100 years of Michigan Hockey: 10 defining moments

Just over 100 years ago today, a ragtag group of nine Michigan hockey players competed against Wisconsin in the University of Michigan’s first officially sanctioned hockey game. It was a quaint start for the program, but it kickstarted what would eventually become a long hockey tradition and a multi-million dollar enterprise. Now, a century later with 3,062 games played, 1,763 wins, more than 100 NHL alumni and a record-tying nine national championships, it’s time to look back at 10 of the defining moments in Michigan hockey history.

Jan. 12, 1923: Michigan plays its first official game 

After years spent as an “informal” sport played by fraternities and small clubs, hockey was officially designated a varsity sport by athletic director Fielding Yost in late 1922. According to John U. Bacon’s 2001 book Blue Ice, Joseph Barss — a medical student born in British India who spent five seasons as the team’s first coach — was key in convincing Yost to add the team. 

In early January, the stage was set for the Wolverines’ first official games to be played against Wisconsin. But according to Bacon, whether or not the game would actually take place was in question until just hours before the event due to abnormally warm weather. The game did end up happening, and more than 600 fans were present at Weinberg Coliseum for the contest. According to a Michigan Daily article published the day after the contest, Michigan’s first official goal was scored by Eddie Kahn 10 minutes into the game, who himself went on to study with Ivan Pavlov (yes, of Pavlov’s dogs) and whose father, Albert, designed the Burton Bell Tower and Angell Hall.

The Badgers forced the game to double-overtime before player Robert Anderson “flipped in the winning counter on a pretty shot,” according to a Daily article. The Wolverines took the inaugural contest, setting the stage for all that followed.

Dec. 1944: Vic Heyliger hired 

In 1944, according to the Bentley Historical Library’s Archive of The Daily, the Michigan athletic department declared that hockey was to be suspended due to “reasons of the economy.” But in a surprise move later that year, former Michigan hockey player Vic Heyliger was hired as the Wolverines’ head coach.

Heyliger had compiled an impressive 40-20-3 record as head coach at Illinois. However, his tenure with Michigan got off to an inauspicious start, with the Wolverines managing just three wins in his first nine games. But Heyliger more than turned it around, leading Michigan to historic success and winning a total of six national titles, still an NCAA coaching record.

Mar. 20, 1948: Michigan wins the first Frozen Four, starting era of dominance

In 1948, in the first ever NCAA Hockey Tournament, Michigan was one of four teams selected to the inaugural Frozen Four in Colorado Springs. The Wolverines took care of business, winning 6-4 against Boston College in the semifinal before defeating Dartmouth 8-4 in the title game on the strength of a four goal third period to claim the first championship. 

“Wally Gacek again the hero of the evening as he worked the ‘hat trick’ and added three assists for a six point total,” The Daily wrote the next day. 

Over the next 16 years, the Wolverines went on to win five more titles in one of the most impressive stretches in college hockey history.

1973: Michigan moves into Yost Ice Arena

Nearly 50 years ago, following the construction of Crisler Center and the men’s basketball team’s subsequent move into it, Michigan hockey finally said goodbye to playing in the Weinberg Coliseum and moved into Yost Ice Arena. Since then, Yost has served as the Wolverines’ home. 

Itself being nearly 100 years old, Yost remains one the oldest and most unique college hockey arenas in the United States, affectionately called “the cathedral of college hockey.” But in recent years, there have been many calls for the University to consider renaming it due to its namesake’s racist history.

May 17, 1984: Red Berenson hired

From the Daily. Originally published June 1, 1984.

Following years of stagnation after its last title in 1964, Michigan needed a change behind the bench. It fired head coach John Giordano and hired former Michigan forward, NHL superstar and St. Louis Blues coach Red Berenson. 

“I’d like to improve the image of the Michigan hockey team on campus and with the alumni,” Berenson said. “I think that…

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