Former Michigan, Michigan Tech and North Dakota coach Al Renfrew passed away on Monday at the age of 90.
Renfrew played on Michigan’s first national championship team in 1948 and coached the Wolverines to a national championship in 1964 during a 16-year career behind the bench from 1957-1973. He is the only man to win a national championship as both a player and coach in Michigan hockey history.
During his time as Michigan’s coach, Renfrew and his wife, Marjorie, created the first M-Club banner in 1962, giving then-football coach Bump Elliot the idea to let football players touch the banner on their way out of the tunnel at Michigan Stadium. Following his coaching career, Renfrew served as an assistant athletic director, managing the Michigan ticket office until his retirement in 1990.
“Al was one of the main reasons I came back as a coach,” current Michigan head coach Red Berenson said in a statement. “He and Don Canham talked to me about coming back to Michigan in 1984 and part of the reason I came back was the experience he had given me as a player. He was a mentor when I first started here. Al was always a friend and I always felt that any time we needed to talk about hockey or anything else, he was there for you. He meant a lot to Michigan hockey as a player and a coach, and he was a big part of the athletic department, along with his wife Marjorie, for years until he retired. He was a great friend of Michigan and a great friend of the Michigan hockey program.”
“Al is one of the greatest men I ever met,” Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson said in a news release. “You don’t find people better than Al Renfrew and he will be sorely missed by a lot of people. Al was always a real proponent of Michigan Tech. I spent a lot of time with him during my time at Michigan. He always had good things to say about Tech and really enjoyed his time as a coach here. He was so excited for me when I got the job and excited for the program.”
After working two years as a salesman for Cushing-Malloy, a printing company, Renfrew returned to college hockey, landing the head coaching job at Michigan Tech in 1951 on the recommendation of Vic Heyliger. In his fifth season, Renfrew coached the Huskies to the national championship game against Michigan in 1956, where Heyliger led the Wolverines to a 7-5 victory. Renfrew led MTU to an overall mark of 48-68-2 in his time there.
Renfrew took the head coaching position at North Dakota following year, leading them to an 18-11 record before Heyliger stepped down as the head coach at Michigan in 1957. A few months later, Michigan athletic director Fritz Crisler called and Renfrew, at 32 years old, became the head coach of the Wolverines.
“I coached at two other fine hockey schools,” Renfrew told the Michigan Daily in 1973. “But I always knew there was only one place: Michigan.”
During his time an athletic administrator at Michigan, Renfrew was inducted in the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in 1986 and was presented the George Eldridge Distinguished Service Award from the College Athletics Business Management Association at the 1990 NCAA Convention in Dallas, Tex. Renfrew is also a member of the Michigan Dekers Cub Hall of Fame and the Michigan Dekers Legends of Hockey.
Renfrew was a teammate and longtime friend of Wally Grant, who passed away on Nov. 5.
Details for a memorial service will be announced at a later time.