By Stefan Kubus –
ANN ARBOR – The stars were out on Friday night at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor – they just weren’t the usual players to don the Maize and Blue.
Thirty-two former varsity letter winners for the University of Michigan hockey program returned to their alma mater for the Wolverines’ annual alumni game, which featured players from six different decades of NCAA play.
Despite the fact that a White Team featuring names like David Moss and Steve Shields trumped a Blue Team featuring alums like Jack Johnson and Andrew Ebbett by a score of 9-6, it wasn’t about the score, but rather these players making their return to their old stomping grounds.
“It’s always fun to come back and play hockey with a lot of guys you haven’t seen in a while,” Moss said. “It was a good time.”
Ebbett, who just recently signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, said living 20 minutes away from Ann Arbor in the summer helped get him back out on the ice at Yost.
“It’s just fun to get back with all the guys that you played with,” Ebbett said. “I’m just training right now in Plymouth and heading to Pittsburgh in September, looking forward to it. It’s kind of a new challenge and I get to play with some pretty exciting players so it’s gonna be fun.”
Among the talented crop that suited up in the Maize and Blue once more was 73-year-old longtime Michigan head coach Red Berenson. Berenson, in his 30th year behind the Wolverines’ bench, played for Michigan from 1959 to 1962 before enjoying a 17-year NHL career that included a five-season stint in Detroit during the mid-70s.
“It’s a great event,” Berenson said. “It’s great to see guys come back… We kind of keep in touch with all those guys, one way or the other, but to have them all come back and have fun on the ice, it’s a good feeling. Now, to see their kids and families here… I guess we’re all getting a little older.”
The players said they were still in awe of a seemingly ageless wonder out there.
“He’s just like one of the guys out there,” Ebbett said. “He comes and skates with us during the week sometimes and we always say he’s still got it.”
Shields, a longtime NHL netminder, said that, even though the guys are out there to have a good time, it’s important to still show up and compete.
“When you’re out here, there’s guys that are still playing,” Shields said. “You don’t want to embarrass yourself. As much as you don’t prepare before you get here or necessarily the night before, you still want to come out and look respectable. I think most of the guys do that.”
Talking B1G hockey
As the majority of the game participants played their collegiate hockey in the CCHA, the alumni also shared their thoughts on the new Big Ten hockey conference, new for the 2013-14 season, with the CCHA no longer in existence.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Berenson said. “Every time we talk about next season, the Big Ten conference, it seems to mean something special. It’s not just another year; this is a big year in the Big Ten. I think everybody’s gonna feel it. Our staff, our players, our fans, I think everybody is gonna get jacked up for the Big Ten.”
Moss, who played for Catholic Central in high school, said it’s really an upgrade for Michigan and the other CCHA schools with the additions of teams like Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“I think it’s great for college hockey,” Moss said. “You have a lot of big schools in the same conference and I think it’ll be good. You get to play the best competition and I think that’s good for college hockey.”
Shields expressed similar views on the collegiate hockey revolution, but added that the conference is a little small for his liking.
“I think it’s good for college hockey for exposure, in general, in the U.S.,” Shields said. “We have to make sure that the rest of the teams in college hockey are included in this upswing in hockey and the exposure they’re gonna get. As long as they do that, I think the Big Ten will be great for college hockey. I’d like to see a couple more teams, but the teams that are there are going to be very competitive.”