After Michigan’s 3-0 win over Ferris State on Friday
night, the Wolverines gathered on the ice and uncharacteristically
skated away from their locker room. The players glided to the
band’s corner of Yost Ice Arena and, in unison, raised their
sticks to salute the special visitors in attendance:
Michigan’s NCAA Champion teams from 1955 and 1956.

Ice Hockey
The Michigan hockey team salutes the 1955 and 1956 national championship teams after defeating Ferris State on Friday. (TOMMASO GOMEZ/ Daily)

“This is what the tradition of University of Michigan
hockey is all about — having players from the past come back
and be remembered,” coach Red Berenson said.

The players from the teams of the mid-1950s were honored during
the first intermission of Friday night’s game, and the
student section at Yost gave the famed former students a standing
ovation.

“It’s nostalgic to be back,” former forward
Jerry Karpinka — who played on both teams — said.
“There are people here who I haven’t seen in 50
years.

“The facilities are fantastic compared to when we played
here and things have changed quite a bit. When we played, our rink
sat only 2,500 and nobody had full scholarships.”

In those days, the hockey team played at the Sports Coliseum on
the corner of Fifth Avenue and Hill Street. The Coliseum is now
used for intramural and club sports. Many of the players also
worked in fraternity houses for their meals.

Former defenseman Mike Buchanan — who wears one of his two
championship rings to this day — marveled at how things have
changed at the rink and around campus in general.

“Michigan hockey is a much bigger promotion now,”
Buchanan said. “I have a son who watches games in
California.”

As different as most things are from the past, the fan interest
has not changed a bit.

“We had a smaller arena,” Buchanan said. “But
they would be sold out weeks in advance.”

Former All-American Bob Schiller gladly spent the weekend
juggling his time between two reunions — the hockey reunion
and a surprise family celebration.

“My son Rob was supposed to come here and be with
me,” Schiller said. “But I was totally surprised to
find that most of my family came out, as well.”

In total, four of Schiller’s five children made the trip
from the West Coast to be with their father for the special
homecoming event. Schiller’s children also brought eight
grandchildren with them.

“We kept it a secret for about nine or ten months,”
said John Schiller, Bob’s youngest son. “And we
surprised him tonight before the game. My mom and dad were waiting
at will-call for my brother Rob, but then we came around the corner
with about 10 of us. It was neat because it was a surprise, but it
was an emotional moment, too.”

The family only gets to congregate a few times a year because
it’s divided up between Seattle, Los Angeles, Tucson and
Lansing.

“We’re just going to hang out and spend as much time
together as possible for the weekend,” John Schiller said.
“It’s especially neat to be here and see the
camaraderie between Dad and the rest of the team. Fifty years is a
long time. It’s amazing the relationships are still so
strong.”

Otto Riegger , Michigan’s former team manager — who
was also Bob Schiller’s roommate for all four years at
Michigan — helped to coordinate the Schiller family
get-together. The two longtime friends still remain very close.

“We spent a lot of time at the rink,” Riegger said.
“We had a job scraping the ice. They didn’t have
Zambonis back then, so we scraped the ice after public skating for
a small pittance.”

Vic Heyliger, 93, coached both championship teams to 18-5-1 and
20-2-1 records, but was unable to attend the reunion. He was
represented by Al Renfrew, his brother-in-law, who followed him as
coach at Michigan.

After the salute, the championship teams of old waved back in
appreciation.

“Coach Berenson and (captain Eric) Nystrom got the salute
together,” senior forward Milan Gajic said. “They won
it all. They certainly deserve it.”

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