Update 3/10: A little more hockey helmet history on WTKA tonight. John U. Bacon brought this up on the Red Berenson show and the old coach brought up more details on those days, twenty years ago, when the hockey team donned the winged helmets.
I didn’t know that the helmet designs are actually taped (Red explains why).
Red also said the players liked the new helmets at least “for the most part, there’s always a couple”. Yes, we know at least one student athlete who thought the design was 100% pure cornball (see below).
Original post from 2/21/09:
Shortly after this game, in late February of 1989, Red Berenson gave the green light for the team to apply the famed winged pattern to the hockey helmets. This month marks the 20th anniversary of the hockey version of the football design (which coincidentally had its 70th anniversary this season).
The exact day in that February? I’m not exactly sure. John U. Bacon devoted a chapter to the switch in Blue Ice, and the Bentley Library republished it for you here. Here’s captain Alex Roberts recollection of that “late February” day:
“Right before the league playoffs, we’re coming up the stairs to the locker room” he recounts, “and we start smelling fresh paint. The smell’s everywhere. “We get up to the top of the stairs and see the training room tables in the hallway, with a bunch of helmets on ‘em painted dark blue with the yellow wings, just like the football team’s—and we literally thought it was a joke. The helmets were to out of the normal protocol. We’re like, ‘Where are our real helmets, the white ones? What the hell are these? We were laughing our asses off. Then Red comes in and says, ‘You guys are wearing these.’
According to Bacon, the idea to apply the famous winged look to the white hockey helmets came from local Ann Arbor attorney Paul Gallagher, who passed along his epiphany to Red Berenson. Continuing:
But the design got the attention it was supposed to get. When the Wolverines came out for warm ups against Bowling Green to open their best of three playoff series, the Falcons actually stopped what they were doing to gawk at the Michigan team’s new look. “We just said, ‘Hey man, this is us,”‘ Roberts recalls, chuckling. “We’ve gotta do what we’re told. ‘All I can say is, we felt pretty corny.”
The write-up includes this photo, taken March 3, 1989, perhaps the debut of the new look?
Bowling Green – March 1989 [U-M Bentley Library]
You’ll notice the empty seats in the background. Yost attendance averaged 2,000 seats under capacity so it looks like the only thing cornier than those helmets was actually attending the games. But Red was still building the program during the 1988-89 campaign and finished fourth in the CCHA with a 22-15-4 record. It’d be a couple years before the Wolverines really got things cooking. In 1991 they started their current run of 18 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament including titles in ’96 and ’98. And the helmets are here to stay.
The auction of the 1989 Notre Dame program ends February 22nd.