Weekly Meeting - March 20: Reflections on 36 Seasons of Wolverine Ice Hockey

Speaker: Red Berenson retired on April 10, 2017, at the conclusion of his 33rd season as head coach of ice hockey at the University of Michigan. As a varsity player here under Al Renfrew, he earned All-America and Michigan Most Valuable Player honors in both his junior and senior seasons. His senior year saw him lead the Wolverines to a second-place finish in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as they skated to a third place showing in the NCAA “Frozen Four” tournament. His 43 goals and nine hat tricks that season still stand as Michigan records. Following his final appearance for Michigan in the 1962 NCAA Consolation Game win against St. Lawrence, Berenson drove from Utica, New York, to Boston and played for the Montreal Canadiens at the Boston Garden the next night. He went on to play in nine games for Montreal in the last month of the 1961-1962 season, becoming the first collegiate player to step immediately into the National Hockey League. His professional career spanned 17 years as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues. The 261 goals and 397 assists that he accumulated in those 987 games left an indelible mark on NHL history. Perhaps the highlight came on November 7, 1968. While playing for the St. Louis Blues in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Berenson scored six goals, including four over a nine-minute span, a feat that has been accomplished only once since. That performance set the records for the most goals in a road game, and the most goals in a period (four), which stand today. He capped his professional career by playing in the original and legendary eight-game Canada Cup series for Team Canada against the Soviet Union in 1972. In the fall of 2005, along with the entire 1972 Team Canada roster, Berenson was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame on December 12, 2018.

When Red Berenson took over a struggling ice hockey program at the University of Michigan in 1984, his goal was to return the Wolveines to the forefront of the sport. “I’d like to improve the image of the Michigan hockey team on campus and with the alumni,” he said at his first press conference. “I think that now people will be thinking more highly about the program.” To say that Berenson met that objective is an understatement. He fashioned an 810-399-84 record in his first 31 seasons leading the Wolverines. His teams skated in the NCAA Tournament for 22 consecutive seasons from 1991 to 2012, the longest streak ever in college hockey. For his outstanding contribution to hockey in the United States, the National Hockey League honored him as one of four individuals to receive the Lester Patrick Award in the fall of 2006. Red Berenson’s achievement went beyond success on the ice, though. There was never a whiff of scandal or unsavory behavior on the part of his coaches or players during the 33 seasons he ran the program. He insisted that they set an example for young people to look up to and seek to emulate in their personal lives. He also upheld the centrality of “student” in “student athlete.” The graduation rate of his players has ranked near the top of collegiate ice hockey ever since he assumed leadership of the program in 1984. In that regard, he led by example. Berenson earned an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1966. He returned to Ann Arbor from Montreal to begin graduate classes one day after the Canadiens’ 1965 Stanley Cup championship parade. This commitment to education is an integral part of Red Berenson’s legacy. His talk will share with us his insights on the growth, values, and future of collegiate ice hockey both at Michigan and generally.