Behind the sturdy wood desk in Michigan coach Red Berenson”s office are two high arching windows that give the office a feeling of grandeur.
Now entering his 18th season as head coach of the Wolverines, Berenson”s influence on the program is larger than both of the windows.
Berenson has fewer red hairs than he used to. But in their place is the gray that comes with wisdom and worldliness.
He doesn”t say much during practice. He doesn”t need to.
His presence alone forces players to skate just a little bit faster, shoot harder and play stronger.
“He is a mentor for all of us. He is a hockey icon as far as I”m concerned,” alternate captain Mike Cammalleri said.
“Obviously he is concerned about hockey and the Michigan program,” 1998 graduate Gregg Malicke said. “But he is more concerned about the individual and how they do in life and whether they are happy.”
Berenson, a native of Saskatchewan, Canada was one of the first major talents to delay his professional career for the chance to earn a college degree which he earned in 1962. Four years later, while still playing in the NHL, Berenson earned his masters degree in business administration from Michigan as well.
That emphasis on education has followed Berenson throughout his coaching career. He has insisted that his players be top performers on the ice and meet the academic standards of Michigan.
Talk to Berenson and one will soon discover that he takes as much pride in the players that go on to be successful off the ice as on.
“It is important that players develop and be respected as people, not just as hockey players,” Berenson said. “Making sure that my players have an education to fall back on and have another successful career. This is about people, not just athletes.”
Unlike the Michigan football program, Michigan hockey has not always been among the top in the nation. In fact, when Berenson was hired in 1984, the program was struggling and had lost touch with its roots.
Berenson began applying the work ethic and organizational skills that he had acquired as a professional coach to return Michigan to the success it had experienced in the fifties and sixties taking only seven years to return the program to among the nation”s elite.
He has reunited the Michigan hockey family to the point where last summer, 180 alumni returned for the annual hockey alumni weekend.
“It is a great time to get together with friends and remember what we went through to become the people we are today,” former Michigan goalie Marty Turco said of the reunion.
In addition to reuniting the Michigan hockey family, Berenson has also made capital improvements to Yost Ice Arena that will ensure the financial stability of the program for years to come. Among these plans include an endowment fund which will relieve a financial burden from the Athletic Department, and club seating that will be a revenue stream into the future.
When asked about his legacy as Michigan”s coach and the man who returned the program to its former glory, Berenson sighed in contemplation.
“I think one of the things we have tried to do is get this program not necessarily a dynasty but a team that has been a top program for a long time,” Berenson said. “That was my first goal, to improve the image of Michigan hockey because it had been down a long time.”
“There has never been a person before who has had the stature in this game of college hockey,” said David Brophy, one of Berenson”s professors at the business school and a long-time friend. “There are many coaches who have great records but there is no one who has the spirit in it that Red does.”
Red Berenson enters his 18th season as Michigan”s head coach with a very impressive hockey background. Berenson a graduate of the University of Michigan class of 1962 set Michigan records with nine hat tricks and 43 goals in a single season as a Wolverine. Berenson went on to play in to the NHL for 17 years, finishing his career with 261 goals and 397 assists. After his retirement, he coached in the NHL for five years earning NHL Coach of the Year honors in 1981 before accepting the head coaching job at Mighigan in 1984. Berenson has led the Wolverines to an overall record of 448-220-45 (.660), placing him 15th all-time among NCAA hockey coaches in career wins. Berenson led Michigan to NCAA Championships in 1996 and 1998, as well as runner-up in 1997. He also led the Wolverines back to the NCAA Frozen Four last season for the first time since 1998.