- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Matt Slovin, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 7, 2012
Mac Bennett had seen Red Berenson's glare before, but not here. There wasn’t a rink in sight.
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But at 35,000 feet, the coach had a lot on his mind.
The Michigan hockey team was flying to Alaska, in search of its first win in seven tries. Mired in its longest losing streak since 1998, the Wolverines were nothing short of desperate. Their coach, however, chose not to focus on all of the negatives surrounding his team, and instead decided to get to know one of its defensemen.
He turned to Bennett.
“What are you studying, Mac?”
“I think I’m going to major in musicology,” Bennett offered.
Then he caught Berenson’s stare.
Bennett’s major, outrageously different from his coach’s business degree, took about 10 seconds for Berenson to process. And when he finally did, he didn’t mince words.
“What the hell is that?”
Undeterred, Bennett calmly explained what is possibly the College of Literature, Science and the Arts’ most obscure major, hoping to earn Berenson's respect off the ice as he had with his play on it.
“I’m still trying to figure (the degree) out myself,” Bennett said later. “You learn about the history of music, music theory and all that stuff. … It’s a broad degree of music.”
Berenson mulled it over. If hockey doesn’t work out, does this kid have a plan to fall back on? So he asked one more question, looking for reassurance.
“Can you make money doing that?”
Bennett promised him that it was, in fact, possible. Satisfied, Berenson turned away and the aircraft continued its cruise against the jet stream into the great white north.
With the coach’s inquisition finally over, Bennett searched for an escape — from the white noise of a commercial plane and the burdens of a mid-season slump. He reached over for his fix of a drug that can get him through even the most difficult weekends. He dove into an alternate reality that relieves him of the stress that comes with being a Division I athlete.
Mac Bennett turned to music.
In a corner of the room — beneath a collection of papers, pens, candy wrappers and a Nyquil cup — is a desk. Beneath the rubble sits music-making equipment valuable enough to break the bank and powerful enough to fill auditoriums.
Don’t call that Rhode Island native with the NHL pedigree seated at the desk Mac Bennett.
In that setting, he goes by Beats.0, the stage name coined by Bennett and former teammate Scooter Vaughan, who graduated from Michigan in 2011.
Fixated on the illuminated screens in front of him, Bennett’s transition from blue liner to artist is as quick as the trip from Yost to his homemade studio.
Bennett’s bedroom, a converted dining room at the house he shares with teammates Luke Glendening, Shawn Hunwick, Greg Pateryn, David Wohlberg and best friend Derek DeBlois, offers virtually no privacy. His bed is separated from his rambunctious teammates in the living room by a sliding door that opens from either side.
At night, the setup can be a nuisance. Sleep is a precious commodity after logging hours at the rink. But when Bennett throws his Beats by Dr. Dre headphones over his ears, it’s like he’s still thousands of miles away in Alaska, too far away to be bothered, too focused to care.
Bennett has no shortage of musical influences, but Vaughan’s has been the most powerful. As an impressionable freshman last year, Bennett saw Vaughan, one of the team’s leaders, disc jockeying at house parties. By about December of 2010, Bennett decided that was something he wanted to pursue.
“I was over at (Vaughan’s) house one day and he had all of his (disc jockey) stuff out,” Bennett recalls. “Buttons and wheels and stuff — I wanted to touch things.”
Under Vaughan’s tutelage, Bennett learned the ropes. Like he would with a Berenson defensive scheme, he learned quickly. But the sounds he spun weren’t uniquely his — yet.
“And even when you’re gone, you’re always right here in my heart. I think about you all the time so we’re never apart.”
Mac looked across the stage at his then-girlfriend Sarah. With all 600 of The Hotchkiss School's students waiting intently, he knew this was his chance.
Mac sat with his heart in his hands — and a guitar too. His serenade of Sarah went perfectly. By the time he was finished, there was hardly a dry eye in the place among the girls.