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Red Berenson talks Olympics

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 11, 2014

Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson has been curling, and not just in the weight room.

He’s participated in the Olympic sport that most of Americans can’t quite figure out, and despite his storied success in ice hockey, he labels it one of his favorite events in this year’s Olympic Winter Games. Though the Canadian men’s curling team has posted just a 1-2 mark in Sochi thus far, Berenson remains intrigued.

The game of curling is most popular in the prairie provinces of Canada, such as Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. From time to time, Berenson participated in throwing rocks and sweeping in front of them himself, and has always found solace in the long-time Canadian sport.

“Being a Canadian, I think curling is a great event,” Berenson said with a smile. “But that’s not as popular down here.”

Despite curling’s relevance in the United States, or lack there of, the sport has been rooted in the Michigan hockey program for more than a decade. When the Wolverines played in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, before joining the Big Ten Conference this season, Berenson would take his team curling when it would travel to play Alaska-Fairbanks.

The venue was just half a mile from the hockey rink in Fairbanks, and an instructor would always show the team the basics of curling. Berenson recalls everyone having an enjoyable experience.

“It’s amazing,” Berenson said. “It’s like shuffleboard on ice. There’s a great skill to it. There’s a great touch.”

His mom and dad both curled competitively, and Berenson took after his parents by participating in curling growing up in Regina, Sask. He never competed on an organized team, though, as hockey usually took precedence throughout his adolescence, but he remembers learning the game well.

One of his fondest memories involving curling was watching the great Garnet Campbell — a legendary curler from Saskatchewan nicknamed “The Little General” — win the Canadian Curling Championships at a venue in Berenson’s hometown in 1955. Campbell was the first native of Saskatchewan to take home the honor. Both Berenson and Campbell have since been inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.

Aside from curling, Berenson also expressed interest in cross-country skiing and the biathlon. He said being from Canada helps him relate to the Winter Olympics a bit more closely than the Summer Games.

There won’t be any curling for Berenson’s squad in the foreseeable future beside spending time with strength and conditioning coach Joe Maher. But 5,545 miles away from Sochi, Michigan will still get a taste of the Olympics when it plays on an Olympic-sized ice arena during this weekend’s two-game series at No. 2 Minnesota. Berenson mentioned he enjoys watching downhill skiing because of the speed, and on the large ice surface in Minneapolis, the Wolverines will have a premier opportunity to impress their coach with their own speedy skaters.

Notes: Junior forward Phil Di Giuseppe and senior defenseman Kevin Clare both skated today after being held out of Monday’s practice with flu-like symptoms. Junior forward Alex Guptill missed a second consecutive practice with an upper-body injury sustained Saturday at Penn State. Berenson has listed him as doubtful for the Minnesota series.