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2010-06-07

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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We Can't Hear You: The Story of the Children of Yost

By Michael Florek, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 31, 2010

Cornell then scored on its first trip down the ice in overtime to end the game, but it was the halted countdown that spurred the veteran Big Red crowd.

“I’ve never heard a countdown stop,” William Sangrey, a Cornell graduate student at the time said. “Five, four, three, two, and it stopped. The whole building just stopped.”

The following night, as the first period waned down, the boisterous Cornellians added a new chant to their already versatile repertoire.

“They would go, ‘Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, OHHH!’ to make fun of the crowd reaction,” then-Michigan graduate student Matt Thullen said. “I was like, ‘hey that was actually pretty clever.’ ”

But the Michigan fans were drawn in before that. The personal cheers and cleverness of Cornell clicked with them, and on that weekend in mid-March, the crowd took its first step toward becoming what it is today. In the face of the rowdy Ivy League crowd, it began to defend its building.

“(The Cornell fans) were loud and they got their message across, and I think the fans kind of took it as a challenge,” Thullen said. “We’re the ones with the intimidating building. We’re the home team. We’re not going to let these guys come in and basically do anything (they want).”

But many of the Michigan fans were new to college hockey and didn’t know how to pass the test presented by the Cornell contingent. So, the Wolverine fans took the Big Red’s cheers.

The number and variety of cheers that were taken vary, depending on the memory of each person that was there. Some say that Steve Shields wasn’t the only goalie who had his mother call to tell him he sucked. Others can only remember Cornell goaltender Jim Crozier getting hit with “It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!” added to the end of Michigan’s already established goal count. But the most important lesson that Big Red crowd taught wasn’t a specific chant — it was the attitude that a college hockey crowd should have.

“I think that the Cornell folks kind of taught us how you can really make a chant that really gets under people’s skin a little bit better,” Thullen said.

And after a 6-4 Michigan win, the decisive game came on a St. Patrick’s Day Sunday in front of Berenson’s first sellout that wasn't against Michigan State. Michigan rode the crowd to a 9-3 victory.

The winning method had been restored.

The win also ended the three-day fan crash course. The Michigan faithful left for seven months of hibernation, unsure if the atmosphere would take hold without Cornell baiting them. So in the home opener of the 1991-92 season, the crowd faced another test — Michigan State. The fans showed up, and armed with their knowledge from early March, Michigan home games have never been the same.

“The very first series of games, it was packed,” Eric Storhok, a graduate student at the time, said last month. “The student section basically filled the entire end … There was enough students that once somebody came up with a clever cheer, everybody was doing it immediately.”

It was the beginning of the modern era of the Yost crowd, one that has relied on the cheers and ability to adapt that was taught to them by 200 kids from Ithaca, New York. And when the Big Red came back to Yost in 1997, they saw the monster they had created.

“They gave us a hard time about stealing their chants and those of us who were at that game were like, 'if we could chant 'thank you,' we would,” Storhok said.

The Molly Incident

For 24 hours, Molly McGannon was the most hated person in Ann Arbor.

The Michigan crowd had a newfound swagger after Berenson completed the revival on the ice with two national championships, including one that saw Michigan upset heavily favored North Dakota in the 1998 NCAA Regional at Yost. When the regional returned to Ann Arbor in 2002 for the first time since the national championship, the wrath that had evolved in those 10 years since the crowd's 1991 lesson was on full display.

In the 2001 regional in Grand Rapids, Michigan and St. Cloud State had their first ever meeting. For McGannon, one of the Huskies’ skating cheerleaders, once was enough. But the next year, St. Cloud drew the No. 5 seed, sentenced to play the fourth-seeded Wolverines again, this time in Ann Arbor.


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