For the first time in 33 years, the storied men's hockey team at the University of Michigan will have a new bench boss to start the 2017-18 NCAA Division 1 season.
Legendary coach and Regina, Sask. native Gordon 'Red' Berenson, who will turn 78 on Dec. 8, announced this week that he would be handing over the reins of the Wolverines.
“I’ve thought about this for a long time and I think this is the right time and it’s the right thing to do for the Michigan hockey program,” said Berenson in a press release. "My heart will always be at Michigan and I look forward to the team taking the next step and making me proud as a former coach."
In fact, Berenson will still be tied to the team as he is returning to the university in Ann Arbor, Mich. as a special advisor to the director of athletics.
The Wolverines captured a pair of national titles during the Berenson era, in 1996 and 1998, reached the Frozen Four 11 times and made 23 NCAA tournament appearances, including 22 straight years from 1991 to 2012. Michigan leads all NCAA programs with nine national crowns.
Berenson considered calling it quits after the 2015-16 season, but returned for one more kick at the can after the Wolverines won the Big 10 tournament and he was named as coach of the year in the conference.
This season the Wolverines struggled, finishing with a 13-19-3 record and losing out in the first round of the Big 10 tournament.
Berenson’s career at Michigan included 848 wins (fourth on the all-time list of NCAA coaches) and a win percentage of .654 while 73 of his players ended up in the NHL.
He began his storied career in Ann Arbor as a star player for the Wolverines over three seasons (1959 to 1962), earning All-American honours as well as being named Michigan's most valuable player in both his junior and senior seasons (1961 and 1962). His 43 goals and nine hat tricks in his last season are still Michigan records.
He then went on to play in the NHL for 17 years with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and, most notably, with the expansion St. Louis Blues. He played 987 games in the NHL and retired after the 1977-78 campaign with 658 points (261G, 397A).
Berenson began his coaching career on the staff of the Blues the following season and took over the head coaching position midway through that campaign. He guided the Blues over the next two seasons and won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 1981.
He stayed two more seasons in the NHL coaching ranks as an assistant to Scotty Bowman with the Buffalo Sabres before returning to Ann Arbor and the Wolverines, a place he's been ever since.
No word on a possible replacement or when that search will begin, but there's no doubt Red Berenson's skates will be tough to fill.
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