powerhouse football, basketball, and hockey programs.
It’s honestly kind of sad to see all the women’s hockey talent developed by AAA programs like Honey Baked and Belle Tire leave the state, or for these athletes to settle for D3 or club hockey when they have the potential to play at a top school on a scholarship. Megan Keller, one of the stars of the US Women’s Olympic hockey team hails from Farmington, Michigan, played for Boston College. Yes, they have a great program there, but if a Michigan based D1 program was able to attract just a fraction of the talent here, they would too.
Personally, I think it is a little unfair to call Michigan a “hockey state” when there isn’t even a place for women to play at a high level in college. The players, funds, and institutions are all here.