Imagine a place on campus where Michigan
students are consistently supporting their team, screaming from the
opening minute until the final seconds. Imagine a place where the
fans — all the fans — are loud and make the venue
one of the toughest places to play in the NCAA. Imagine a place
where the crowd constantly follows the play in front of them and is
actively involved with the action.

Brian Schick

Is this some potential dream for Michigan Stadium, where the
largest crowd in the country might finally create a true home-field
advantage? Or does such a place exist on campus?

Yes, it does. It’s Yost Ice Arena — the greatest
place to watch a Michigan sporting event on campus. While I have
been going to the Big House for all of my four years here, the
atmosphere pales in comparison to the “Old Barn.” After
you’ve been to both venues, if you don’t agree that
Yost is a tougher place to play for opponents than the Big House,
you’re clearly not looking at the situation objectively.

First of all, the Yost faithful are a select few and are devoted
to the team. Yost’s capacity is about one-fifteenth the size
of the Big House, so naturally not everyone is going to be able to
go to hockey games. But that’s what makes Yost special
— weeding out the students who go to football games just to
be seen and not to watch the game. Yost fans go to actually watch
the game — what a crazy idea!

That’s why the atmosphere at Yost always has a feeling of
excitement, whether the team is playing Michigan State or Lake
Superior State. The crowd is living and dying with every little
play on the ice — and more often than not, what’s NOT
happening on the ice. A few examples: the Yost fans are so aware of
the clock, they ask the announcer about the time remaining with a
minute left. When a phone rings in the press box, the fans remind
the opposing goalie his mother called and left a message. Opposing
parents are chastised after their team manages to score a goal.
(Intrigued? Sorry, you won’t get the cheers from me. Go to a
game and find out for yourself.) Football fans shake keys on third
down, but that doesn’t have the exact timing of the cheers at
Yost.

After covering the hockey team last year, I traveled all over
the CCHA and saw how lucky Michigan is to have such an exceptional
arena. Although Yost was built in 1923 and didn’t host its
first hockey game until 1973, it has evolved into a great hockey
setting. With a capacity of 6,637, it’s the largest
hockey-only building owned by a school in the conference. Fans
should be thankful that Yost has seats on all four sides, unlike a
building that has three (Ferris State) or just one (Miami).

In addition, the athletic department actually has made
improvements and significant renovations to Yost in recent years.
The addition of second-floor seating and a new lobby came in 1997.
New scoreboards and banners were added in 2001. Granted, the Big
House has new student section “seats” this season, but
the press box still looks like it predates the moon landing. The
bathrooms at the Big House could use some modernizing, too.

What really impresses me the most about Yost is the complete
involvement of all hockey fans, not just the students. I’ve
seen 5-year old kids as well as senior citizens participating in
the goal celebration. For a crowd that has no organization —
like Maize Rage — to coordinate the cheers, it’s very
impressive.

Learning Yost’s chants is like parents passing on the
unwritten pearls of wisdom to their children, except it’s
seniors passing on chants to freshmen. No venue, despite how large
it is, can be a tough place to play if the noise isn’t coming
from all sides, not just the student section.

I know what you may be thinking: Yost might have a good crowd,
but they’re so vulgar! My response to that is you can’t
get results without getting your hands dirty. Every player that has
suited up for coach Red Berenson will tell you that Yost is one of
the toughest places to play in the country, and former player Blake
Sloan described the atmosphere as putting opponents at a two-goal
disadvantage before the puck ever drops.

What makes Yost a tough place to play is the intimidation the
crowd instills into the opposition. Yet the athletic department
admonishes the crowd every year for its vulgarities, saying it
takes away from the “Yost Arena experience.” If you ask
me, that IS the Yost experience and that IS what makes it so
difficult to play there. If the athletic department successfully
cleaned up this “problem,” Yost would lose the
advantage the athletic department is so quick to hype.

But all that aside, Yost brings more fans closer to the action
than the Big House and really doesn’t have a bad seat in the
house. How’s the view from row 90 at the Big House?

If none of that convinces you why the Old Barn is better, Yost
has Score-O.

 

Brian Schick can be reached at his seat in section 13 and at
bschick@umich.edu.

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