DETROIT – On this day 38 years ago, a St. Louis Blues player scored a jaw-dropping six goals in one game – including four in a nine-minute span.
Yesterday, that man took the stage at Joe Louis Arena among four other greats to receive an award from the NHL.
But he wasn’t there because of the offensive fireworks from his heyday in the NHL.
Former Michigan hockey player and current New York Rangers forward Jed Ortmeyer summed it up like this:
“He turned us into young men.”
Ortmeyer was speaking of his former coach and hockey legend Red Berenson. Currently in the middle of his 23rd season at the helm of Michigan hockey, Berenson was awarded the Lester Patrick Award for his outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
The Regina, Saskatchewan native has made strides in the world of college hockey and the development of players.
“He’s turned out very successful hockey players and prepared us to be able to step in and play in the NHL right away,” Ortmeyer said. “He makes a difference in our lives. I think he gets a lot of thrill with that, and it’s the reason why the program is as successful as it is.”
Berenson set an example by earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Michigan while serving as the Wolverines’ captain and playing in the NHL. At the time, he was one of just a few professional players in the game who had taken the college route.
To this day, he still stresses the importance of a complete education – making it possible to have “life after hockey.”
But the always-reserved Berenson did little to toot his own horn at the ceremony yesterday, quickly shrugging off the developments he’s made in college hockey.
“People like me are not in the game for awards, really,” Berenson said. “We’re happy to be in the game, we’re honored. We care about the game. We care about the people in the game. It’s not about the awards. But you like to be appreciated – at least they know you’re here. And I feel I’m a small player in the college hockey scene, and it’s good to be honored.”
Joining Berenson as 2006 recipients were famous Detroit Red Wings Steve Yzerman and Reed Larson, Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne and former NHL and college coach Glen Sonmor.
While Yzerman had the media swarming him all afternoon, the retired Red Wing captain and new vice president deflected attention to his fellow recipients.
“These are guys that I look up to,” Yzerman said. “I’ve gotten to know Red over the course of my time here in Detroit. . He is a great mentor for the young kids in hockey. He’s just been tremendous. He’s set a really high standard for kids all over North America that want to play college hockey.”
For Berenson, the ceremony was just like a gathering of old friends. He played with Dionne on the Red Wings and coached against Larson and Sonmor. As for this year’s youngest recipient, Berenson had a special reason to join him at the ceremony.
“I came here to get Steve Yzerman’s autograph,” Berenson joked.