The Michigan Wolverines ice hockey team is a powerhouse program in the NCAA Division I. The team has a long and storied history, with 9 national championships, 38 conference titles, and 23 Frozen Four appearances. But behind all those achievements is a legacy that has been shaped and strengthened by the leaders who have guided the program over the years.
Where coaches are often judged solely on their win-loss record, it’s important to take a step back and recognize the impact that these coaches have had on the program and their players beyond the numbers and statistics. One such coach who has left a lasting legacy on the Michigan hockey program is none other than Red Berenson.
Berenson took over as the head coach for the Wolverines in 1984 and spent 33 seasons at the helm, making him the longest-tenured coach in the history of Michigan hockey. During his tenure, Berenson recorded an impressive record of 848 wins, 426 losses, and 92 ties, including 11 trips to the Frozen Four and 2 national championships.
But what sets Berenson apart is not just his winning record, but his leadership and commitment to developing players both on and off the ice. As a former Michigan hockey player himself, Berenson understood the importance of not only winning games, but also shaping young men into successful individuals.
Under Berenson’s guidance, the Michigan hockey program became known for producing NHL talent, including the likes of Mike Comrie, Jack Johnson, and Zach Werenski. But more importantly, he instilled in his players the values of hard work, dedication, and sportsmanship, creating a culture of excellence and a tight-knit Michigan hockey family.
One of Berenson’s most notable accomplishments was his initiation of the “Michigan family” aspect of the program. He would often invite former players back to campus, creating a sense of belonging and continuity within the program. This was seen as instrumental in developing a loyal following of alumni who continue to support and give back to the program.
In addition to Berenson’s impact on player development, he also played a key role in the growth and expansion of college hockey as a sport. In the early 1990s, he served as the president of the American Hockey Coaches Association and was a vocal advocate for the growth of the game, pushing for the expansion of college hockey programs across the country.
Berenson’s leadership and legacy have had a lasting impact on the Michigan hockey program, setting the standards for future coaches to follow. When he stepped down as head coach in 2017, he left behind a well-oiled machine that continues to thrive under the guidance of current head coach, Mel Pearson.
Pearson, a former player and assistant coach under Berenson, has continued the tradition of excellence at Michigan, with a record of 66 wins, 41 losses, and 14 ties over the past three seasons. But it’s not just the on-ice success that defines Pearson’s leadership, it’s his dedication to emphasizing the values of the Michigan hockey program.
Pearson has carried on the “Michigan family” tradition, inviting former players to speak to the team and connecting current players with alumni for mentorship. He also emphasizes the importance of giving back to the community, with the team volunteering at local schools and charities.
Under Pearson’s leadership, the team has also made tremendous strides in academic achievement. In 2019, the team received the NCAA Public Recognition Award for posting an Academic Progress Rate (APR) score in the top 10% of all Division I hockey programs.
Looking ahead, the Michigan hockey program is in good hands with Pearson at the helm, carrying on the legacy of his predecessor while also making his own mark on the program. His leadership and dedication to developing well-rounded individuals both on and off the ice will ensure that the Michigan hockey legacy continues for years to come.
In closing, the Michigan Coach Legacy stands as a testament to the impact that strong leadership and a commitment to excellence can have on a program and its players. The lessons learned and the values instilled by these coaches will continue to shape the Michigan hockey program for generations to come, making it a place where players come to not just play a game, but to become part of a family.