Yost Field House has been a home for Michigan athletics since 1923, but officially became the stomping ground of the Michigan hockey team in 1973 when it was converted into Yost Ice Arena.
Since then, the facility has undergone five renovations, each improving the quality of the establishment for players, fans and students.
Yost underwent its most recent renovations in 2006, 2011 and 2012. The locker rooms were enhanced and a high-definition jumbotron was installed in 2006 and 2011, respectively, while the 2012 renovation added more seating options, including a new press box.
And when the Wolverines hosted the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League over the weekend for their preseason team-building trip, it was a unique opportunity for two members of the organization — coach Ken Hitchcock and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk — to reflect on how the facilities have progressed.
Shattenkirk played in the U.S. National Team Development Program from 2005 to 2007, and during that time he billeted with the family of current Wolverine sophomore forward Niko Porikos in Ann Arbor.
Shattenkirk has had a front-row seat to view the evolution of Michigan’s hockey facilities, and from his perspective, Yost has come a long way since his time with Porikos’ family.
“Yost looks great now with the new renovations,” Shattenkirk said. “It looks like a completely different rink. It just seems like every time I come back, there’s more buildings on campus and everything gets bigger and better.”
Hitchcock, on the other hand, spent two and a half seasons at the helm of the Dallas Stars’ International Hockey League franchise, the Kalamazoo Wings, from 1993 to 1996 before being awarded the head-coaching job for their NHL counterpart.
During his tenure in Kalamazoo, Hitchcock had a seat in Yost’s press box reserved for him. He attended almost every Friday night game he could. When he was promoted to Dallas’ NHL head coaching position, he still brought the Stars for summer trips to Ann Arbor for five years.
So when the Blues used Ann Arbor as their temporary home, squeezing in a few practices between Shattenkirk’s planned team trips to the Brown Jug and Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Hitchcock was impressed with how far the arena has come over the years and cited it as an incentive for recruits to choose to wear the maize and blue sweater.
“The second (set of renovations) brings you up to speed with the big boys. A big part of (recruiting) is you’ve got to have facilities, and I’ve always said that this is a player-friendly facility,” Hitchcock said. “It’s not just the coach that is part of that program, it’s everybody else too. So you’ve got to have the facilities to show off with the players (so they) feel comfortable.
“This is a facility where you don’t have to walk very far to get much. The players have got everything here. They’ve got really good people who have been around a long time — strength people, medical people, they’ve got a lot of good things going.”
With the consensus between Hitchcock and Shattenkirk that Yost is on par with — if not superior to — the majority of hockey arenas, one thing has become clear: If Michigan loses out on a recruit, don’t point the finger at the 92-year-old facility.