It's amazing how easily we take things for granted. We become acclimated and everything turns into background noise, only to gain our attention when things shift unexpectedly. It's how I felt when I graduated and moved out of Ann Arbor, and it's how I've felt about this year's hockey team.
I was introduced to Michigan hockey in 2006. Having grown up in a house with a die-hard Michigan State alum for a mother and a father who cared more about what went on in the philosophy and astronomy world than the sports world I had some catching up to do. I remeber reading the Daily's hockey season preview and thinking that becoming a fan of Michigan hockey was just a natural extention of my love of the Red Wings. I folded up that newspaper insert and stuck it in my backpack so that I could re-read it whenever I wanted. My conversion to a Michigan hockey fan had begun.
I never made it to a game that season. Instead, I had to rely on keeping up with the team through Daily articles and watching the few games that I could find on TV. Jack Johnson became something of a folk hero to me, a player that I still regret not seeing play while he was wearing the winged helmet. I vowed to myself that I would not make the same mistake twice.
Fall 2007 rolls around and mini-season ticket packages go on sale. A few friends, my girlfriend (who's now my wife) and I decide to get a mini season ticket package. I'll never forget going to my first game at Yost. If there's one arena in the world that can't possibly be done justice by TV this is it. I remember walking in through the cramped corridors and past the ornate woodwork. Then you walk into the stands and it's a fluorescent blast of white exacerbated by a sheet of ice. The corridors scream history while the inside of the rink just screams. If Michigan hockey is powered by a fuse box it only has one switch and that switch, which is permanently flipped, has "ON" printed above it on label tape.
I went to a CCHA playoff game that season and was struck by how the regular season atmosphere is essentially the same as the playoff atmosphere. There's no way for it to get louder and rowdier than it already is, especially when you're in the student section. At the time that seemed hard to believe. Again, I wasn't used to Michigan hockey just yet. Having been a Red Wings fan for so long you get acclimated to regular season games with half empty lower bowls that switch to rabid sell outs when the second or third round of the playoffs roll around.
The energy of Yost spoiled me, and I didn't realize that until this season. When things are about to be taken away from you, that's when you realize just how good you had it. I didn't think there would be a CCHA playoff game at Yost this year. Not after watching a team that had block M's on the front of their jersey but looked oh so unfamiliar otherwise. Now I realize just how amazing the atmosphere at Yost is. Now I realize just how important the CCHA playoffs are. These aren't throwaway games anymore, this is our ticket to the tournament. And, finally, I'm watching a Michigan team that I recognize. This is a team that somehow, someway dug deep and emerged from the shell of...well, whatever that was that took the ice from October through February. Maybe they realized what I realized; it's easy to take things for granted until you're about to lose them.
There aren't many goals to breakdown here, but that's a good thing. A team that was allowing almost four goals per game gave up two this weekend. Two! And I can't even make a joke about only giving up two and it not even being non-exhibition play because they gave up more than that to like Windsor, man. Let's analyze: