Green can mean envy, money or the environment.
But green rarely describes hatred.
That is, unless you’re a member of the Michigan hockey team.
The Wolverines square off against their most heated and bitter rival, green-and-white-clad Michigan State, in a home-and-home series that kicks off in Yost Ice Arena tonight at 7:35 p.m.
“Everyone knows how much the color green is hated around this campus,” junior Danny Fardig said. “But we have to make sure to do things right so this rivalry is as good as it’s built up to be.”
Fardig, along with more than half of the teams’ combined rosters, come from the state of Michigan. With so many players growing up near each other, it’s to be expected that friendships were formed between Wolverines and Spartans, mostly through high school and junior-level hockey.
An Ann Arbor native, Fardig has close ties with Michigan State seniors Bryan Lerg and Chris Mueller.
Fardig considers Lerg one of his best friends, but once he dons that giant, green block ‘S’ on his chest, friendships are thrown out the window.
“It’s not about friends when you go out on the ice,” Fardig said. “It’s about the team, and the 26 guys in the locker room are much better friends than any of those guys on Michigan State.”
The bond between Fardig and his Spartan friends has spurred a text-messaging battle of sorts, with all-in-good-fun trash talking. Although he wouldn’t delve into the specifics of the texts, Fardig said the messages were something fun from both sides, not mean-spirited, fight-inducing jabs.
Out-of-staters, like goaltender Billy Sauer, have a harder time getting into the rivalry. Hailing from Walworth, N.Y., Sauer had little exposure to the in-state feud before coming in as a freshman.
“I wasn’t really born into the rivalry,” Sauer said. “When I came here from New York, I didn’t know too much about Michigan-Michigan State, but ever since I’ve really started to hate green.”
Some incomers didn’t have the same learning curve as Sauer. After moving to Ann Arbor from Buffalo, N.Y., freshman Kevin Quick laid out one simple goal in one of the Wolverines’ first team meetings: sweep the Spartans.
The stakes always run high in the series, but this weekend could have major implications in the final conference standings. With Michigan holding a paper-thin lead over second-place Miami (Ohio), two wins over Michigan State could tighten the Wolverines’ grip on a CCHA regular-season championship. A disappointing weekend could knock Michigan off its first-place pedestal.
But the Wolverines needn’t rely on conference standings for motivation tonight.
“When you look at the other end of the ice and it’s Michigan State, it’s a pretty good feeling,” Fardig said with a growing smile on his face. “You get excited, jacked up to play. You don’t need any more motivation than seeing that green at the other end.”