Michigan Hockey: GBMWolverine Celebrate “The Children Of Yost” Phenomenon of Wolverine Hockey
They come from all parts of the country, if not the world. They have different backgrounds with different levels of understanding about how the game of hockey is played. They are studying to be doctors and lawyers, engineers and business people. Some enjoy Greek life (fraternities and sororities for those not familiar.) But one thing is unmistakably clear: once the jerseys are donned and the assembly complete in section 17, they are one living, breathing organism. They are the Children of Yost.Now, the rambunctious student section at Yost Arena is not an anomaly. The rise of the Michigan hockey program under Red Berenson certainly fueled that interest. Roots have been firmly planted since the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when the program began its long 22 year NCAA tournament stretch. Over the years we have seen a metamorphosis of student fandom that simulates Cameron Indoor Arena at Duke University for basketball, or the intimidating effects of some of the nation’s fiercest football stadiums. Yet, Yost is unique- cozy, dusty, tradition laden and full of the most dedicated and colorful students in college hockey. The fan base at Yost has been regarded as the 7th player on the ice, and has clearly given Michigan hockey an edge in huge games. (Michigan has hosted three national tournament regionals as underdogs and has emerged as the Frozen Four participant in all three.) The direct effects of the students during those games made the competitive advantage too great in the eyes of the NCAA. It has long been regarded as one of the most intimidating places to come into as a visiting player and as a visiting fan. Over the years, the different chants and intermission activities has evolved also. What used to be a singular individual dancing in the second intermission to the Blue Brothers “Can’t Turn Me Loose” (typically our beloved original “SuperFan”, Jeff Holzhausen) grew to the entire student section and now calls out to the entire arena to dance- along with a student dressed up like a referee, banana or a penguin, or the occasional head football coach. (At one point a decade or so ago, the Michigan pep band director would also join the fray when a Michigan victory was within sure grasp in the dying minute of the game.) The chants are no less vulgar, but are so long now that one can’t quite understand them anymore, especially when played over by the band.
So, what is so unique about what was a raucous, stand apart student section compared to our now infamous COY? ( For example: how are the predecessors that defrocked Molly McGannon and her now infamous “Michigan fans are horrible people” quote or sent opposing players into sudden laughter from chants of “Di-rty Mul-let” or the “Yip, Yip Yip”PK chant after the BU forward who skated at Yost in 2008 that much different?)
Well, not a great deal, really, outside of the need to organize an entire troupe of student fans – not just to coordinate chants and so forth- but to honor their fellow student athletes and to encourage a bigger road presence for their Wolverines. It started simply with the foresight of a small group of students utilizing today’s social media tools. It has given this generation’s student section a unique label that is shared with the rest of the arena.
Meet Matt Kodis and Brie Frayne. Both are bright, ambitious outgoing seniors that helped form the catchy name for their particular genre of student season ticket holders in section 17. Matt is from the Benton Harbor area in Michigan and hopes to return to Berrien County to utilize his Statistics degree for the local government. He found that the rigors of his studies couldn’t pull him away from his love of hockey (and the German Bundesliga, but that’s an entirely different topic.) He is like any other student in that his fervor for the Maize and Blue is strong- but combined with his love for all things Yost- well, there was no better place to be for him.
Both of them were strangers that were brought together by the hockey passion they had- and, along with two anonymous soon to be seniors who will assume their duties-decided that the best way they could express their interaction and love for Michigan Hockey was through Twitter and Facebook. They formed a pact between them that they would act as a single entity- much like the Michigan mantra of “The Team! The Team! The Team!”- to share anecdotes, chants and travel plans amongst the two social media avenues. They both noted that it was really about getting everyone in the section on the same page. “We really didn’t have a plan at first” noted Brie. “We didn’t want to be like the other on campus groups like the Maize Rage since that is a university sanctioned group. We wanted to keep our independence since we do cross the line at times” she continued. Matt chimed in next. “Sure, it would have been nice to have some travel perks and so forth, but we also didn’t want to conform to a standard. COY has never been about that. We want free reign.” Brie shook her head in agreement. “We love the other campus groups that support our athletics. But we wanted to be unique.”
What it is about is four to five leaders taking the front to direct a group that easily swelled to over five hundred members- with most not even knowing who was leading up the COY. Brie went on to say: “I had people coming up to me that didn’t know who I was until they would say, oh yeah, you sit next to so and so. So you send out the information? That rocks!. We just kind of took charge and it blossomed.”
The unassuming pair was very clear: “our group is there to help the team and work together with the band. Our relationship with (pep band director) John Pasquali is really good. We have great give and take.” The group always honors Michigan tradition after games also by staying and singing the Alma Mater, “The Yellow and Blue” with the band.Then Came The Flags
Matt was eager to talk about the evolution of the giant flags that now are a staple of the COY. “I was in Washington D.C. he explained, at a soccer match. The surroundings were spectacular, with fans dancing and chanting, playing instruments and waiving their colors. I got this idea to bring it to Yost. I can’t take credit for the flags, though. Our partner (Rob-who is also a senior) loved the idea about the flags and specifically conjured up the idea of the Swedish flag to honor Carl Hagelin. I mean, his mom was like Betsy Ross- it was freaking hand made and huge. We couldn’t believe it, so when we rolled it out after he was introduced before one of the games, it was a big hit. The players loved it especially after a goal.”
It was a unique idea that really stamped the COY’s identity. It was this simple act that became a Twitter sensation and a great video bite for the various networks carrying the games. Brie did say that it wasn’t without a few hitches. ‘We wanted to give Carl the flag after Senior Night (2011), especially with his heroics against Western. We all signed it. But we had to wait until the U-M Compliance Department told us it was okay. We sure didn’t want him to get suspended from the NCAA playoffs on account of accepting ‘a benefit’ from us.”
The flag craze became an expectation and a source of mystery for the group. Twitter was ablaze with the next flag… as the COY rolled out the Lone Star for Texan Chris Brown. It also spontaneously led to section 17 breaking out into “Deep In The Heart Of Texas”. Soon the band caught on and played it along with them. “Brownie was always appreciative of that” Brie explained. “He was active on Twitter and was never shy to say thanks. It feels great when you are not being intrusive to the player’s privacy, but can make them feel special. We all felt like we contributed to their success.” Matt agreed. “You are just like them in a way. They need their time without feeling like being hung onto. Time to laugh, study, eat… just like the rest of us. It was a cool relationship without getting…. creepy.” Matt laughs as he waits for Brie’s reaction.
So… the Arizona flag? “Well Luke Moffatt is from a unique hockey area (Paradise Valley, Az.). We thought it would be nice to honor him” Brie says. “It was kind of a strange thing- we lobbied Facebook and Twitter to see what ideas would come out. We only gave bits and pieces of what we were planning with two flags coming, so the Arizona flag was pretty obvious” stated Matt. “At the same time, though we wanted to honor the tradition at Michigan, and what better way to do it than honor the man whose name is on the building and for whom our group is named after. It wasn’t easy getting the artwork (because of copyrights), but we got a source to print it, but it wasn’t cheap. When we put it out on Twitter looking for donations, we were shocked- we had alums donating, former players too. It only took two hours to gather the donations to cover the cost. No one knew what it was going to be, but they wanted to support it.”The Yost flag made its debut late in the 2011-12 campaign at home but the group found it impossible to feel secure traveling with it. “Security issues at Joe Louis Arena” Matt sighed. “The last thing we wanted is to have it confiscated, especially since they started to take items like our cowbells. So, we use it at Yost and also will have the Dekers use it for the banquet.” It certainly is their trademark, now.
What about The Future?
Matt and Brie are confident that the next group of leaders will be as creative. “We already experimented with a few things at the end of the season, like singing the Canadian national anthem a Capella for the Canadian boys.” Brie chirped. “We didn’t want them to feel left out,” Matt laughed.
They remained pretty secretive about other artistic ventures, but slipped in a comment about “more surprises coming from some of our crafters in the COY”. They emphasized that they are a tight knit family that won’t do just anything to continue the trend. Brie turns serious and thoughtfully adds that “the group wants it done right, something to be proud of the legacy.” Matt reaffirms that it isn’t about them or one person. Their time is almost done and soon they will depart for the next stage in their lives. “We are leaving it in competent hands. We’ll be around hopefully, but it will be up to the next group of leaders to take it further. It’s that spontaneous creativity that makes it worth doing.” Brie concludes by adding… “now if I can only get my boyfriend into hockey. He was such a help with the ideas and stuff, but resisted hockey. I’ll convert him eventually” she laughs. My guess is, you certainly will, Brie.
The Children of Yost are proud to have Michigan fans donate ideas, creativity or just having them follow along on social media. They can be found on twitter @ChildrenOfYost
GBMWolverine readers send the COY a note and let them know how much they are appreciated. Good luck and thank you to our interview guests, Matt and Brie. We hope we honored the spirit of your group’s work with this piece. As always, “Go Blue!”Closing Thoughts On 2011-12:
For those of you that did not follow the NCAA tournament action after Michigan were ushered out, Ferris State won the Midwest regional over Cornell and went on the face Union, which won the East region. Minnesota captured the West region (with the luxury of near home ice in St.Paul) and went on to face Northeast region winner Boston College.
The irony is that all four teams won their regular season conference titles. Ferris upended Union 3-1 and BC embarrassed Minnesota, 6-1. In the championship game, Ferris fought valiantly, but dropped a 4-1 decision to the Eagles, who secured their 5th national title and third in six years. They are 3-1 in the championship game in their last four appearances. BC won their final 19 games and was clearly the best team in college hockey. They allowed two goals in the four games they played in the NCAA tournament and never trailed against Air Force, UM-Duluth, Minnesota or FSU. Ironically the only thing they did not win this season was the GLI- in which Michigan handled them. Michigan also was 2-0 this season against the Bulldogs.
Ferris’ entry into the final game (their first ever) secured the CCHA’s 5th appearance in the past six seasons with MSU (2007), Notre Dame (2008), Miami (2009), Michigan (2011) and Ferris (2012) earning spots. MSU was the only school to win the title, beating BC. BC also beat Wisconsin in Detroit in 2010.
Jack Connolly, a mid season favorite and senior from Minnesota Duluth won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s best player.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
Go Blue — Wear Maize!