In the early 1990s, a Canadian-born player passed through the hallowed wooden doors of Yost Ice Arena and rewrote the Michigan record books.
“I remember him being special — like really special,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of his new assistant Brian Wiseman.
But simply being “special” wasn’t enough to push Wiseman’s application to the top of Berenson’s desk. Berenson figured who better to bring on to attempt to continue the record streak of 21 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances than the man whose team started it.
“We had a list of applicants this long,” Berenson said, gesturing emphatically. “Once I knew that we had an opening (for an assistant coach), his name was at the top of my list. We wanted it to be a qualified individual with a Michigan history.”
Wiseman fit that bill. And ever since Berenson first met him, the former center had a certain swagger about him that couldn’t be ignored and even Fielding Yost would’ve admired.
“I remember he came in with a real good class and he was the smallest of them,” Berenson said. “But he was like a little general with his classmates. They’d come walking down State Street and they’d all be following Wiseman.”
When his career ended, leaving him as the third all-time leading scorer for the Wolverines, Wiseman couldn’t help but feel his time in Ann Arbor wasn’t quite over.
“It was always in the back of my mind that this was a special place for me and if I had the opportunity to come back, I would definitely jump at it,” Wiseman said. “I loved my four years — best four years of my life.”
But Wiseman hung up his skates in 2005 after a pro career that saw him float around the ranks of professional hockey, including a stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After a five-year hiatus from the sport, he realized that he couldn’t stay away.
“I missed the competitiveness of it, being a part of a team atmosphere — something bigger than yourself,” Wiseman said.
He returned to find Berenson, the same fiery, careful guardian of the program that he was when Wiseman graduated.
“He was a great communicator and a motivator and I see those same attributes now working alongside him,” Wiseman said. “He’s still competitive, he’s still detailed, he’s still prepared — all of those things I experienced as a player.”
And Berenson was relieved to see his former standout hadn’t lost his passion.
“His leadership skills are excellent and he’s a good teacher as well,” Berenson said. “He loves to relate to the players and he’s got great communication skills.”
Back on the ice, Wiseman treats the Wolverines fairly — as his pupils, with whom he shares the uncommon experience of having played under Berenson.
“He brings an enthusiasm and a pride of Michigan that we already have,” Berenson said. “I haven’t been in pro hockey in 28 years. It’s nice to have someone who knows what it’s like.
“He’s brought some newness and he’s taking in excellently.”
Although the Michigan teams Wiseman played for came up short — his squads reached two Frozen Fours but failed to win a title — he’s yet to lose sight of what drew him to Ann Arbor 21 years ago. And why the nation’s best talent still comes.
“That’s why people come to Michigan — to be a part of championship teams.”