In September, at the beginning of my
tenure as a Michigan hockey beat writer, I was constantly bombarded
with one description of the team from experienced followers:
“They’re straight business in everything they do
— Red Berenson runs it like an NHL squad.”

Mira Levitan

Having been fanatical about sports since almost the zygote
stage, I’ve steadily heard “business” applied to
sports. Yet, I’ve never truly grasped this noun’s true
relevance to anything that didn’t involve a cubicle,
three-piece suit or TPS report.

Business and sports. Sure, the association is frequently made:
“This team is business-first.” But is there really a
group of athletes that embodies the upstanding, honorable,
white-collar workers of America?

From everything I’ve heard all season, the answer to this
question sports sweaters of maize and blue. Following this
weekend’s sweep of Miami, the ‘B’ word surfaced
numerous times in Yost Ice Arena.

“This weekend, Michigan took care of business.”

That was the final straw. I had to know. Did this team really
deserve the acquaintance of this vaunted noun? This noun
that’s mindlessly tossed around the sporting world like
it’s George Steinbrenner’s bankroll.

I turned to an old Internet friend for assistance:
Dictionary.com.

I typed in “business” to see if the “B”
word had any parallels with the Wolverines on ice.

The results were astounding, freakish and even eerie. All 11
definitions of the noun perfectly corresponded to everything in the
last week involving Michigan hockey, and followed chronologically
to boot! With every connection rapidly unfolding in front of my
eyes, I felt like I was in the final scene of “The Usual
Suspects.” I dropped my porcelain coffee cup and ran home in
search of Keyser Söze — I mean — the truth about
Michigan hockey.

Is Michigan hockey really business-oriented?

Here are each of the 11 possible definitions of the word
“business” and their comparisons to the last week of
Michigan hockey. I know many people will read this in the morning,
so hold your Starbucks double latte tight.

Definition 1: The occupation, work or trade in which a person
is engaged.

Michigan identified its work early this week — No. 8 Miami
— and it was a heavy load. The RedHawks entered this weekend
as the CCHA’s top team, leading the second-place Wolverines
by three points.

Definition 2: Commercial, industrial, or professional
dealings.

“Professional dealings” exactly describes how
Michigan dealt with the weeklong game preparation. On the ice,
Michigan’s practices ran smoothly, as usual. From what I saw
at practice every day, the Wolverines worked with the fluidity,
discipline and determination of seasoned veterans. Off the ice,
players expressed their concentrated mindsets to the media,
applauding Miami’s efforts so far this year and stressing how
difficult the weekend’s series was going to be.

Definition 3: A commercial enterprise or
establishment.

The establishment was Yost Ice Arena. Constructed in 1923, this
may be Michigan’s most hallowed structure (including the Big
House). Entering the weekend, the Wolverines carried a 13-2 record
in its friendly (for Michigan at least) confines.

Definition 4: Volume or amount of commercial trade.

The volume of trade was huge this weekend, as first place in the
CCHA was up for grabs.

Definition 5: Commercial dealings; patronage.

The patronage, or support, was present the entire week. This
weekend’s series had a buzz usually reserved for a football
or basketball matchup with the squad from Lansing. Heading into
Yost on Friday night, I felt a little extra excitement from the
jersey-sporting faithful.

Definition 6: One’s rightful or proper concern or
interest.

During pre game warm-ups, the Wolverines were focused on the
task at hand. There was no conversation between players and not a
smile was struck; Michigan was concentrated on its proper
concern.

Definition 7: Serious work or endeavor.

Dictionary.com’s usage example in this definition —
“Got right down to business” — fit perfectly.
This is exactly what Michigan did Friday night. The Wolverines
dominated right off the bat, jumped out to a 2-0 lead and never
looked back.

Definition 8: An affair or matter.

Again, I’ll to reference Dictionary.com’s usage
example: “We will proceed no further with this
business.” After Miami jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the 15th
minute of Saturday’s first period, Michigan said, ‘I
think not’ and notched three scores in just over two
minutes.

Definition 9: An incidental action performed by an actor on
the stage to fill a pause between lines or to provide an
interesting detail.

This may be the finest point of comparison there is. After
Michigan’s win on Friday night, I caught a Jason Ryznar
— beaming with an ear-to-ear grin, as usual — outside
of the lockerroom. Although goofy and lighthearted off the ice, the
Anchorage, Alaska, native becomes Michigan’s resident
bulldozer on it. I playfully introduced the idea of Ryznar’s
6-foot-4, 205 pound frame meeting with Miami’s Brian Sipotz
— a 6-foot-7, 245 pound behemoth.

“He’s got about 50 pounds on me, but I think I could
take him,” Ryznar responded to my request.

Seven minutes into the third period, with Michigan up 8-4,
Ryznar stayed true to his word. Sipotz tried to sneak up and cheap
shot Ryznar at center ice. But, Ryznar saw Sipotz out of the corner
of his eye, turned and dropped the mass of humanity to the ice with
relative ease. It was an incidental action that definitely filled a
pause between line changes.

Definition 10 (informal): Verbal abuse; scolding.

The verbal abuse came via Yost’s finest, who chanted
“Overrated” and “Warm up the bus” with over
four minutes left in the third period of Saturday’s game. The
“scolding” came from Red Berenson following the
Wolverines’ 8-5 win. The never-satisfied — AKA
business-minded — Berenson spoke with great discontent about
the way his team gave up five goals, claiming Michigan was
“lucky” to come out with a win.

Definition 11 (obsolete): The condition of being
busy.

This is what Michigan has been and should continue to be all
season.

The Wolverines are as business as business gets. Last week made
it official. And a true business methodology can increase a
team’s production ten fold. If you combine this business
approach with Michigan’s overwhelming talent, the result will
be impressive. It may be outright inspiring. And it definitely, for
the fourth year in a row, could be Frozen.

Unlike the Michigan hockey team, Gennaro Filice is far from
‘business,’ and can be reached at
“mailto:gfilice@umich.edu”>gfilice@umich.edu.

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