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October 05, 2000 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-10-05

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B0
16B - The Michigan Daily - FACEOFF 2000 - Thursday, October 5, 2000

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The old barn -
the tradition continues

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One hundr

B Ryan C. Moloney
Daily Sports Writer
To look at Yost Ice Arena now, with
convertibles cruising by on State
Street and the occasional errant foul
ball richocheting off its boarded win-
dows, you get the impression that the
gruff, stalwart exterior fits its atti-
tude.
"Hrump'h," it seems to say to the
loosely dressed students and joggers
who pass. "We'll just see where you
are in a few months."
Of course, there's no doubt as to
where Yost will be by then - back in
the center of the Michigan sports uni-
verse.
For a few dozen nights in the dead
of winter, Yost reaches the pinnacle of
its existence - and hockey fans reach
the pinnacle of theirs.
-% Whether you are a first-timer or a
20-year veteran, the thrill of the old
barn coming into sight, shrouded by
flashing police lights and the vapor of
exhalation, feels incomparably reli-
gious.
Walk in and the senses go wild -
the band threatens to blast you out of
the arena, even if you walk in at the
north entrance, over a football field
away from the spine-tingling woods
and brass.
The smell of a tapestry of newly
coated 'ice and popcorn nearly over-
powers you as you mill through the
fans - young and old but all faithful

and all familiar after a few times.
Weave through the maze of Maize and
the glow of the lights reflecting off of
the pond causes temporary blindness
- and permanent awe.
As Michigan coach Red Berenson
says, "Yost is a cathedral."
Some might call that blasphemy,
but then they have probably never set
foot inside the building that is widely
considered to be "the best college
hockey arena in the United States."
Unlike many classic sports struc-
tures, Yost wasn't built for hockey -
in fact the marriage between the
building and the sport wasn't forged
until Yost Fieldhouse had turned 50.
At the time, Michigan hockey lived
in a cramped, unspectacular building
called the Sports Colliseum. That little
anonymous building on the corner of
Fifth and Hill? Yes, that's the one.
"The place held about 4,000 people
and there weren't any seats behind one
of the goals," Michigan hockey
coaching great Al Renfrew said.
"Either we needed to enlarge the place
or move."
Thankfully, the right decision was
made.
THE EARLY YEARS
When Yost Arena was completed in
1923, hockey was about the only sport
that wasn't invited to the party.
Fielding H. Yost, perhaps
Michigan's greatest and most influen-

tial sports figure, designed the build-
ing with the intention of housing the
wrestling, track, basketball, baseball
and football teams interchangeably
throughout the school year.
Part of the reason for the deafening
noise coming from the bleachers each
game, aside from the fans and band,
sits up in the rafters of Yost's famous
high ceiling. Contrary to popular
belief, crowd noise was hardly the
purpose of its design.
"The baseball team used to practice
in here and football used to practice
their punting because of the high ceil-
ing," building manager Craig Wotta
said. "That's what's so unique about
the building - it served so many pur-
poses."
And so many people.
As Berenson points out, much of
the fundraising for Yost's 1996 renova-
tion came from alumni who played on
teams, such as baseball and football,
who only practiced within the brick
walls.
"When I was in school here, all the
athletes used Yost at one time or
another," the '62 graduate said.
Women athletes, lacking teams and
any way to represent Michigan sports
at the time, enhanced their athletic
pursuits at Yost as well - though with
some agitation.
"Francie Goodridge was one of our
first woman athletes and she compet-
ed in the Olympics in track," former
football assistant coach Jerry Hanlon
said. "She used to tell me about the
times she would go into Yost to do her
training and have to dodge base-
balls and shot puts from
inside the track.
"She was one of
the only
wo men

JEFF HURVITZ/Daily
Across from sections 2,3 and 4 there is a faded marking on the old maize bricks

- a lingering reminder of Yost's past glory.
in there at the time."
THE START OF AN ERA
Berenson is a consummate throw-
back in every aspect of his coaching
and his relations with the media -
you won't get a lot of emotion out of
him, just cold concise analysis about
hockey.
So when his eyes start twinkling as
he talks about Yost, there is little
doubt of the building's aura.
"Because of the noise, the fans, the
tradition - it's a great place to take
the family and let your kids run
around and have fun."
The noise, more than the old-fash-
ioned deor, always seems to come up
among those associated with Yost and
no one appreciates it more than
Berenson.
"We've hosted recruits and taken
them to football games and they are
overwhelmed," Berenson said. "Then
they see a game at Yost and can't
believe how much noisier it is."
Lost in the excitement generated
by the fans is the faded history of a
"quiet old building when the fans
aren't around," as Berenson calls it.
Past the colorful Deker signs and
shiny steel beams supporting the
press box, the faded maize and
blue bricks line the arena
perimeter. A closer
look at the walls,
and fossils
are dug
up

- Random letters, "H" and "L" and
other track symbols that outlived
their usefulness. At the base to the
stairway by the zamboni garage, the
scrawl of Yost's former glory
remains - "FINISH, 330 YARDS,
100 YARDS."
Funny thing is, the conversion of
hockey to Yost didn't extinguish its
past, but gave the building a new and
stronger vitality just when other
buildings of its genre - fieldhouses
- began to fade away.
By comparison, Michigan State's
Jenison Fieldhouse, once home to
basketball stars such as Magic
Johnson and Scott Skiles, now sits
alone and bereaved. Dusty and cob-
webbed, Jenison hosts an occasional
wrestling match or volleyball meet,
but will never again shake to its foun-
dations with noise - except when
the inevitable wrecking ball finally
claims it.
AN ENDURING AURA
Dick Schapp once said, "if you are
a fan of hockey, you don't like hock-
ey - you love hockey."
Undoubtedly, Michigan could play
on the Huron River during the winter
and still draw a great crowd. But
without the aura of Yost Arena, it
wouldn't be the Michigan hockey
experience.
The mystique, the raucous fans, the
familial, almost small-town atmos-
phere of the place is what brings
everybody back for another year, then
another, then a lifetime.
It's also what makes someone who
knows nothing about hockey turn
rabid in a matter of weeks.
That rings true with all the teams
Yost has ever served and the stories
are there to prove it. In the lobby of
Yost, there is a bust commemorating
the donation of the estate of Floydene
and Douglass Brownlee towards the
renovation. Tire two were sweethearts
at Michigan during the 40's and
always made a date out of basketball
games at Yost. Obviously, the build-
ing was more to them than brick and
steel.
"Yost if full of great stories like
that," Berenson said with a smile.

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