Forgive me for being sentimental, but it was sad to leave Yost Ice Arena after Michigan beat Western Michigan 6-1 on Saturday night.

I’ve written about what a special place Yost is before. It has a special blend of history, hockey and hilarity that I haven’t found anywhere else on this campus.

Yost has played a key role in my college experience. Over the past three years, I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time in the old barn than anyone who isn’t part of the Michigan hockey program or a member of the Yost staff.

After two years of covering the hockey team for this paper on a daily basis and getting season tickets this year, I’ve got a slew of memories from Yost.

I remember the captain’s practices Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik ran before last season. Expectations hadn’t been lower in a long time, but you could see from the very beginning that team was intent on proving expectations wrong.

I remember when Red Berenson gave me permission to watch practice from the bench for just one practice. First, he made sure I knew that I had better pay attention, and that if I ended up getting hurt somehow that I couldn’t blame the hockey team. I nodded in agreement. (Anyone who has ever met Berenson knows that when he tells you something, there’s no point arguing.)

I remember the team coming back to Yost for a final team photo last year, the week after Notre Dame knocked the Wolverines out of the Frozen Four. That was when Kolarik told me he had just signed his professional contract and Porter was about to. That’s when I knew my time covering the hockey team was actually done.

But many of the best Yost memories I will carry forever have come from this season, when I got to enjoy the best sports arena on campus as a fan rather than a reporter.

Sitting in the student section, doing the chants, singing “The Victors” — those are things I will cherish because I finally got a chance to be part of the action instead of just observing it.

If you’ve had season tickets to hockey for a few years, it might be easy to miss how special the experience is. This weekend I talked to two students from other Big Ten schools who were at Yost for the first time. They reminded me why it’s such a special place.

At the end of Saturday night’s game one turned to me and said, “This is amazing. It’s 6-1 and no one has left.”

In fact, the student section only got louder when the game ended and the team skated over to the student section and band. When the team salutes its fans at the end of the season, you know there’s something special about that fan base.

The student section has taken a lot of heat this year. Certainly, the “C-Ya” chant angers a lot of people. And the “F.Y.S.” chant during the Michigan State game in January may have seemed like a blemish on the University’s reputation.

But the Yost experience isn’t all about cursing and calling visiting fans derogatory names. Watching a game at Yost is about participating instead of observing.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Yost puts every other venue at this school to shame, whether you’re a hockey fan or not.

If you’re a senior and you never made it to Yost, I’m sorry no one dragged you there before it was too late.

And if you have more time on this campus, don’t let it run out without a trip to Yost. I bet you can’t go just once.

— Sandals can be reached at nsandals@umich.edu.

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