Sunday, January 15, 2012

Michigan's Berenson embodiment of hockey coach

I had the chance to take in my first collegiate hockey game in person Sunday, covering the Frozen Diamond Faceoff at Progressive Field between Ohio State and Michigan.

During the second period, I happened to peek at the television, and Fox Sports Ohio had a shot of Michigan coach Red Berenson on the bench.

If anybody embodies being a hockey coach, it's Berenson.

He's a legend, in his 28th year at Michigan, having won well more than 700 career games and guiding the Wolverines to national championships in 1996 and 1998.

Berenson reminds me a lot, taking it back to my wheelhouse and Greater Cleveland high school hockey, of legendary Shaker Heights coach Mike Bartley. Now obviously it's on different platforms, but both are hockey coaches through and through.

Berenson has a bit of that Canadian accent when he speaks. So does Bartley.

Berenson has won a load of games. So has Bartley.

Berenson is the figurehead of the program he guides, and rightfully so. Same with Bartley.

Just like Bartley, whom I've had the great pleasure of talking hockey with many times over the years when Shaker has played my area teams, Berenson has great stories.

One came up almost out of nowhere after Michigan's 4-1 win Sunday. A reporter asked for the sake of it if anybody on stage - Berenson and his two players - had any baseball background given Sunday's game was at Progressive Field.

So Berenson shares a story about being a pretty good catcher when he was at Michigan but not being able to grab the attention of the Wolverines' baseball coach at the time. The reason? Michigan's catcher back then was Bill Freehan, who would go on to an outstanding MLB career with the Tigers.

It drew a big laugh from the room hearing Berenson tell the story. He can work a room, and he certainly guide a hockey program as well.

- Chris Lillstrung


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