He’s one of five coaches to win more than 750 U.S. collegiate games, but the only one of that group to have also played in nearly 1,000 NHL games.
A six-time All-Star, including twice with the Red Wings, former center Red Berenson an incredibly accomplished life in hockey having won a Stanley Cup as a player and two NCAA championships as a coach at his alma mater, the University of Michigan.
After graduating from UM’s School of Business, Berenson signed a contract with the Montreal Canadiens that began a 17-season NHL playing career with a five-year stint with the Red Wings from 1971-74.
Berenson played for the St. Louis Blues, before and after his time with the Wings. And it was in 1968, that he managed to accomplish a feat that has been equaled just once since when he scored six goals in an 8-0 win at Philadelphia.
Berenson, who recently concluded his 28th season as the Wolverines coach, granted an exclusive interview with DetroitRedWings.com, and here is what he said about his time with the Wings, Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau.
QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
BERENSON: “I still keep up with some of the guys who live around town, like Mickey Redmond and Nick Libett. I’m also still good friends with Tim Ecclestone, who owns a sports bar down in Atlanta. It’s a really nice place called TJ’s Sports Bar & Grill.”
Q. Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
BERENSON: “Well, I love (Nicklas) Lidstrom, and he’s a world-class player and he plays the game the right way. I think there were a lot of questions about him when he first came into the league, but he has really proven that he is the real deal. A great player.”
Q. What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
BERENSON: “I think getting traded here (in Feb. 1971) with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio still on the team, and coming back to an Original Six team and playing in the Olympia. Even though our team wasn’t really that good it was still a real privilege to play here.”
Q. Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
BERENSON: “I would say that Gordie Howe was probably as tough as anybody.”
Q. Who was the funniest?
BERENSON: “Bryan Watson.”
Q. Who had the biggest heart?
BERENSON: “We had a guy named Ted Harris, we called him Harry, and he was one of those players, but I would also go back to Bryan Watson, pound for pound.”
Q. What was your favorite restaurant in metro Detroit?
BERENSON: “It was a steakhouse that I don’t think is around anymore, out on Woodward. I can’t even think of the name anymore, but I know it’s not there anymore.”
Q. How has the NHL changed since you played?
BERENSON: “The rules have changed, obviously, and the players are now full-time players, who condition all year-round with off-ice training and as a result you get bigger, quicker, better conditioned players. The other change is that you have European players now.”
Q. Toughest team (other than the Red Wings) when you played?
BERENSON: “I’d probably say Philadelphia because they were going through that real era when they had the Broad Street Bullies.”
Q. Who did you sit next to in the dressing room?
BERENSON: “Actually, Gordie Howe, lucky me.”
Q. What do you love most about the game?
BERENSON: “I love the skill and the speed, the passion, and the difference. Everybody is different, yet everybody can contribute.”
Q. Who had the greatest influence on your career?
BERENSON: “I’d say Jean Beliveau. I belonged to Montreal based on where I grew-up in Saskatchewan, so I followed the Canadians, and we didn’t even get the games on TV until later, but Beliveau was the type of player that I wanted to emulate.”
Q. What advice would you give to kids playing today?
BERENSON: “The same advice that I give to my team at Michigan: Work hard and have fun.”