The Oral History of Yost in the 1990s, Part 2: The Magic Kingdom

The Oral History of Yost in the 1990s, Part 2: The Magic Kingdom

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 8th, 2017 at 2:18 PM

Previously: Part one

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[Bill Rapai]

The time blocked out on Red Berenson’s schedule for handing out free tickets could be reallocated to recruiting by 1993. Michigan had won or tied 56 of their last 62 home games by the beginning of the 1993-94 season, was riding a three-year NCAA Tournament streak, and had finished no worse than second in the CCHA each of the past three seasons.

The success of the team fueled Yost’s atmosphere, and the atmosphere helped reel in recruits; Michigan’s 1993 recruiting class featured future Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison as well as John Madden, Jason Botterill, Mike Legg, and Warren Luhning. The recruiting success continued in 1994, as Berenson signed Marty Turco, Bill Muckalt, and Matt Herr. Stories of Yost’s unmatched gameday environment spread by word of mouth and students were soon filling the entire east side of Yost. The means for procuring tickets changed drastically as the one-time Diag freebie became one of the hottest tickets in town; students camped out as more highly-touted recruits came in.

Brendan Morrison, forward (1993-97): My freshman year we had a great team and were competing for the national championship and every single night we went into that arena and played at home it was sold out and the students led the charge. You look at the architecture of the rink and you read about the history of the field house and how it evolved over the years to where it is now or where it was my senior year— I remember students would sleep outside the Michigan Union there for two nights in order to get season tickets. When you walked by there as a player and you saw the commitment that your fellow students were willing to make in order to come and watch your team play, it was truly a special thing to be able to go out there and play in front of them and it really made you understand how special a place Yost is.

Roger Spurgeon, student season ticket holder: I met these guys and we made friendships our freshman year, so our sophomore year I wouldn’t be surprised if it was me who said, “Hey, let’s go get season tickets.” They sold them at the Union and I don’t think we actually camped out. I think we went there at maybe 6 AM.

Scott Spooner, student season ticket holder: Yeah, I think the first year we were like “Let’s get there early” so we got there at like 6 AM.

Spurgeon: Yeah, like 6 AM, and there were maybe 50 people in front of us. I kind of remember that season tickets were about $60 and we got a free hockey jersey. It had “Subway” written on the back. It was a cheap reproduction hockey jersey, it wasn’t anything fancy. I think the next couple years they gave us sweatshirts. Like, nice sweatshirts as incentives to buy season tickets.

Spooner: That still said “Subway” on the back.

Spurgeon: We didn’t care. We got freebies, so we didn’t care if it said “Subway” or not.

Megaphone Man, student season ticket holder: Demand was high. You got a season sweatshirt when you camped out and put in your order for tickets. I remember they were sponsored by Subway, so they were kind of like a must-have item, kind of like they do with the football shirts and the Maize Rage shirts. Before they started doing it on a regular basis for the other sports, I think hockey was the only one really doing it at the time.

[After THE JUMP: fandom expands, everyone dances, and the rules of the rule-free student section]

The Oral History of Yost, Part 1: Borrowing from Bears

The Oral History of Yost, Part 1: Borrowing from Bears

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 1st, 2017 at 1:34 PM

[Editor's note: If you've wondered where Adam's been this summer, he's been working on this. We did not feel we could let the Red Berenson era end without doing it justice, and this is our attempt. Enjoy. –BC]

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It’s the roof. It has to be the roof. Yost Ice Arena, née Yost Fieldhouse, wasn’t made for hockey, but stand outside and look up and it’s impossible not to feel like it’s a relative of an Original Six building, perhaps the Montreal Forum’s cousin or the sibling of the Olympia in Detroit. No, it wasn’t built for hockey. At its core, Yost is just a big brick barn; it’s the people inside that made the barn a rink and made the rink one of the most maddening, intimidating places for opponents to play hockey in North America. The sharp wit of the crowd, the perfect pep band, the waves of sound that crawled the walls, crested at the ceiling, and crashed to the ice were staples of Yost throughout the 1990s. Getting there, though, might not have happened if not for a chance encounter with a bunch of Bears.

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2017 logoo_thumbSponsor Note: this post made possible by our continued partnership with Homesure Lending. If you're in need of a mortgage, Matt will collect your information quickly, check several different mortgage companies for the best possible rate, and pass it along to you. Then you get a house.  Or a houseboat, I guess? Don't buy a houseboat, that's my advice to you.

Well fine, then. Be like that. Buy a dang houseboat. See if I care. –BC

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An Empty Barn

Red Berenson, head coach: It was disappointing [when I first arrived] from the standpoint that our team wasn’t very good and the image of the program wasn’t very good, so the fans were really— they weren’t there very often. When we played Michigan State was the only time we had a full building, and there were more green and white people there than there were Michigan people. So, it was hard to recruit good players to come here and then see that we weren’t getting the support from our fans, but we were all confident that when our team got better that they would come.

But we had to do some things away from the rink, too, and I think we did a good job. We got our players to go up and visit fraternities and sororities, we got the ticket office to take season tickets and particularly Michigan State tickets— those seemed to be the hottest ticket— up to the Diag and interact with the students; the same thing in the dorm. I constantly was on the move around town giving away tickets, trying to get people to come to the game, and just telling them “If you like it, I guarantee you you’ll want to buy a ticket next time.”

Mel Pearson, assistant coach: It was interesting. When I first got here one of the first things that happened to me was that I was given 400 tickets to give away for every game, which I found...odd. We had trouble putting people in the building. Then obviously when I left here later on I could hardly get four tickets for my family, so things really evolved.

The first few years I think we had to change the culture here, change the atmosphere. Coach Berenson brought an exciting brand of hockey. He would always say he wanted to play like the Montreal Canadiens in the ’70s and the Edmonton Oilers in the ’80s; upbeat-type teams. I think that really transformed the whole atmosphere in Yost.

Berenson: The building was never intended to be a hockey rink. It was built as an indoor field house, the first of its kind, but when Don Canham built Crisler for basketball and they moved basketball out of Yost, I don’t know whose idea it was to put hockey in Yost— or to try it— but they did it and from the old Coliseum over by Fingerle Lumber, well, that’s where I played. In fact, I lived just down the street from there at 424 South Hill Street my last two years here. So, I’d just walk to the rink. I could see people lining up all the way down nearly to our house before the games.

But anyway, when I came back it was disappointing, the support and the image of the program and so on wasn’t very good, but then it slowly changed. Even in the building I thought our administration and building management— I think it was Wilf Martin at the time and Mark Renfrew and we recognized that we needed to spruce up the building, so we did that slowly. We filled in underneath the bleachers, for example, and we added some storage areas and we didn’t put up new boards but we put up new signage and we got new nets, and slowly the rink started to look a little better. We cleaned up the lobbies and we tried to improve the lightning.

Well, it wasn’t until ’96 that we did any kind of a serious renovation, but we were doing something every year, so I felt better that the building was more acceptable. I think there was a time where Canham took all the mirrors out of the ladies’ washrooms in football— I don’t think we did that in Yost— because of the ladies taking too much time and then creating lineups. We didn’t have that problem at Yost, but we tried to make it fan friendly, but you still had to win. But you didn’t want people coming to a dirty rink or sticky seats, little things like that, so that’s what it was like. We had our moments of glory in that building, but the fans didn’t get to see much of them. Slowly they started to come.

[After THE JUMP: Kent Brothers’ speech, the legend of the Doughboy, and how Yost boosted recruiting (for Michigan and opponents)]

This Week's Obsession: Senior Sendoffs

This Week's Obsession: Senior Sendoffs

Submitted by Seth on March 11th, 2015 at 12:00 PM

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The Question:

Ace: Since Michigan just had a low-key Senior Day to send off Max Bielfeldt, this seems like a good time to ask: What's your favorite Senior Day memory? (Any sport may apply.)

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The Answers:

Dave Nasternak: Back when I was in school—while Football was just starting its decade+ of beatdowns to OSU and Basketball was...well, it was pre-Beilein (mostly)- the place to be for sports in Ann Arbor was Yost. My Senior Day story(s) come from the Ice Hockey team. Hockey in the CCHA was weird. Not bad, but weird. If you were good enough -and Michigan generally was- you hosted a playoff series at home after the regular season had ended. So, while there was Senior Day, there was also Last Game At Yost Day. In the 06-07 year, TJ Hensick's Senior Day came super early.

Guest starring Jeff Tambellini. Bork!

It was February 3rd. It was the back end of a home-and-home against Western. Michigan won 3-1 but...it was relatively uneventful and everyone knew we'd see the seniors for one last series. They somehow managed to play 3 more series of road or neutral ice games before finally coming back to Yost for the CCHA Quarters. After disposing of Western in Game 1 of a best of 3, we knew Game 2 would be it.

It was really bittersweet for me. I was also a senior and while I hoped to get into Grad School at M, I thought it could be my last game at Yost, as well. TJ Hensick might have been my favorite M athlete when I was in school. He burst onto the scene as a freshman, leading the team in points. He would end up leading the Wolverines in scoring 3 of his 4 years, finishing 2nd in his sophomore year.

After his junior season, I'd read that Hensick was close to signing with the Avs, but decided to give it one more go at Yost. While the year didn't end up the way any Wolverine dreamed, Hensick had another phenomenal year. In his Last Game At Yost, Hensick didn't disappoint. He tallied 4 points, 3 of them being goals for his only career hatrick at home (I'm pretty sure). Michigan won very comfortably, 8-3. While Michigan has had a handful of great players since -Porter, Kolarik, Hagelin, Hunwick, now Hyman- there hasn't been another Mighty Mite center (especially with that kind of puck control) since. I taped Hensick's Last Game At Yost (on VHS!!) and later converted it to dvd. I still get a little choked up, watching it.

A season later, Kevin Porter's last series at Yost was also a weekend to remember, including The Day That Yost Changed. My bronze medalist might be Chris Perry's Senior Day, as I made it onto the field as a wide-eyed freshman...but I'll leave those games for someone else.

[Hit the JUMP for Swedish flags, the one that preceded Molly, and some non-hockey we swear]

Dear Diary Has a Marvelous Tenacity of Life

Dear Diary Has a Marvelous Tenacity of Life

Submitted by Seth on February 27th, 2015 at 1:08 PM

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But No That Blocked Punt Against CMU Was Totally Worth It.

Alum96 decided to go into excruciating detail on the upcoming cliff, and which spots will need to be addressed. Like “two OL recruits in two years” he also pinpointed the situation:

we only recruited 9 defensive players in 2013 and 4 in 2014.  That's a middling 13 players - of which one is already gone (Ferns).  12-ish defensive players is what you generally get in 1 class, not combined in 2.

Two years out you want to have more in the tank than:

  • DEs: Poggi, Marshall, S.Johnson, R.Jones
  • DTs: Hurst, Mone, Pallante (if he doesn’t stay at FB)
  • LBs: McCray, Winovich, Furbush, Wangler
  • CBs: Dawson, Watson, Washington
  • S: Kinnel, Peppers if he isn’t in the NFL

Some of these guys are not going to work out. Attrition happens. And if by some miracle both are avoided this is a one-deep. There’s time to fill the gaps if Harbaugh can find in the 2016 class the kinds of guys who can ball like an All-Big Ten player before they can buy a beer. Of course he can do that because HARBAUGH.

Another way to mitigate this would be to get redshirts on some of the juniors or sophomores they don’t need as much this year. No way: Taco and Jourdan Lewis are starting, Dymonte is the current guy they roll in for the nickel (at safety; Peppers moves down to the slot). Probably no way: Gedeon is the first LB in after the starters (but if McCray…), Mone is currently 2nd on the NT depth chart (but if Pipkins…). So Michigan could maybe late-shirt Delano Hill and Channing Stribling, leaving six scholarship cornerbacks and four safeties available for 2015.

/shakes fist at 2013 special teams

Bring Back the Molly McGannon Memorial Children of Yost Section

Our official chronicler of the student section SaddestTailgateEver addressed the changes at Yost as the student section was shrunk, split, and shoved off to the (wrong) side, while prime property was roped off for the usually empty opponents’ parents section:

That is a full-blown, fully mapped DMZ that you better keep stepping through and not stop. So now we have students that don’t fit in Section 17, stuck above row 10 in Section 18, and a bunch of needlessly empty seats below them. And for what? So these parents can have some elbow room to look at their sons’ backs?

This also puts the parents right in front of the “c-ya” cheer, and has led to altercations, and staff stepping in on behalf of the parents who usually started it. To that I’ll add that the glare in the revamped old barn is like stepping onto the bridge of the J.J. Abrams Enterprise.

R.I.P. Spock.

I don’t have the heart to tell him what that place was like when I had season tickets circa 2000. Yost would be best if it acknowledged what it is—a raucous throwback to 1920s-style sports fandom—but it’s hard to see the administration trying to re-engineer that feel since the Goss/Martin ADs barely tolerated the Children of Yost.

What they can do is cut the feed to the RAWK MUZAK they blare in your face, put the opponents’ families in the obstructed overhang seats (this is a compromise; I would prefer gibbets), and put the students front and center, then look away and let the atmosphere fill in organically.

[Hit the jump for people talking about bad calls and the 1997 Championship]