Michigan Hockey in the Immediate Pre-Red Berenson Era

Submitted by xtramelanin on February 25th, 2017 at 10:02 AM


A few comments this hockey season from the regular posters have asked about or lamented the fact that our present hockey team is sagging back to the 'Pre-Red' days of despair.  Having been a small part of that era I thought maybe some of you might be interested in some of the background of those times and teams.  Remember I am doing this one from memory of 35-37 years ago (yes, I am very old), and candidly I hope that some of the guys on those teams might be lurkers and/or bloggers here and would be kind enough to supplement or correct what I'm posting. Think of this as the JV version of what one of my favorite posters, RYG, does on a regular basis. 

Leading up to my freshman year the team had been coached by Dan Farrell for a number of years, with all but one of those years being a winning record.  He was a very good recruiter and my freshman year I think our team had more talent (myself excluded) that would end up playing pro hockey than any college hockey team I'd ever heard of.  That said, Farrell resigned before the 1980 season, and it wasn't until decades later that I found out he apparently went back to Houghton to be an engineer.  Wilf Martin became head coach.   I think he was a Michigan alum that had played minor league pro.  He was a nice guy but was in a bit over his head and, to quote Teddy Spears one of the guys on the team who ended up being captain, it was quickly found out that 'He couldn't handle the pressure'.   Enter John Giordano, the erstwhile assistant thrust into the lead role.

Giordano fancied himself as the next Herb Brooks, the tough guy coach of the incredible 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic team.  You may remember that Brooks' players hated him at the beginning, but by the end of their time with him would've walked through fire for him.  Indeed, that team of Brooks' is part of the greatest sporting achievement and event I've ever witnessed.  Anyway, the problem with Giordano was that he didn't have anywhere near the gravitas (I am trying to be very diplomatic here) required to pull that off.   The net result was that the players did not respect Giordano, they didn't like him, he was not a good recruiter, and though he was okay with the X's and Os of hockey, he was losing altitude in the win/loss column. 

The shame of it is that Giordano inherited some pretty serious talent on that roster.  Guys that had at least a cup of coffee in the pros, with some doing much better, would include Dave Richter, aka, "Magic", who was a 6' 4 or 5", 235 lb defenseman before those things existed in hockey.  Magic was smart and tough and in a pair of skates looked to be about 8' tall.  Other guys who made some pro rosters, some minor league pros, include Steve Richmond, aka 'Chi', Dennis May, aka 'Los', Teddy Spears, aka 'Spearsy', Brad Tippet, aka 'Tipper', and goaltender Paul Fricker, aka, 'Spaceman'.  

By the '83-84 season Giordano had lost the team, so to speak.  The guys all signed a letter addressed to AD Don Canham asking in effect that the school get rid of Giordano and that is in fact what happened.  

Red has had a great run but as many have mentioned it looks like that run should come to an end.  I hope he leaves gracefully and it would be very cool if the team sparked these last weeks of the season to achieve to the level of it's recruited talent.   

Anyway, I hope the Michigan hockey fans amongst the mgoblog glitterati will enjoy this post.  Have a great weekend regardless.




February 25th, 2017 at 1:15 PM ^

My freshman year was the last year in the Coliseum, no plexiglass, cyclone fence.  The team was almost all Canadians, and won about 7 games.

The next year Canahm converted Yost to a hockey rink, at the time, 8,200 capacity, the largest college owned rink in the country.

Although you could not see all the ice surface from the high corners of the end zones.

Under Farrell, the team gradually improved, making the NCAA finals at the Olympia in 1977.

Wisconsin had been #1 all year, though their program was maybe 10 years old, with no national titles.

We opened at UW, winning 7-6 the first night, and losing 7-6 the next.

In the old WCHA, we lost both games at home, trailing 9 to 3 in one game, to rally and lose by a field goal, 11 to 8.  College hockey has changed.

We met again in the league finals, losing both games.

The two east league champs were in the not yet christened Frozen Four, and UW and us, but we had a play in game against CCHA champ Bowling Green at Yost.

I think we won 3-2, Mike Liut in goal for BGSU.

There was one semi-final on Thursday, I think UW beat UNH in OT, and we beat the other east team Friday.

The Saturday crowd was the largest of the year in Olympia, as that was the midst of the Dead WIngs era.

However, it was mostly Wisconsin fans, who had bought tickets well in advance.

Robbie Moore in net and a high powered offense, we trailed 5 to 2 in the third period, and rallied to tie the score, only to lose early in OT.

Long time before the  next post season appearance.

Someone on WTKA was talking about Farrell leaving to make enough money to raise his family, which does not happen any more at that level of college hockey.


February 25th, 2017 at 1:29 PM ^

in regards to a home arena.   one thing i always thought was wierd was that at yost we had to walk down stairs from the locker room in our skates/uniforms to get to the ice level.   i think i read somewhere that they'd changed that since my time there. 

i also don't know how you remember the games like that, especially after all these years.  i don't remember most of the games/scores i played in.  i mean, there are hundreds spread out over the years until graduation and i do remember some specific incidences, but no way i remember the scores at this point.   kudos to you, k.o.k. law. 


February 26th, 2017 at 10:42 PM ^

When I was in school ('12) it was still a stairway down from the locker room.  I'd skate there every Friday with the Ross B School club, and my buddy was a team manager so would check out the locker and equipment rooms from time to time.  They might've changed all that in the renovations though.


February 25th, 2017 at 2:39 PM ^

I remember the championship game well. My roommates and I were sitting around the radio listening to the game. After we tied it up and made it OT we going crazy (without subs). We each opened a fresh Strohs as the puck dropped for OT, ready to celebrate a championship! Twenty three seconds later, it was over and we were cryin' in our Strohs before we took the first drink.

I loved going to games at Yost. In my later years in AA I lived on S State Street, so we could run home and drink beers durring intermission. No problem getting tickets back then.

AA Forever

February 26th, 2017 at 11:46 AM ^

of why hiring the assistant/interim/guy from within the program just on reflex is usually a bad idea.  I had to suffer through the Giordano tenure all through college...loved going to the games, but we struggled, and never really competed well at the top level.  The GLI was not so much fun in those days either.  


February 26th, 2017 at 4:45 PM ^

when we showed up to training camp. i had not spoken to him during my  recruitment. he was kind of like the vice principal of every high school you ever heard of - the 'hard guy', or at least he thought so.  that's why none of liked him, quite frankly.  it must be said though that wilf put michigan in a very, very difficult position.  he literally had a breakdown after the second game (though you could see it coming), and it's not like there were a lot of candidates available in november.  


February 26th, 2017 at 9:44 PM ^

you enter the country....

kidding aside, my 'playing days' were very limited in college, much to my displeasure.  still glad for the experience though.  a bit like that movie, 'mr. destiny' with jim belushi.  it all worked out so much better than if i'd gotten to play all the hockey i thought i wanted, but i never would've known that as a college kid. 


February 26th, 2017 at 10:27 PM ^

Thanks for taking me back...

My first year in the dorm was in Adams House in WQ in the early 80's, which coincidently was where the Freshman hockey players were placed. Started getting interested in hockey because of that, and Yost has become a favorite place of mine. I've also had a chance to go to a couple Frozen Fours, and that's a great experience. There are fans who buy tickets before they know if their team will be there, so you get fans of dozens of teams who are just passionate about college hockey.

The players I met in the dorm were some interesting characters. There was a goalie (naturally) who liked to leave masterpieces behind in the bathroom on the toilet seat for all to admire. A couple Canadians with smoking hot girlfriends. Didn't see much of those guys when the girls were there to visit. Doors locked, holed up for the weekend. I think the guys only lasted a year at UM. A very nice guy (PK) who shared a fondness for Led Zeppelin. Went ribs first into the post one game, his body seemed to just bend in a U sideways around the post. Ouch. And I grew up across the street from Speers, I remember as a kid seeing their car back out of the driveway at all hours of the night or early morning, and wondering what that was all about. Ice time at Vets (or Yost?). No Ice Cube back then so Vets and Yost were the only sheets available. I'm a hockey dad now with a HS player and we get some 9:00 pm ice but I'm thinking they had like midnight and 4 am ice times.

Not that it necessarily means anything, but I saw Red and some family members at the local RV show recently, checking out the big motorhomes. Seems like something a soon-to-be-retired person might do, perhaps.


February 27th, 2017 at 5:38 AM ^

and i had played against plenty of canadians, but not with them.  i think kelly mckrimmon was my closest canadian friend on the team.  good guy, tough like his brother brad who was an NHL all-star.  i remember thinking krimmer was the most barrel-chested guy i'd ever met.

funny about the hockey stuff, you'd think i'd have let our boys play it but i've only let the 4 oldest sons play and even then i cut them off after mites.  too much travel and we have too many things going on with the farm and other kids to be strung out across the state like you are enduring now.  they get to play lots of other stuff, but it's closer to home.   i hope you and your son have a great year.  


February 27th, 2017 at 1:57 PM ^

Is how long it took him to build up the program from the one he took over.  I think it was either his 6th or 7th season before they made the NCAA tournament, though a little better luck in the CCHA tourney in either 1989 or 1990 might (should in 1990) have gotten them there.  In a lot of ways he's been a victim of his own success.  Makes you wonder how much time his replacement will get to have things up and running.


February 27th, 2017 at 4:39 PM ^

That freshmen class, if I remember correctly, had Chris Tamer, Dave Roberts, Patrick Neaton, etc. and they all lived over in Williams Hall when I was in Rumsey.  I went to high school with the Stone brothers - Don was a couple of years older and Mike was a year younger.  That team also had Denny Felsner and they started to get things cranking when I was there.


February 27th, 2017 at 5:26 PM ^

I was at the National Championship game vs. Wiscy at the Olympia.  IIRC, Rick Palmer was in goal...Robbie Moore had graduated.

Probably 3/4 of the crowd was Wiscy fans.  Wiscy had the game in control, but M scored the 3 straight to tie the game and did everything except score in the last 90 seconds...one narrow miss after another.  All the momentum was on our side -- and Wiscy scored less than 1 minute into OT.

I broadcasted games on WCBN/WRCN during my four years on campus, and lived in WQ Chicago House from 1976-78.  Football players and wrestlers lived there my freshman year; hockey players moved in my sophomore year.  Tim Manning (slick-passing defenseman who still occupies some spots in the record books), John Olver (winger from western Canada, IIRC; excellent golfer, gorgeous girlfriend; later an assistant coach at NMU; had two sons who played at NMU), center Gordie Hampson and wing Jeff Mars from Minnesota, and goalie Rudy Varvari.   

1977-78 was a bad year; 1978-79 was worse (only won 8 games). That team was very young; however, there was some NHL-caliber talent that suffered through some growing pains - Murray Eaves, John Blum, Steve Richmond, Dave Richter.

My senior year (1979-80) saw a turnaround (23-13-2).  There were two significant additions to the team -- Paul Fricker in goal, and Bruno Baseotto up front.  Fricker played in 35 games as a freshman; I remember a group of students posting a "Fricker Saves" sign on the south wall of Yost, and keeping tabs on the number of saves that he made in the course of the game.  Baseotto was not a fast skater, but was outstanding in camping in front of the net and converting rebounds.  He scored over 30 goals (as did Eaves and Dan Lerg).  Unfortunately, Eaves turned pro, Lerg graduated, and Baseotto left two games into the 1980-81 season for juniors.  Fricker was gone after 1980-81 as well.

I still love going to games at Yost -- though I have a soft spot for the rink pre-remodeling!






February 28th, 2017 at 9:31 PM ^

I thought I was the only one here who had season tickets pre-Berenson.  I'm glad to see I'm wrong.

That 1979/80 team was the most puzzling team I have ever seen.  It could have been a national championship contender, but for some reason they just faded at the end of the season.  The power play (Baseotto-Eaves-Lerg with Blum & Manning on the blue line) clicked at 36 percent.

Michigan was 14-0-1 at Yost at the end of January, and 19-5-1 overall.  And then they went 3-6-1 through the rest of the regular season and lost at home in the first round of the WCHA playoffs...and back then, you had to win the first 2 rounds of the conference tournament to make the NCAAs.

The next few seasons were each a little bit worse, although Brad Tippett is still my favorite M hockey player ever.  He was the best penalty killer I have ever seen at Michigan (yes, even better than John Madden). He was a crowd favorite back when the crowds were small and...not always engaged with the game.


March 3rd, 2017 at 6:11 PM ^

Man, those were some fun players and fun years. I started going to the games with my brother and Dad the 79-80 season, which, if memory serves, was the last without face masks. Paul Fricker (Fricker is Quicker!) wore an old-school plastic mask. Though I understand the need for safety, it really took something away when we couldn't see faces the next year.

Brad Tippett (Rip it Tippett!) was the single most amazing puck handler I've seen in person. Being shorthanded was an entirely different experience when he was on the ice.

I was 11 or 12 the year of the first GLI. M played an early game and as we sat there watching the start of the later game many of the M players came out of the bowels of the Joe and up the aisle toward us (almost all in long leather coats). I got a ton of autographs and several sat down in empty seats next to and behind us. What a thrill that was for a young kid!

I have some signed tickets and other autographs here and also the the article from the Ann Arbor News from when Farrell resigned "Farrell's Resignation Leaves M Icers Shocked". The accompanying picture was Fricker in his facemask with his wild hair flying out from behind...he looked shocked.

Teddy Spears was a hometown kid. Unfortunately, I seem to recall him was putting the puck in his own net during an OT game.

Lerg, Manning, Basseoto, Richmond, Lundberg, Richter (#9 is a 10 on the Richter Scale was our sign for him if memory serves), Eaves, Blum, etc. That was a fun year- undefeated at Yost for a long stretch to start the season. If anyone is interested I'll dig out some of the old programs and autographs.


March 3rd, 2017 at 6:15 PM ^

Another highlight memory from those years: I was at the game against Spartak, the Soviet all-star team. M beat them in a miracle that is on par with The Miracle on Ice. It was the only game Spartak lost on their entire North American tour. I think it was Joe Lockwood who went screaming down the right side, right in front of us, and put the winning goal behind the Soviet tender. MAN, what a game that was...the "Shocker at Yost".