Michigan’s CCHA alums on the new Big Ten world

Renovations of Yost Ice Arena are complete.  The scoreboard, new last year, is closer to the ceiling.  The new sound system is a welcome change.
Renovations of Yost Ice Arena are complete. The scoreboard, new last year, is closer to the ceiling. The new sound system is a welcome change.

Thirty-two former Wolverines took to the ice in Yost Arena in Friday’s Blue-White game that was free to the public, well attended, spirited. Noah Ruden (2002-06) was in goal for the Blue squad; Steve Shields (1990-94) and Shawn Hunwick (2007-12) split time for the White.

Shields, who spent the last two seasons as a volunteer goalie coach at Michigan Tech, talked about remaining “respectable” among the younger alumni.

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Nearly all of the thirty-two players in the alumni game are also alumni of the now-defunct CCHA, but each is looking forward to the new era of Big Ten hockey.

“I think it’s going to be awesome,” said former Wolverines’ captain Eric Nystrom (2001-05). “Those are schools that are always excited to play against each other. I think the football tradition will carry over into hockey. Playing those teams like Minnesota and Wisconsin maybe more than one time a year is going to be really exciting.”

Nystrom, who was traded to the Nashville Predators from the Dallas Stars in July, expressed a little nostalgia about the CCHA and old league alignments. “It’s disappointing to see the end of the CCHA and [games against] some of those teams you played for a long time, but those teams are going to do fine. And the way the college hockey system is now, anyone can win it. It doesn’t have to be from a powerhouse conference — and who’s to say that the Big Ten going to be the powerhouse?”

Shields, also optimistic, offered some advice about how to make league realignment work for everyone involved. “I think it’s good for college hockey, for the exposure in general for hockey. I think that we have to make sure that everyone — the rest of the teams within college hockey — are included in this … upswing in hockey and the exposure it’s going to get. As long as they do that, I think the Big Ten will be great for college hockey.”

UM coach Red Berenson said that the new league is already creating a new buzz. “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, the Big Ten. I think everybody’s going to feel it – our staff, our players obviously, our fans. Everybody’s going to get a little jacked up for the Big Ten.”

Berenson (1959-62) played for the White team.

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Andrew Ebbett (2003-06), playing for the Blue squad, talked about readying himself for a new season with a new NHL team, after having been traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the Pittsburgh Penguins last month.

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Among the other current NHL players participating were Colorado Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick (2003-07), Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (2005-07) and Phoenix Coyote forward David Moss (2001-05).

A little action

There was a roster sheet given to fans at the start of the game, but many of the players were not wearing the numbers that corresponded to their names on that sheet. I can tell you that Berenson wore No. 15.

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You can hear some of the scoring announced during the post-game handshake. Brandon Naurato (2005-09) had a hat trick for the White team.

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A little sweetness

The public was invited to skate after the game and many players continued to skate as well — some with their own children.

Here’s Dale Rominski (1996-99) with his young son. No, the voice at the start of the video isn’t mine.

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Here’s Matt Hunwick with his even younger son, his five-month-old baby boy. It was the little one’s first hockey game and his first time on the ice.

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A little clarification

When this went to press, my byline read, “CCHA Columnist.” Perhaps it should read, “CCHA Columnist Emeritus.”

When someone from the editing staff gets to it — it is summer, my good people– my byline will say something about the Big Ten, too.