When Michigan coach Red Berenson suited up for the Wolverines, students lined up on Hill Street waiting to pack The Coliseum for hockey games.
In Berenson’s senior season (1961-62), Michigan went 15-1-0 to begin the season.
The best start since then?
This year’s second-ranked Wolverines, who currently hold a 13-1-0 overall record.
With the fast start and especially last weekend’s College Hockey Showcase sweep, the team is seeing campus enthusiasm grow to new levels.
“I saw in the newspaper that we had the front page,” freshman Carl Hagelin said. “A lot of classmates came to me and talked about the games.”
It’s no secret student season-ticket sales have decreased in recent years. While opposing goalies are still welcomed with “sieve” taunts, the student section is not as full or as loud as it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
One reason for the decrease is a recent string of relatively disappointing seasons. Since 2003, the Wolverines haven’t made a Frozen Four – the measuring stick for success in Michigan hockey fans’ eyes.
“We’ve kind of been disappointing the past three or four years,” senior assistant captain Chad Kolarik said. “We haven’t won (a National Championship) going on 10 years, so that doesn’t surprise me.”
But riding a 12-game winning streak, the Wolverines are beginning to see the campus come around to hockey once again.
“You get a little extra recognition when you’re winning,” Berenson said. “Now that the students are back (from Thanksgiving break), I think they’ll get into it pretty good.”
Berenson expects the conclusion of football season and the addition of video highlights from games to the athletic department’s website, mgoblue.com, to spur more campus interest in the team.
While players and coaches don’t expect student participation to reach the frenzied level of football season, they hope the team’s early season triumphs will draw more fans to Yost Ice Arena.
“It’s huge for us, just getting momentum and having the fans on our side,” Kolarik said. “It’s the sixth man out there.”
The past two seasons, Michigan has uncharacteristically struggled at Yost, losing five home contests each year.
While the Wolverines have played at home just six times so far (and won all six), the rest of the season offers many opportunities for the Wolverines to show off for the Yost faithful.
They intend to do just that.
“That’s one of our team’s goals – you have to win at home, that’s where it all starts,” Berenson said. “That’s your best-case scenario: your home rink, your home locker room, your home fans.”