|Senators 2007 draft pick Louie Caporusso believes the University of Michigan has served him well over four years in developing him as a hockey player and a person (Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan). |
Forgive Louie Caporusso
if the thought of seeing his University of Michigan odyssey end leaves him feeling a little blue.
The Ottawa Senators draftee (third round, 90th overall, 2007) can't say enough about the four years he's spent wearing the maize and blue for the Wolverines men's hockey program.
"It's been an unbelievable journey here," Caporusso said by phone from Ann Arbor, Mich., where the Wolverines are gearing up for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. "This has probably been one of the best places I’ve ever played in my life.
"I don’t regret one bit coming here. This is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, playing at the University of Michigan. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The coaches have been tremendous in terms of developing me as a hockey player and as a person. They care so much. They truly do care. And I think that’s key if you want to develop as a hockey player."
Front and centre in that area is legendary Michigan coach Red Berenson, who is in his 27th year behind the Wolverines bench. The former NHLer is best known for his years with the St. Louis Blues, which included a six-goal game during that team's expansion season in 1967-68. He's led the maize and blue to 21 straight NCAA tournament appearances, a U.S. college hockey record.
"He’s definitely something special," Caporusso said of the 71-year-old Berenson. "There aren’t many people like him in this world. He’s got one of the most competitive streaks I’ve ever seen in a human being in my life. His passion for the game, his passion to be the best and produce the best not only on the ice but the type of person you become ... he’s big on that as well.
"I can’t thank him and the coaching staff enough for what they’ve done with me for the past four years. He’s just so knowledgeable, he knows so much about the game and about life. You learn every day with him."
Berenson's presence greatly influenced Caporusso's decision to join the maize and blue.
"I don’t regret one bit coming here. This is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, playing at the University of Michigan. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The coaches have been tremendous in terms of developing me as a hockey player and as a person. They care so much. They truly do care. And I think that’s key if you want to develop as a hockey player." - Louie Caporusso
"My dad remembers watching him and he was one of my dad’s favourite players," he said. "So it was a pretty big deal that I could play at the University of Michigan under coach Berenson. Someone with his pedigree ... you can’t ask for a better coach to help you mature and turn you into a great hockey player and also a great person. And that’s what I hope to be. I strive to be a good hockey player and that’s what he’s helped me try to do."
His Michigan years are drawing to a close, but Caporusso hasn't spent much time yet thinking about his hockey future beyond Ann Arbor — and whether it might next include a stop with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League, where good friend and former college foe (with Notre Dame) Erik Condra
spent time the last two years.
Rather, his thoughts remain with the fortunes of the Wolverines, who won the CCHA regular-season title on the season's final day and earned a bye through the first round of the playoffs. They play host to either Lake Superior State or Bowling Green next weekend, with the eventual goal a spot in the conference tournament finals March 18-19 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Caporusso, a Wolverines alternate captain, hopes to be back on the ice with his teammates by then. The 5-10, 190-pound forward suffered a lower-body injury last weekend which will sideline him for at least two weeks. "It’s nothing serious," he said. "It’s just a really minor setback but nonetheless, it has to be taken care of (by the UM medical staff)."
While hockey and school — he's enrolled in the college of literature, science and the arts, majoring in general studies — are Caporusso's priorities, he gained an unexpected 15 minutes of fame a few months when a Valentine's Day video
he filmed as part of a charity drive for a local children's hospital went viral in a big way.
"It definitely caught on," said Caporusso with a laugh. "I never thought it would get 30,000 hits on YouTube and get me an interview on ESPN SportsCenter
. But you can become a YouTube sensation overnight if you just come up with something that makes people laugh."