Red Berenson hopes this story will be about something other than himself.

His team just beat the No. 9 team in the country, won eight of its last nine games and moved to the top of the Big Ten standings, but I’m not discussing that success. Instead, I feel compelled to write about his 800th win as a coach in his college hockey career, because it’s mind-boggling that someone can win 800 games at any level in any sport.

Berenson joined a list of three other coaches in college hockey Saturday night, and it’s important that everyone realizes how much effort and how much time goes into that achievement. There are no more than 40 games in a season, and that’s only if a team makes the Frozen Four. Berenson is now 800-391-84 in 31 seasons.

He started when he was 44 years old, compared to the three other 800-game winners — Jerry York, Ron Mason and Jack Parker — who all started before they turned 29. He had to transform a struggling program that couldn’t pay its fans to attend games into one that captured two national championships.

Feats such as these are rare and special. But then, so are coaches like Berenson. These are the feats that capture the attention of those who otherwise haven’t kept track or wouldn’t pay attention. These are the feats that deserve that attention.

But he doesn’t want this story written. He’s not interested in celebrating the accomplishment any more than he’s interested in celebrating his birthday.

“I read about (the milestone) more than I think about it,” he said on Wednesday. “I just had my 75th birthday, and I didn’t celebrate that, and I didn’t celebrate New Years and I didn’t even celebrate the GLI (the team’s first title since 2011).”


This milestone almost never happened. Just last year, Berenson was ready to retire. Michigan had lost in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament and missed out on the postseason for the second year in a row.

He said he thought about leaving hockey because he “can’t handle losing” and “can’t handle a team underachieving.” He’s back now, of course, but was willing to leave hockey because he knows losing starts with the coaching staff, and he wasn’t leading his team to success.

There’s a story — one Berenson may not even remember — of a little boy and his grandfather meeting him for the first time. They are introduced, and Berenson asks the seven-year-old, “Do you know how to skate?”

The boy acknowledged that he had not learned how. With a straight face, Berenson replied, “If you can’t skate, then you can’t play hockey, and if you can’t play hockey, then what are you?”

Berenson’s life is hockey. But he’s willing to give it up in order for the Wolverines to win.


On the second floor of Yost Ice Arena is the media interview room. There are pictures of Michigan teams celebrating championships, trophies from the two Hobey Baker winners, awards for the countless conference championships and national titles.

It has two couches and an armchair along the walls facing inward. There’s a blue, leather armchair, just like one a grandfather would have fallen asleep in, at the head of the room. It faces the trophies and the pictures and the people who have come to speak with Berenson.

Everything around the room, including that blue chair, serves as a constant reminder about the success at Michigan. Berenson doesn’t keep plaques or trophies for reaching 800 wins, because he cares more about seeing his players graduate with a degree than he does about cranking out draft picks. He keeps those awards because he cares about his team more.

“He’s always hungry, always looking for the next best thing,” said junior forward Andrew Copp.

His wins have never been about himself. Berenson will be quick to remind you he’s got a creative, offensive mind in assistant head coach Brian Wiseman and an experienced defensive leader in associate coach Billy Powers that make him look smart.

He has had players like Jack Johnson, Marty Turco, Brennan Morrison and Mike Knuble, all of whom played some of their best hockey for him. Berenson’s biggest smile on the night of his 800th win came when he realized Knuble was in the back of the interview room, watching his coach dismiss how big a feat he accomplished.

“I think it’s good before it became too much of a conversation piece,” Berenson said. “It’s not really about me, but something happens like this every 100 games, I guess.”

Added senior forward Zach Hyman: “Someone asked him, ‘You’re at 799, did you know that?’ And he responded with, ‘Yeah, if you’re counting.’ So he’s a humble guy, and you don’t see it on his face a lot.”


The horn sounded on Saturday evening and the camera panned to Berenson, not to the team’s celebration. He exhaled, as if winning his 800th game was a relief.

The crowd chanted “Thank you, Red,” while the student section bowed in appreciation. Berenson gave a slight wave to the crowd, but was no more excited than any other win. He walked off the ice and into a locker room applauding him.

“You look around the locker room and you feel better about the guys you’re playing with, you feel better about your team,” Berenson said in the locker room after the game. “That’s how I feel as a coach.”

Win No. 800 doesn’t feel much different than win No. 1, because each one is about the success of the Michigan hockey team.

So now, Berenson is most excited that everyone will finally be able to move past the milestone. He can focus on beating Ohio State next for win No. 801.

You know, if you’re counting.

Greg Garno can be reached by e-mail at or on twitter @G_Garno

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