- Chris Dzombak/Daily
By Michael Florek, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 22, 2011
With one heave over the glass, the era was over.
After last Saturday’s Senior Night overtime victory, all seven of the No. 10 Michigan hockey team’s departing seniors made a lap around the ice carrying block ‘M’ flags. With spotlights on the seniors as the only lighting in the arena, captain Carl Hagelin skated toward the glass near Section 17 with his teammates.
The monstrous Swedish flag that had made its home in the section for much of the past two years was hoisted over the glass with the yellow cross emblazoned with the black marks of students’ signatures.
Hagelin, a native of Sodertalje, Sweden, took the flag, put it over his shoulder, and skated on. He has more games to play, but this game — a game that ended with last-minute goals by Hagelin both in regulation and overtime — was the last the flag will see.
It’s Hagelin’s now.
At the postgame press conference he said getting the flag was pretty emotional. Engineering junior Rob Eckert, the now-previous owner of the flag, felt the same way.
“It marked that the era of Carl had moved on,” Eckert said. “It had become such a big part of the student section for the past two years, this season and the season before. It was kind of weird having this little — I guess you could say little landmark in the student section be gone ... It was a weird feeling handing it off.”
The roughly 120-foot hand-made flag, which Eckert’s mom made for him as a Christmas present, started making appearances between the visitors bench and the band shortly after the start of last year’s winter semester. Since then it has become a mainstay, paving the way for another giant flag to make an appearance — a Texas banner in honor of sophomore forward and Flower Mound, Texas native Chris Brown.
But with Hagelin’s final season coming to an end and no Swedes on Michigan's radar in the near future, Eckert “figured we should probably do something.” He did as he signed the flag, and walked throughout the entire student section so his peers could do the same. By the time the flag was thrown onto the ice, Eckert estimated some 200 to 300 people had signed it.
And just before the flag was to make its maiden and final voyage onto the ice, Eckert scribbled a quick note and tucked it into the flag.
Carl it’s been a pleasure watching you all these years. Everyone definitely appreciates it. I’m sure everyone in the student section will continue to follow you. Keep your stick on the ice.
Rob + The Children of Yost
“I got the note, that’s for sure,” Hagelin said. “It’s always pretty emotional getting a note like that right after a game but at the same time I think everyone on your team was so tired after the game, it was hard to be really emotional.”
Right now, the flag sits in Hagelin’s locker. The plan is to take it back to Sweden. But it might have to get by compliance first.
“Someone said it might be against NCAA rules to keep the flag so we’ll see what happens,” Hagelin said.
Reporters at practice laughed, but he didn’t.
Either way, the Wolverines still have two regular-season games and the postseason to play.
Michigan — currently second in the CCHA — has already locked up the right to Yost Ice Arena for the second round of the conference playoffs. According to Eckert, with the big flag gone, the plan is to distribute small Sweden flags to the crowd in Hagelin’s farewell appearance at Yost. It may not make up for the whole enormous flag, but it will likely mean more than the sum of its parts.
“(The fans' love for Hagelin) just shows you our fans, they’re more than just showing up at the rink,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson, who went to the locker room and missed the fans giving Hagelin the flag. “They’re taking an interest in our players and individuals.”
Hagelin has accumulated 145 points, including 58 goals in his four seasons. Those numbers will be added into the countless others of Michigan hockey lore. But he will always be the program’s first flag bearer.