It’s getting to be that time again. The leaves are beginning to fall, the sun has started to fade and Michigan’s gridiron hype has gone national. Attendance sheets are gone (and ironically, so are students), production on Bell’s Oberon Ale has ceased and sorority girls are losing their minds (and definitely voices) in the annual circus act known as “Rush.” But, underneath every staple of the Ann Arbor fall, a fundamental process of the Michigan winter has begun – and it ain’t earmuff shopping.
The Michigan hockey team – participants in the Frozen Four in each of the last three seasons – hit the ice of Yost Arena last Wednesday for captains’ practice. But, for the first time in three years, these coach-less practice sessions, which go on through the end of this week, aren’t led by Jed Ortmeyer – a two-time team captain. After Ortmeyer’s graduation last year, coach Red Berenson promoted senior Andy Burnes from alternate captain (a role he played last season) to team captain.
“When coach announced I was team captain, it was a tremendous honor,” Burnes said. “You look at the list of players who have been captains at Michigan, you know, it’s an awesome list.
“It’s just a great honor and a great tradition to be a part of.”
Although two of last year’s captains, Ortmeyer and John Shouneyia (alternate captain), have departed, Burnes stresses that their influence is always present.
“Obviously, Jed and Johnny received a lot of praise from our coaching staff, and I did really learn all three years I was playing with those guys,” Burnes said. “I know what those guys did to be successful and to be looked upon as good leaders, and I definitely picked up a lot from them.”
Burnes is joined in captainship by juniors Eric Nystrom and Brandon Rogers, who will both don the alternate captain ‘A.’
“They’re both very hard workers,” Burnes said. “Eric is a real vocal guy, and he’s a guy who’s going to step up and say stuff that needs to be said.
“Brandon Rogers is a defenseman like myself, and I think that will be good too because this year we’ve got a lot of young defensemen coming in, and with two of the captains being defensemen, I think that will set a pretty good precedent for our younger players.”
The trio will run practices until the coaching staff takes over next Monday. The sessions include a list of drills assigned by the coaching staff, intrasquad scrimmaging and some conditioning.
“We’re just trying to get in shape,” Burnes said.
The Blue/White intrasquad game takes place on Sept. 26, and the Wolverines open the season against Mercyhurst on Oct. 4 at Yost.