Junior hockey has a secure presence in the Downriver area of Trenton and Woodhaven, thanks in large part to Lisa Cruz and her husband Mark Cruz, who own the Detroit Fighting Irish of the U.S. Premier Hockey League.
To be sure, hockey is a family affair for the Cruz crew as the three kids of Lisa and Mark all have an involvement in the game. Oldest son Zachary played for the Fighting Irish and youngest son Tristan still does — while daughter Jena is part of the Detroit Compuware program.
Family aside, as owners of the Fighting Irish, Lisa and Mark, along with venerable coach-general manager Dan Vasquez and co-coach Peter Flynn, aspire to put a quality program on the ice and help send their players to college.
“The goal is for the players to make it to college and be able to play hockey,” Lisa said.
“Last year, for instance, five players got over $200,000 in scholarship money to go to (three different schools) — Lindenwood, Waldorf and Adrian,” Lisa told Trentontrib.com sportswriter Dave Merchant.
The Fighting Irish was founded in 2010-2011 by original owner Keith Lang and purchased by the Cruz family in 2013.
As part of the Cruz commitment to hockey in the area in which they work and live, the majority of players on the Fighting Irish roster hail from Downriver.
Fighting Irish home games are played on Downriver turf at the Brownstown Sports Centre, which is located on Telegraph Rd. in Woodhaven.
Meanwhile, as coach-general manager of the Fighting Irish, the aforementioned Vasquez is appreciative of the community values that the Cruz ownership has.
“What makes (Lisa and Mark) unique as junior hockey owners is that priority has been their sense of community, which is very endearing to Pete (Flynn) and I as coaches.
“In addition, “Vasquez continued, “when adopting our core values, they included players from our program that were part of our organization before their ownership.”
Competitive person that he is, Vasquez said the Fighting Irish first and foremost strives to represent the Downriver hockey community in a positive manner.
“Every day we get a little closer to our vision,” Vasquez said. “We are hoping that the community gets out to our games and supports these young men. We believe we are one of the best entertainment values in town but more importantly we believe our purpose is to represent our community.
“We look forward to filled stands but even more in the fellowship and the sense of community that this game can bring to our community,” concluded Vasquez, who has a long coaching association within USA Hockey circles.
PHOTO: Fighting Irish owners Lisa Cruz and Mark Cruz. (Photo by Trentontrib.com.)