I began this diary about 4 years ago when it became clear that there were far fewer seasons ahead for Red Berenson at Michigan than behind. In my early drafts, this is not how the story ends; Red retiring on the heels of his most disappointing season since he first took this job 30+ years ago. The story was supposed to end with Red announcing his plans to retire while his team competed for another conference title. On Senior Night he’d receive a 12 minute standing ovation with legions of grown men weeping bittersweet tears, and nobody thinking less of them for doing so. The season would end with Michigan in the NCAA tournament and maybe making another Frozen Four and perhaps even capturing that elusive 3rd National Title for Coach.
Alas, that is not how this story ended, but if you’re expecting a tribute riddled with qualifiers based on how his career finished out, prepare to be disappointed. This diary will not be that, because Red’s legacy is far more than just the past few years. Red’s legacy is that he was the greatest Michigan coach of our generation. With all due respect to Schembechler, Urbanchek, Carr, and Hutchins; Red didn’t just create a state dynasty, or a conference dynasty. Red built Michigan into a national dynasty. For 25 years, when college hockey pundits talked about the great college hockey powers, the Minnesotas, Boston Colleges, and North Dakotas, Michigan was always in that conversation as well. Michigan was to hockey what Duke is to college basketball, what Alabama is to college football. Red made us that good, that dominant. When we look ahead for the football program, we’re not hoping that Jim Harbaugh duplicates Bo’s success, we are hoping he duplicates Red’s.
But his legacy isn’t just about his tenure as Michigan hockey coach. Red Berenson was a Michigan Man before Bo invented the concept. Red Berenson, as a 19 year old kid, rode a train for days from Regina, Saskatchewan to see if he wanted to play college hockey for Michigan in an era where no Canadian hockey player with any promise would even think of that as path to the NHL. Yet, Red Berenson arrived in Ann Arbor, took a look around, and sent word back to his teammates in Regina with the simple phrase, “This is the place.”1
Four simple words that should become the unofficial motto for The University. Who among us haven’t strolled through on The Diag in early October with the leaves crunching under our feet and felt similar? Michigan is special and Red recognized that. Why else would a 45 year old coach leave a promising future in the NHL to return to his alma mater to assume control of a program that had cratered into nothing? It’s doubtful that it was the money, because Michigan didn’t pay coaches all that much in 1984. No, my conclusion is that Red came back to Ann Arbor because “This is the place” was still in him, because Michigan gets inside us, and when Michigan needs you, you answer the call.
Of course, the rest is history. Red took over a program in shambles, rolled up his sleeves, and built the greatest program Michigan Athletics has seen since Fielding Yost. When the dust settled we’d collected 11 CCHA regular season and 9 tourney titles, 13 GLI titles, 23 NCAA tourney appearances, 11 Frozen Fours, and 2 National Championships. There’s a lot of laundry hanging from the rafters in Yost Ice Arena, and most of it is due to him. Our helmets will forevermore have wings. Yost will continue to be one of the toughest road games to play for any visiting team. Fuck the Horseshoe. Fuck Cameron. At its peak, NOBODY wanted to play Michigan in Yost Ice Arena. Ask 2003 Colorado College for their feelings on the experience. Or Denver in 2002. Or Michigan State. Or Miami (NTM). Or Notre Dame.
Soon, Michigan will bring on board a new caretaker for this thing that Red created, this tiny hockey miracle born in the middle of a football-crazed fanbase. Red didn’t have the impact on our fan culture to the degree that Bo did, but Red showed us what being an elite program at Michigan looked and felt like. Not just competitive, not just good, not just great, ELITE. For us hockey fans, Red was our Sinatra, performing his version of “My Way” with a hockey team, and bringing down the house night after night. Monday afternoon was not the way this story was supposed to end, but life usually doesn’t provide fairy tale endings. Still we have the memories, so many great memories; along with the swagger, so much swagger, just waiting to emerge for the next guy.
Thank you Gordon “Red” Berenson for choosing Michigan, for seeing that “This is the place”. We will always be grateful.
1 Blue Ice, John U. Bacon
Dean Blais informed his team Tuesday that he is stepping down as UNO's hockey coach.
In eight seasons with the Mavericks, Blais posted a 146-133-30 overall record, advanced to two NCAA tournaments and the school's first Frozen Four appearance. UNO went 17-17-5 during his final year.
Blais has also coached at North Dakota. I haven't followed his career lately, but I seem to remember that he's a solid coach with a pretty good reputation.
I know that Mel is still the #1 choice, but does Blais become a person of interest, if, as widely expected, this is Red's last season behind the bench?
Maybe it's not as bad as that night after a game at LSSU where he walked through the snow in his game suit, but it's hard to imagine it being worse than this for Red Berenson.
In two games at Yost, against Michigan State, Michigan has been outscored 7-1.
This would be bad enough in the Ryan Miller years, when MSU was capable of such shutout against anyone. But this MSU team has a season record of 6-17-3. They are coached by Tom Anastos, a man completely out of his league. They are in every way an embarrassment to their school, to their conference, and to the sport of college hockey.
And they've blown out Michigan twice at Yost this year.
That's a third of their win total for the entire season. And Michigan hasn't even been able to beat them in regulation, either--the other three games have all gone to OT, and Michigan's two conference "wins" over MSU have been meaningless shootout exhibition victories.
It took Michigan 119 minutes and 50 seconds to score a single goal at home.
It's the worst team he's had since those first couple of years rebuilding the program. It is a second, utterly humiliating loss at home to an arch-rival that is itself at an all-time low point.
It is the low point of the Red Berenson Era. What a tragedy.
I started photographing Michigan sports in Spring of 2012. I had just finished my Sophomore year of Undergrad in engineering and wanted to do something with my photography skills, so I joined the Michigan Daily. The 2011-2012 season was Michigan's 22nd consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. Photographing this 2012-2013 team was obviously a very special opportunity for me and one that I was excited about.
But apparently I was a curse that led to a three year NCAA tournament drought. Or at least many have told me this. Sorry, guys.
But this weekend the curse was broken as Michigan played in the NCAA Tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Since most Michigan could not make the trip, I wanted to make a Diary that gives a feel for what the atmosphere was like. Away games/environements have always intrigued me. Unfortunately I chose the last game of the year to start one but better late than never, right?
The Notre Dame game was a fun preview of the years to come. Fans of both teams travelled well. When teams took the ice, it was a battle of the bands with the fight songs. "Let's Go Irish" chants were drowned out by "Let's Go Blue" chants, and vice versa.
Not every Michigan player dressed, but they did all travel. As a fan, it's tough watching your team go into overtime because there's really not much you can do. As a player though, it must be much worse. They looked far more nervous than any fan (as seen above).
Unlike the Big Ten Tournament, plenty of Michigan fans showed up to cheer on the team. This was to be expected, as Ann Arbor to Cincy is about 4 hours, versus 12 hours to St. Paul. The stadium still wasn't full and the upper deck was tarped off, but there were certainly enough there to create a decent atmosphere.
The hockey bands really gave the college sports atmosphere. The arena still played RAWK MUSIK (actually it was a lot of hip-hop mash-ups that they probably pulled from a YouTube playlist), but hearing Notre Dame and Michigan's fight songs back-to-back was a refreshing sound. Even the Northeastern band traveled quite well (as did their fans, though to a lesser extent than all the other teams).
Speaking of Northeastern, they were thoroughly handled by North Dakota. Despite scoring the first goal, they found themselves down 5-1 in the 2nd period to UND. The above photo pretty much sums up the game.
Steve Racine played lights out all weekend. This save above was a wrap-around by Notre Dame in overtime that was saved by the blade of Racine's skate.
Moments later, Michigan scored, players celebrated, and Notre Dame fans went home looking sad.
The next day, North Dakota fans arrived with strong energy. Though they are now officially the "Fighting Hawks", "Let's Go Sioux" chants echoed all game long.
Also in attendance: Michigan AD Warde Manuel. I don't think he changed facial expressions once all game.
Sioux Fighting Hawks had some supporters from Ohio, too, celebrating in front of some Miami (Oh) and OSU fans. Something tells me they were cheering more for not-Michigan rather than North Dakota.
"Fighting Hawks" doesn't appear to be catching on any time soon.
If you're looking for a moral victory, after the North Dakota player scored he got taken out by the ref. So there's that.
It took until the 3rd period for North Dakota to take a 4-2 lead in this game. They dominated most of the pace and you couldn't help but feel that it was only a matter of time until they went ahead. In the first period, shots were 22-5 in favor of North Dakota. The players received a lot of support as they left the ice, Racine especially.
Red Berenson gave no mention of retirement at his press conference. He did applauded the efforts of his seniors, and praised the efforts of North Dakota. Could this have been his last post-game press conference?
If you were unable to attend the tournament in Cincinnati, I hope this has helped give you a feel for what it was like! A thrilling overtime win over Notre Dame and 2.5 periods against one of the best teams in the country made for an exciting weekend of hockey. (This is also my first Diary post so go easy on me!) I'd like to make more of these when I travel to away games in the future.
See you in the Fall!
"Legendary Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson will be the guest on Thursday's "Slap Schotts College Hockey Segment" during Rodger Wyland's "Big Board Sportstalk" at 11:05 a.m. on FOX Sports 980 (WOFX-AM).
With the Wolverines visiting Union and RPI this weekend, we'll talk to Berenson about his career in hockey and the outlook of his team this season.
You can post questions on Twitter @slapschotts, my "Slap Schotts" college hockey segment page on Facebook (please like the page by clicking here, as well as The Daily Gazette On Ice Facebook page here.
Source: Daily Gazette, 10/21/2015, Ken Schott
Red's done great things for this program and no doubt he has universal respect in the hockey world, but as Michigan just shot themselves in the foot for the 3rd straight year I thought I'd look at the numbers to see the impact Mel has had.
Mel has been at either Tech or Michigan since the 1985-1986 season. Darker lines are with Mel (2014 is projected based on current win%)
(Apologies for the hastily assembled, hard to read chart)
Red is a great guy, but I think it's his time. Retire with all appropriate fanfare and respect, but Hackett needs to call Mel and ask what he needs to come back to Ann Arbor.