Previously: Part one
The time blocked out on Red Berenson’s schedule for handing out free tickets could be reallocated to recruiting by 1993. Michigan had won or tied 56 of their last 62 home games by the beginning of the 1993-94 season, was riding a three-year NCAA Tournament streak, and had finished no worse than second in the CCHA each of the past three seasons.
The success of the team fueled Yost’s atmosphere, and the atmosphere helped reel in recruits; Michigan’s 1993 recruiting class featured future Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison as well as John Madden, Jason Botterill, Mike Legg, and Warren Luhning. The recruiting success continued in 1994, as Berenson signed Marty Turco, Bill Muckalt, and Matt Herr. Stories of Yost’s unmatched gameday environment spread by word of mouth and students were soon filling the entire east side of Yost. The means for procuring tickets changed drastically as the one-time Diag freebie became one of the hottest tickets in town; students camped out as more highly-touted recruits came in.
Brendan Morrison, forward (1993-97): My freshman year we had a great team and were competing for the national championship and every single night we went into that arena and played at home it was sold out and the students led the charge. You look at the architecture of the rink and you read about the history of the field house and how it evolved over the years to where it is now or where it was my senior year— I remember students would sleep outside the Michigan Union there for two nights in order to get season tickets. When you walked by there as a player and you saw the commitment that your fellow students were willing to make in order to come and watch your team play, it was truly a special thing to be able to go out there and play in front of them and it really made you understand how special a place Yost is.
Roger Spurgeon, student season ticket holder: I met these guys and we made friendships our freshman year, so our sophomore year I wouldn’t be surprised if it was me who said, “Hey, let’s go get season tickets.” They sold them at the Union and I don’t think we actually camped out. I think we went there at maybe 6 AM.
Scott Spooner, student season ticket holder: Yeah, I think the first year we were like “Let’s get there early” so we got there at like 6 AM.
Spurgeon: Yeah, like 6 AM, and there were maybe 50 people in front of us. I kind of remember that season tickets were about $60 and we got a free hockey jersey. It had “Subway” written on the back. It was a cheap reproduction hockey jersey, it wasn’t anything fancy. I think the next couple years they gave us sweatshirts. Like, nice sweatshirts as incentives to buy season tickets.
Spooner: That still said “Subway” on the back.
Spurgeon: We didn’t care. We got freebies, so we didn’t care if it said “Subway” or not.
Megaphone Man, student season ticket holder: Demand was high. You got a season sweatshirt when you camped out and put in your order for tickets. I remember they were sponsored by Subway, so they were kind of like a must-have item, kind of like they do with the football shirts and the Maize Rage shirts. Before they started doing it on a regular basis for the other sports, I think hockey was the only one really doing it at the time.
[After THE JUMP: fandom expands, everyone dances, and the rules of the rule-free student section]
Spooner: I think our junior year is when we started spending all night out there.
Spurgeon: The last two years we definitely stayed overnight just outside the Union.
Ross Hammersley, student season ticket holder: ’94 is when I started and there was a procedure for camping out at that point. You had a whole process. Blankets were procured and there were coolers with food.
Spooner: I think we had a sign-up list because then you wouldn’t have to stay in line as long as someone in your group was there. We had a list and it was “this is the order you’re in.”
Spurgeon: It was an orderly process, a friendly process. People respected your spot in line...pretty much.
Megaphone Man: It went from the more credits you had, you were over by where the band is now all the way to the freshmen section on the other end there. That was kind of where you started and you made your way further toward the middle and that was where my group of friends stopped was in the middle and stayed. I couldn’t tell you if we had actual seats or not. Just kind of carved out our little area where everyone knew us, so we just made our way over to center ice over a few years and stayed there.
Spurgeon: In the early ‘90s, like 1993-94 through the ‘96 and ‘98 championship seasons, that entire east side stands was student season tickets except for a little bit behind the benches for parent tickets.
Hammersley: Poor parents. [laughs]
Spurgeon: From side to side it was students, and it was almost always full.
Spooner: In that context it totally makes sense that they had to move the parents because—
Spurgeon: Jesus Christ, it was just insane.
Spooner: I remember there were some incidents. Not necessarily with our group, but there were some incidents between parents and the students.
I remember a friend of mine doing a— like, everybody stood up at one point because there was something going on on the ice and he was right alongside I think it was the Miami (NTM) glass and he just charged and threw his shoulder into the glass and knocked all the Miami sticks that were in the corner of the bench, he just hit it so hard that he knocked all the sticks over. But that wasn’t really with one of the parents, that was more aimed at the equipment manager.
LJ Scarpace, goaltender (1999-2001): It was incredible. I have a vivid memory of the students lined up against the glass, the band— everything just seemed bigger than it does now, but I’ve been here obviously for 13 seasons. Everything just seemed bigger, more intense, more on top of you. It was still amazing, obviously. No windows— that was a big change from now to back then when I came in. I remember it being a little bit dark, but it always seemed to light up on game nights. It never seemed to be dark unless it was empty.
Red Berenson, head coach: It was changing [in 1995-96]. The noise level, the excitement, and the band, I don’t know if the size changed but it seemed to. It just seemed like there were twice as many members of the Michigan hockey pep band. They got to the point where they had to have tryouts for who’s going to be in the Michigan pep band because they were having a lot of fun too, so they got into it.
Dr. Jamie L. Nix, hockey band director: Oh yeah, yeah [there were tryouts]. There were times when the men’s basketball team was doing well and that was sort of the band to be in, but during the time I was there, the hockey band was definitely sort of the primo athletic band outside of the marching band to be in, so the auditions were actually pretty intense because that’s the one everyone wanted to be in.
I don’t know that it was unorganized but it just wasn’t the thing to do [in the ‘80s]. They were kind of begging people to go and then all of a sudden…
Berenson: The environment just emerged. You saw glimpses of it in the Cornell series and then you could see our team getting a little better every year and then a lot better, and then if you look at the scores in ’97 it’s worse than that. We had our best team in ’97. Home and away, it was unbelievable. But nevertheless, our team got going in ’96. You could see the makeup of a championship team and they were doing it at home and they took that confidence on the road as well.
[via MHN79’s youtube channel]
Yost stood out not solely for the volume inside the building but for the characters that themselves became part of the rink’s aura of intimidation. Unlike the iconic Boston bar, everybody may not have known your name—at least not your real name—but everybody came to know the regulars that populated the stands and their shtick.Chants from the crowd changed nightly but the crowd itself did not; traditions quickly took root as regulars staked out their territory.
Hammersley: Scott [Spooner] would always wear his mask. I mean, Scott is not a small person, so he would basically stand at center ice with it, usually a hockey sweater on, and then this classic old-school hockey mask painted with maize and blue on it. I can remember it’s almost as though if I were an opposing player and you’re warming up and I looked up, it’s almost as though you’re looking at one of the guys from Mad Max or the Undertaker or something like that embodied in Michigan hockey. I’m sure that added to the atmosphere.
Brian Cook, season ticket holder: Not everybody was an incisive wit. There was one guy who was shockingly bad at insulting people. Back then BGSU had a guy named "Ham." At some point in the first period Bad Insult Guy furrowed his brow, and as Ham was skating back to the bench he shouted at the top of his lungs "HEY HAM!"
He paused, and then stammered out "I... want a piece of you." It was at this point my friend and I started yelling "SHUT UP" after he said anything. I wonder if I'm Guy Who Said Shut Up To Bad Insult Guy to someone out there.
On the other hand, there was another guy who hung out generally near Superfan and Megaphone who was lethally effective. Usually when a parent started yapping back it was because this guy had set him off. Unfortunately, I was almost always too far away to hear anything he said. I'd hear him yelling, I'd hear laughter from the section around him, and sometimes one of the parents would lose it.
He was not white. I don't know what ethnicity he actually was, but he was brown enough to field "terrorist" bombs from some of the more benighted hockey parents. He never seemed to mind. He knew he was winning.
Nix: I do know there was a specific drum cadence that we did just once a game where the band director would dance. That was a big deal. I did not start that; I believe it was started by the guy that was there before me but it certainly became huge during my time. It became one of those things that at first was just kind of funny but then it became sort of expected, and then the fans started actually asking for it and cheering for it all the time. I don’t dance, so I didn’t want to do it at all [laughs]. Just one of those things you had to do, then it became fun.
Cook: Superfan was the designated "guy who dances during “Can't Turn You Loose," but when he was absent the responsibility fell to the fattest guy in the section. I have never been svelte, so there was always a worry there. But there was one guy who was obviously the guy who should dance, and he was always there, and he was game enough to do it. I love that guy.
Mel Pearson, assistant coach: I just liked the interaction. It was a total interaction. I’ve never seen it in other sports maybe as much as I have here in hockey between the band, the fans, and the team. The interaction was incredible. Even so much so that visiting teams had heard so much about it, even the “C Ya” chant that you’d see many times where they’d go skate to the penalty box and they wouldn’t get in because they’d heard about it. When your opposition hears about that and starts playing games like that, it’s awesome. It’s awesome. Take them off their game a little bit. They’re so enthralled with everything else going on, then they got to play the game.
One of the best is when the goalie’d flip his mask up and take a drink of water and they’d start going “ugly goalie” or something and it got to be a little bit of a game. I think that’s what makes it special. The opposition, the players, they like playing to that. You like to play in front of those hostile, energized environments.
Nix: In a way, I became— I didn’t want it— but I became a mini-celebrity in this role. So I’d start being recognized. I was just a grad student working for the band program, even the marching band, but I would walk around the field at Michigan Stadium and people would start ‘Disco Nix! Disco Nix!’ That was sort of my nickname because of the fact I would dance at the hockey games. They started calling me ‘Disco Nix,’ so that became this thing. Even years later after I had left and then come back as the marching band director, there were still people that would see me and say ‘Disco Nix! Disco Nix!’
Goalie, goalie, goalie, smurf
Michigan fans (and particularly students) found success getting under opponent’s skin with one simple rule: make it personal. The staple chants (c ya; goalie, sieve; ugly goalie; etc.) had taken hold by the time Michigan hit their mid-’90s stride, but more impressive than the number of chants the crowd had was their ability to concoct creative, custom lines as the game progressed. The student section responded to everything from which refs skated out to which opposing goaltender was currently in net to which player seemed most flustered by their section’s presence, and they did it all on the fly.
Hammersely: There was a lot of head nodding. You knew where your seat was; everybody had assigned seats, so it wasn’t like— we knew where the typical players were. Somebody would have a cheer and then somebody would follow it up or if somebody else had a good one everybody would clap at them or point at them or some sort of acknowledgement of the high quality of whatever heckling they were doing, something along those lines. Like [Spurgeon] said, there definitely wasn’t any sort of meeting with agendas where we were going to plan anything out.
It was just everybody probably had a few beers before they went to the game and got their creativity juice flowing and let loose once they got inside Yost. But actually, I don’t remember ever actually being all that tanked before going to a game. I may have had one or two beforehand, but it wasn’t like a pregame at State where you’re spending all day getting toasted. It’s hard to separate hockey and beer, but at the same time it wasn’t like an alcohol-fueled heckling type of situation in our fan circle.
Spurgeon: I will be the first to admit there were a few Friday Rick’s dollar pitcher happy hours before the games. The problem is you were sleeping by the second period if you did too much of that.
There was a great deal of creativity and good, honest heckling that wasn’t necessarily routine, which I think was part of why it was so much fun.
Spooner: Yeah, there was a protocol. Like, you couldn’t go to a black hole cheer after the first goal. That just wasn’t done.
Spurgeon: And if the goalie hadn’t let any goals in, how could you call him a black hole?
Megaphone Man: I think “organized” is giving us a little too much credit. It was kind of just our group in the center there and I think Brian was fairly close to us and some of his buddies. It was usually just us in the middle there and we had loud voices and back then the band wasn’t playing constantly, there was no piped in music, so our voices would carry and again, we were usually just doing it for our own entertainment in that area of 20 or 30 of us. If there was something we wanted all the students to start doing, that’s when we would use the megaphone, but usually we would just direct it right on the ice to specific players or if the other team was taking a timeout, to make noise along with cowbells.
It wasn’t anything like the Maize Rage where we had a printed newsletter or whatever for each game or email group or anything like that. Nothing was really planned in advance other than maybe the Molly thing. I seem to remember we probably sent quite a few emails about that to everyone that we were ready to really let her have it when she skated on the ice.
Hammersley: There’s obviously a lot of different chants now that have got a lot of vulgarity, but I really feel like back then we swore, sure, and I’ll confess to having just as bad of a sailor mouth as anybody else, but I feel like there was a lot more creativity in the chanting and just random things that we would make up, and if they were good enough they stuck, and if they weren’t, they just sort of went by the wayside. It wasn’t just yelling. I feel like nowadays you hear about how they’re really loud and just scream obscenities and I think part of the allure was also, whatever, showing the Michigan Difference, making jokes and making fun of the other team or making fun of Shegos or whoever the goalie would be that was in net, just trying to get them [the opposition] off their game in a creative way that would make your fellow fans laugh.
But if you get a rise out of them or you notice that their head cocks over and looks at you after you scream something that’s pretty funny, that’s only going to encourage you more. I feel like that was a lot more prominent back then.
Megaphone Man: There was a ref, I think he lasted into the early 2000s but was definitely there in the ‘90s, whose last name was Piotrowski, who we all hated. We knew it was going to be a badly called game if he was on the ice. After not long at all, we expressed our hatred for him quite early on and every time we saw him before a game we would just start chanting “We want Shegos.” Shegos was another ref who was great; we all loved Shegos. Every time Piotrowski was out there we would just start chanting “We want Shegos” and inevitably every time he’d go and make a bad call the “Ref you suck” chant would start, and we’d throw in the “We want Shegos” as well.
Cook: Piotrowski was the only good ref. There was a guy who looked like a rat who was terrible. Wilkins.
Megaphone Man: At some point— I want to say late ‘90s— there was Shegos reffing a game but something seemed off. He didn’t seem to be nearly as good as normal, and then we later realized that there were two Shegos and they were brothers. I don’t know if we ever got their first names and figured out which was which, but there was one that was really good and one that was meh, but, regardless, anytime Piotrowski was there, we’d start chanting “We want Shegos” right away.
Cook: If one of the Shegos brothers pissed us off there were "Other Shegos" chants.
Scarpace: When I first came to Yost I was part of Western Michigan and this was in the mid-90s when Michigan had their powerhouse teams. Brian [Wiseman] wasn’t on the team but like Morrison, Botterill, that team. And there was a game in particular where they were absolutely blowing us out. We had a goalie who was small in stature, a short goalie— I don’t want to put his name in there, but for some reason the night stands out to me because they had announced that Charles Woodson had won the Heisman Trophy. I remember being on the bench, I wasn’t playing in the game but I was on the bench and so they were cheering up in the press box, Michigan was completely dominating us in the game, and the students started into this chant.
Michigan was putting their other goalies in. Marty [Turco] started, Gregg Malicke came in, and then they put Greg Daddario in. So every time they changed the goalie it was “Goalie, goalie, sieve.” It wasn’t just “Goalie, sieve, goalie, sieve.” It kind of graduated to “Goalie, goalie, sieve” and then it was “Goalie, goalie, goalie, sieve” and then it turned into “Goalie, goalie, goalie, smurf.” I was on the bench dying, as the visiting goalie. It was just too much. You had to laugh at something like that even though we were losing the game.
That’s why I was saying to come back, to transfer to Michigan and then have the fans on your side, it was awesome to see the other goalie have to go through some of those chants, the “ugly goalie” chant. It was always awesome to be on the better side of those goalie chants. I’d laugh. Hockey’s a small world, so I’d get to know a lot of the goalies that we were playing against in the small group that it is, so I kind of relished that, their making fun of them and giving them a hard time here at Yost. So that was the best part.
Tim Carmody, student season ticket holder: It was super loud. It just kind of vibrated almost when you were in it. Everyone was yelling, standing, banging, stepping on the bleachers. It felt electric in that you were almost jittery the whole time because you never stopped yelling or shouting or even when the other team’s going on the powerplay, there was some ridiculous thing we would yell and shout at the other team and fans.
Megaphone Man: Getting the players to turn around— occasionally they would mouth off at us. Usually it would be a backup goalie or someone that was on the bench the whole time and by the third period was sick of hearing us. Sometimes we’d get their star players to turn around and that was the best because we would just ride them the rest of the game. We knew we were in their heads if, in the middle of the game, they were turning around and motioning at us or talking at us or, if they’d take the lead, they would turn around and point at us. We definitely felt like we had a part in the game and we were helping the team.
Marty Turco, goaltender (1994-98): It was comical but that was home, man. You just didn’t bat an eye. You’re like, Alright, that’s right, go get ‘em. We’re all on the same team. We need you. I’ll make some saves, we’ll win some hockey games, get these guys to score some goals, and then we’ll all go to class tomorrow.
It’s still surreal thinking back now. Like, did that all happen? Were those four years real? It was so magical. And just to think, we went back this year and the Score-O thing— that place is just…it literally is the Magic Kingdom for us.
Coming in Part 3: Creativity, controlled chaos, and the gameday atmosphere from the players’ perspective.