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March 15, 1991 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-03-15
This is a tabloid page

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

by Mike Gill
Long before Red Berenson
became noted as the greatest
Michigan hockey player ever,
long before he scored six goals in
one game for the St. Louis Blues,
long before he stood behind the
Wolverine bench as coach, one
could figure what Red Berenson
was all about.
With a stress on academics.
With intensity in everything
he did.
In between trips to the rink,
young Red struggled to learn
math, especially multiplication.
Why did his teacher in Regina,
Saskatchewan, say "five
multiplied by five" while his
mother, Marge, said "five times
five" when she tried to make him
understand his current lesson?
He couldn't comprehend.
"No, you don't know how to
do it," he yelled at his mother.
"You just don't know. That's not
the way it's done."
Finally, Gordon "Red"
Berenson understood
mathematics. A teacher helped
him make sense of the entire
process. And soon Red Berenson
was teaching other students how
to calculate five times five.
Which is exactly what he is
doing now. Teaching others.
Teaching skills he learned.
Teaching winning. And maybe,
if all goes right after the NCAA
hockey tournament opens
tonight, he might teach his pupils
how to win a NCAA
But let's not get ahead of
Much happened before Red
Berenson stepped behind the
bench to lead Michigan to a high
seed entering the tournament
tonight against Cornell.

First, he had to learn how to
skate. Then play hockey. Then
According to his mother,
whom he liked to call "Merge,"
she didn't want the son of a fire
fighter and homemaker to be
embarrassed. After all, she didn't
learn how to skate until she was
twelve. So she bought skates for
her three-year-old son, even
though they didn't make skates in
his size. Instead, Marge stuck six
pairs of socks in a size too big,
and put her son on skates. They
mounted a box on the back of a
sleigh and as Red held on for dear
life, he quickly learned to skate.
Quite well, in fact.

felttarre'a'ra 6 a oereg
terfa r'ooe/reca'f.J aeraat.
And without her knowing, he
was climbing into the ice rink in
his western Canadian town,
practicing and broadcasting
moves that could make him a
Berenson takes the puck, moves left,
skates around the defender, and he
Berenson grabs the puck at the blue
line, dekes the man on, and he's going
in all alone. He SCORES!!! Red
Berenson with a beautiful move in
front of the goal!

Berson with a shot from the blue4
line. He SCORES!!!
"I didn't even know he was
climbing through windows
before the rink opened until I read
it in the paper," Marge Berenson
recalls. "But he was so full of
energy, you always had to keep
him busy."
His hockey coach at
Michigan, Al Renfrew, can tell
you how full of energy his top
player was.
It was 1961 and Michigan had
just dropped the first game of the
Western Collegiate Hockey
Association playoffs to
Minnesota, 3-1. The second game
ended in regulation at 3-3. The
series was decided on total goals.
When Red found out there would
be no overtime and that Michigan
had just lost the series, he headed
to the lockerroom.
The door was still locked.
"It didn't matter to Red,"
Renfrew says. "When he found
out that we couldn't win the
series, he was so mad, he went
down and walked right through
the door. Talk about a guy upset
with a decision. By the time the
rest of the team got down there,
the door was open, but not the
way it was supposed to be open.
It was off the hinges."
By most standards, that is
called upset. "I put a lot of
pressure on myself to do well,"
Red admits.
His wife, Joy Berenson,
wouldn't argue. She has been
married to the current Michigan
hockey coach for 31 years, ever
since he began his sophomore year
at Michigan.'She has gone out
with him since they were 14.
"You learn that life evolves
around hockey," she said.
"Hockey is all-encompassing.
Hockey has to be first and
foremost. You don't bring up a
problem on game day. Sometimes
you don't bring up problems at
But let us not paint the wrong
picture. Red is intense. He is hot.
And he expects the best from his
family, from his players, from
Yet Joy will say, "I could
never picture myself married to
anyone else."
And he also has a sense of
In his days in the NHL, Red
taught rookies the joys of snipe
hunting. The captain of the Blues
usually instigated this prank. A
group of teammates would go to a
small suburban town in Missouri
to hunt snipe, a type of bird.
After a while, real police officers
would catch the rookies for
hunting "snipe," claiming the
pigeon-sized bird was out of
season. They would be arrested,
thrown in jail, and brought to
trial in front of a real judge. They
were found guilty and again
thrown in jail. Then the other
players would break them out of

ail, while the rookies shook
their boots.
After each joke, Red smiled at
his engineering. Laughed. Maybe
he stood there with a cigar,
looking like George Peppard in
the A-Team, and said, "I love it
when a plan comes together."
Of course, having a plan come
together is nothing new for Red.
Sure, it took seven years as coach
to bring Michigan from disaster
to the top of the national
rankings. But Red and Michigan,
now a marriage which seems so
secure, wasn't a planned
relationship. He didn't even know
of Ann Arbor, or where it was
located, when he began his college
First, there was the dream of
playing pro hockey. Playing in
the Forum in Montreal is the
ultimate dream for a Canadian.
Scoring a goal, or a hat trick.
Those dreams had never come
true for a college player. And
experts said they never would.
But Berenson, who spent one
day in both kindergarten and first
grade and altogether skipped
seventh grade, thought otherwise.
He graduated from high school
when he was 16, played junior 'A'
hockey for two years, and wanted
to continue his education. He
began looking at American
colleges. Being from western
Canada, North Dakota, Denver,
and Colorado became obvious
choices. He went to the library
and looked up all the accredited
universities in the United States
and matched them with top
hockey programs. Harvard and
Michigan passed his test. They
were the best of both worlds:
hockey and academics.
Four other buddies from his
junior hockey team felt the same
way. Red wrote Michigan - he
didn't think of calling long
distance for financial reasons -
and told the coach of their
interest. He visited North Dakota
and was impressed. He then heard
from Renfrew, who asked him to
visit Michigan.
"Geez, I thought North
Dakota was pretty impressive,
and their coach almost convinced
me to go there," Red says.
He told Renfrew the same
thing, but the Michigan coach
persuaded him to visit the
campus. Renfrew told him he
used to coach the Fighting Sioux,
and if Red would spent five
minutes in Ann Arbor he would
want Michigan.
"He was right," Red now
admits. The trip to Michigan
marked the first time Berenson
ever flew. "I couldn't believe it,
sitting up there, looking down
and eating that Air Canada
Thus a marriage was born.
Then, there was the marriage
and the honeymoon with his wife
- but that's another story for
later. First we have to finish his


"I told the four other guys,
'This is where we're going, Red
recalls. "They never saw Ann
Arbor. They didn't even know
where Ann Arbor was on the
map. I had to show everybody
where it was."
That June, Red and teammate
Jerry Kolb hitchhiked from
Regina, Saskatchewan, to
Chicago before bussing to Ann
"They announced over the
radio that two young hockey
players wanted to catch a ride to
Ann Arbor," remembered Kolb,
now a semi-retired real estate
broker living in Florida. "A
couple gave us a ride to Chicago.
"We had never been to a city
like that. God, those huge
skyscrapers... We just looked up.
We couldn't believe it. We
weren't exposed to too much
before that."
While Renfrew landed a job at
the University golf course for
Kolb, the coach found Berenson a
job in Morenci - on the border of
Ohio. Berenson drove a truck
delivering trailers to cities such as
Chicago, New York and New
Orleans. Quickly, the Canadian
learned the American landscape.
That was not all that Renfrew
did for Berenson. After Berenson's
first year at Michigan, he went
home with plans of marrying his
college sweetheart, Joy. He called
Renfrew, asking him the date he
needed to return for class, as well
as asking the favor of finding
housing and a part-time job for
his new wife. Renfrew agreed.
When Berenson and his new
bride arrived in Ann Arbor, they
found no such plans put in
action. Instead, their honeymoon
was spent... sleeping on the
coach's front porch.
"It was screened from top to
bottom," remembers Joy.
"The temperature dropped
that night from probably 75 to
45," recalls Renfrew.
"When they woke up, Al's
kids were peeking through the
bushes, watching," everyone
seems to remember.
"The funny thing was, it was
our honeymoon," Joy adds.
What a start to a marriage.
Berenson completed his
Michigan career by setting the
school's career scoring record of
43 goals before becoming the first
college player ever to enter the pro
"I remember in the lockerroom
after we beat St. Lawrence (in the
NCAA consolation game of
1962)," says Doug Barnett,
longtime Michigan timekeeper
and current hockey booster, as
well as owner of the Mail Shoppe.
"Al Renfrew told us that Red
would be playing for the
Canadians the next night. I was
so proud."
After the victory, Berenson
boarded a train for Boston and

Qed 1erenson used to sneak

played for the Montreal
Canadians the next night. His
mission to play in the NHL had
been accomplished.
Berenson won a Stanley Cup
in 1965 and played 17 seasons
with Montreal, the New York
Rangers, St. Louis, and Detroit.
In seven different seasons he
scored at least 20 goals, and while
with the Blues, he set an NHL
record on November 7, 1%8,
when in Philadelphia he scored
six goals. "It was just one of those
nights," he says. "I thought I
could have scored seven or eight."
Songs were made about Red.
He appeared on the cover of
Sports Illustrated the next year.
Yet life in the NHL had its price.
"We've had the phone ring at 4:00
in the morning to tell us that I've
been traded," Berenson says.
"That's it. There is no discussion.
You're going there. Now, for me
it's easy because I get on a plane
and join that team. My family
has to arrange for selling the
house, moving, and new doctors
and new music teachers and do
this and do that. It's not easy."
Through it all, the family
persisted despite hardships. In
addition to constant moving, a
member was constantly out of
town with his NHL team.
But there were summers.
Summers to spend together. And
summers that kept the family
together - summers that kept
the family of two parents and
four children from becoming six
separate parts. The family owned
a trailer, and sometimes they
would even rent out their home.
They would travel together,
tightening the bond.
"For those months, we were a
family," says his wife, Joy, who
notes this year is the first year
since Red's senior year at
Michigan that the house is
without children. "It was a bond
for those two months and it
solidified us. Once fall rolled
around, we were a family and
ready to deal with what the
months ahead brought us again. I
feel that was an advantage we
had over other families."
Getting to the outdoors has
always been something Red has

cherished. Each year, Berenson,
despite the time limitations now
placed on him due to recruiting
and summer camps, takes his
sons and friends into Northern
Canada. They enjoy the outdoors.
Fish. Canoe. Eat off rocks.
Enjoy the outback.
"These are not general trips
down the Huron River. No, no,
they're serious trips," Red laughs.
Often, the drive may encompass
1500 miles to James Bay or
Hudson Bay.
"They're good for me because
they're so remote that when you
get back, you really appreciate
everything you have - you
appreciate just the fact that you
have a toilet, a shower, a
refrigerator and hot water - just
simple things. It's a basic value
experience," Red says.
Cooking becomes a part of
these trips. The coach sayshe
enjoys barbecuing back home and
that pancakes are his specialty.
His current players cite his
hamburgers, known as Berry
Current seniors recall being
invited to his house for a "party"
when they were rookies. Never
being ones to turn down a good
time, they showed up only to
discover that itwas a work party
at his house. After a hard day's
labor of outdoor maintenance,
they were treated to Berenson's
hamburgers, of which he brags,
"one is all you can eat."
Berenson stomached three
seasons as coach of the St. Louis
Blues. In his only full season as
coach, he was named NHL
Coach of the Year, while guiding
the Blues to the second highest
point total in the league. Yet after
only 68 games the next season,
Berenson was sacked. Emile
Francis, the Blues president and
general manager, was quoted as
saying, "I have waited and I have
waited and I have waited."
And Don Canham, Michigan's
athletic director, could wait no
longer. Berenson worked two
years as Scottie Bowman's
assistant in Buffalo after leaving
the Blues. Michigan's hockey
program finished in ninth place
those years. A player revolt took

9e-ewsoK owce taatktotk .-,f a-idwatic, {le continues teacki o edaA witk de 8a

Year Team League GP G A Pts.
59-60 Michigan WCHA 12 11 7 18
60-61 Michigan WCHA 28 24 25 49
61-62 Michigan WCHA 28 43 27 70
College Totals 68 78 59 137
Year Team League W L T Pct.
79-80 St. Louis NHL 27 20 9 .563
80-81 St. Louis NHL 45 18 17 .669
81-82 St. Louis NHL 28 34 6 .456
NHL Totals 100 72 32 .559
84-85 Michigan CCHA 13 26 1 .338
85-86 Michigan CCHA 12 26 0 .316
86-87 Michigan CCHA 14 25 1 .363
87-88 Michigan CCHA 22 19 0 .537
88-89 Michigan CCHA 22 15 4 .595
89-90 Michigan CCHA 24 12 6 .643
90-91 Michigan CCHA 32 7 3 .798
Michigan Totals 139 130 1 5 .605

through windows of the town


rink. Now, no one is 6neakin8 past
h i6 Qstr e a k in 8 M ic h i8 a n t e e u.If e~ sap
to l - t -
%' a~~te assaeri t(c
d. ".

-- ... .

arch 15, 1991-


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