Monday, June 7, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
From Page 10
79 percent of their games at Yost since
"The dedication level, you can just
kind of see it," Engineering sophomore
Rob Eckert said in May. "When you're
surrounded by passionate people, it's
hard not to catch on."
So how did this happen? How did Yost
become the most intimidating place to
play in America? Part of the final answer
lies within the 3.7 million people who
have walked through the Yost doors, but
it begins almost 40 years before many of
today's fans were even born.
THE CHILDREN BEFORE THE
Long before the Children of Yost had
the rink vibrating with noise, the arena
was housing footballs as the team's prac-
tice facility. The hockey - and the noise
- was a few streets down, inside the
Weinberg Coliseum (now the Sports Col-
iseum). It was there where then-coach
Vic Heyliger created a simple method to
put fans in the seats - win.
Six national championships brought
the crowds in and Heyliger's successor,
Al Renfrew, kept the winning method
going. By the time a young center from
Saskatchewan named Red Berenson
pulled the Michigan sweater. over his
head, supporters would line up all the
way down Hill St. to try to be one of the
approximately 2,000 lucky fans that
squeezed into the building on gameday.
"It was a great environment for us.
It wasn't just the students, it was the
townspeople, it was a little bit of every-
thing," Berenson said.
Inside that comparatively tiny of a
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building, the University and the city of
Ann Arbor set the precedent for support-
ing Michigan hockey. It was obviously
smaller than Yost, and Berenson admits
it wasn't as organized, but the rules were
still the same: Pack the building. Make it
"I remember them playing 'The Vic-
tors' - a lot," Berenson said after this
season. "In a small building, as you can
imagine, it's even louder than it is in
non-existent. The high volume of stu-
dents and townspeople stopped showing
up and the band became a collection of
students with nothing better to do.
"It was a kind of piecemeal situation,
like 'we have 18 tickets, who wants to
come?' " John Pasquale, Director of the
Michigan Hockey Pep Band, said in May.
"So we'll have six trombones and a flute,
two tubas and a bass drum and we'll kind
of get together and just kind of play just
The same high ceilings and brick walls
that would be ideal for holding in sound
and adding to the raucous atmosphere
that would arrive years later only con-
tributed to the dire situation.
"There was nobody in the building,"
Berenson said. "It was like being in a big
But there were games when the poten-
tial of Yost could be seen. Twice a year,
Yost was rocking - for the other team.
When rival Michigan State came to town,
so did its supporters.
While the Wolverines and Spartans
battled on the Yost ice, the official col-
ors in the stands were Green and White.
Inside the building named for one of
the greatest figures in Michigan athlet-
ics, the sold out crowd donned the other
team's colors and watched its Spartans
play their inferior neighbors.
"It was embarrassing," Berenson said.
From the embarrassment, came
action. Berenson wanted the Michigan
State fans out of Yost, and so the coach-
ing staff began to reach out.
"One of the programs they imple-
mented was to try to block them out,"
associate head coach Mel Pearson said.
"So they did go up on campus in the Diag
and to the faculty and the students to try
to get them at least to buy Michigan State
tickets, so we wouldn't have a road game
It wasn't just going to the Diag. It was
going to the dorms. It was sending play-
ers to fraternities and sororities. It was
See YOST, Page 12
PLAYING ROAD GAMES AT
The year was 1984, and Michigan was
in the middle of the lowest era in the his-
tory of the Michigan crowd.
Somewhere between the time Beren-
son transitioned from Michigan center
to Michigan coach, The winning was
interrupted. The Wolverines hadn't fin-
ished first in the conference in 20 years
and had made exactly one NCAA Tour-
nament appearance in that time. In the
five years before Berenson took over, the
team had just a .479 winning percentage,
and as the team lost, the foundation of
support tn began to erode.
Less than ten years after Michigan
moved to Yost Ice Arena in 1973, it played
most of its games with the paint-chipped
bleachers empty. The atmosphere was
The Michigan hockey team huddles around their own net before taking the ice in
front of their home fans.