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Former Michigan State hockey coach and athletic director Ron Mason passed away early Monday at age 76.
Courtesy photo / MSU Athletics

Ron Mason, who spent 23 years as Michigan State's head hockey coach and ranks second on college hockey's all-time wins list with 924 career victories, passed away early Monday at age 76. 

Aladar Nesser

Ice arenas and fights are among the first images to come to mind when someone thinks about hockey. When author and playwright Mitch Albom thinks about hockey, he has one thing on his mind: musicals.

"Hockey - The Musical!" will be making its opening debut tonight for a month-long run at Detroit's City Theatre, and Albom hopes it will bring together theater geeks and sports fans alike.

Peter Payette

There’s a lot of complaining these days that youth sports are too expensive and competitive. And, in fact, kids are dropping out and most sports are on the decline in the U.S.

One sport that is not losing players is hockey, which has also changed the way it trains young athletes. The approach has been so successful that the U.S. Olympic Committee recently adopted it.

Hockey net.
Dean Michaud / Flickr

It’s been a sad week for the University of Michigan hockey program.  Last Friday, Michigan’s first three-time All-American, Wally Grant, passed away, at 86.  Then on Monday, Grant’s teammate, Al Renfrew, who went on to coach the team for 16 years, died at 89.  These two men made great contributions to Michigan hockey’s unequaled tradition.

During World War II, the fortunes of a college hockey team didn’t amount to a hill of beans.  The able-bodied were fighting in Europe and Asia, so Michigan’s roster shrunk.  So did the schedule, from 20 games to eight.  From 1940 to 1943, the Wolverines won exactly five games - total.  The next year, a local newspaper warned, “Michigan May Remove Hockey From Athletic Program.” 

Today on Stateside:

  •         Emails from an order for 500,000 ignition switches by General Motors from December 18th have been released. Jeff Bennett broke the story for the Wall Street Journal and talks to us about the importance of these emails in a pending legal case.
  •           In Ann Arbor, kids caught spray-painting serve their community service time by cleaning up graffiti under the Juvenile Graffiti Removal Project. Listen to Sgt. Thomas Hickey of the Ann Arbor Police Department discuss his creative idea.
  •          Called “the greatest American player of all time” by Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, Chris Chelios has certainly left his mark on the city of Detroit and the Red Wings franchise. Listen to him discuss his new memoir, Made in America.
  •          While high-profile chemical spills and bacterial blooms have raised concerns about the safety of drinking water in the United States, it’s not the only pollutant reaching the water supply. Listen to chemist Andrea Sella report for the BBC on how the medicines we take are ending up in our environment.
  •          Rebecca Klaper, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences has been studying the presence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) within the Great Lakes. Listen to Dr. Klaper discuss the presence of PPCPs in the Great Lakes.
  •           East Jordan Iron Works has a 131-year history in the state of Michigan. You can’t walk across a street in Michigan without stepping on a manhole cover branded with their name. Listen to VP Thomas Teske discuss the history of the company.
  •          In the fight against blight in Flint, Gordon Young had a goal of raising $10,000 to tear down a single decaying home on Parkbelt Drive in Flint. After contributions from over 150 donors, Young has exceeded his goal by more than $1,000.
Gordie Howe's Hockey Card at age 43.
Trish Thornton / Flickr

You don’t have to know much about hockey to know about Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe. 

This week, we learned his family is “expecting the worst.”  With his days numbered, you’ll be reading a lot about Howe’s hockey heroics.  He set just about every NHL scoring record, and a dozen still stand.  One of the most impressive: he finished in the top five for scoring for two straight decades.

He played in the NHL at 18, and at 51. 

Howe’s heyday paralleled his team’s, and his town’s.

The Wings were a dynasty, winning four Stanley Cups, and nine regular season titles.  No team symbolized the Motor City’s might like the Red Wings. 

G.P. Putnam & Sons

DETROIT (AP) - Hockey great Gordie Howe has lost some function on the right side of his body after having a stroke Sunday in Texas.

  Howe's daughter Cathy says the 86-year-old Detroit Red Wings legend has lost much use of his right arm and right leg. Howe suffered the stroke in Lubbock, Texas, where his daughter lives.

user: jpowers65 / Flickr

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg played one game as captain of Team Sweden at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, before having to be flown to New York City for a surgery on his back. The injury could keep him out of action for the season.

The Red Wings addressed the surgery in a press release today. 

DETROIT- Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg today underwent successful surgery on his back. The procedure was performed by Dr. Frank Cammisa at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. 

Just what do you want your city, your community, to look like? Crowded bustling streets? Quiet, residential homes only? Zoning laws determine these things, and although those two words don't sound altogether exciting, zoning laws are creating debate all over the state. We found out more on today's show.

Then, what was that noise outside today? Did you hear it? Sounded like thunder? Well, in this crazy Michigan weather, we're getting thundersnow. We found out about this winter novelty.

And, we spoke with the man who designed and painted the masks on the U.S. Olympic hockey teams. 

Also, we checked in with Daniel Howes on the UAW bid to unionize workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

And, head to Ford Field on Saturday if you want to be part of a world record. ComePlayDetroit is organizing the world's largest indoor yoga session at the home of the Detroit Lions.

First on the show, the state of Michigan is ending its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee the worst-performing schools in the state.

Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flangan sent a letter to the EAA saying the state will pull out of its exclusivity agreement with the Authority one year from now.

Martin Ackley is with the Michigan Department of Education. He says the state still intends to use the EAA to help turn around struggling schools.

“Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of a lack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most-struggling schools.”

So, what are the other options the state might use to help failing schools? And what's ahead for the controversial EAA?

Jake Neher, who covers Lansing for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

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As the world watches the U.S. Olympic hockey teams in Sochi, they’re getting a good look at some real, made-in-Michigan artistry.

The masks worn by goaltenders Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard, and Bianne McLaughlin were all painted by artist Ray Bishop at his shop in Grand Blanc.  

“I started painting masks mostly for young players,” said Bishop. “My first professional mask was for the Detroit Vipers.”

He worked his way up from there. This is not the first time Bishop's handiwork has been featured in the Olympics. He painted goalie masks in 2002, 2006, and 2010.

For this year's games, Miller’s mask features Uncle Sam holding the Sochi torch. Howard's has a stars-and-stripes pattern. Brianne’s mask sports the shield from the U.S. jerseys. 

“It really just gives you goose bumps ... to think how many people actually can see a piece of artwork that you’ve done," Bishop said. "I can say I’m pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to do it.”

You can listen to our conversation with Bishop below.


He calls himself a "hockey rock star" – and he's earned the right to do just that.

Whether it was his 15 seasons as an NHL enforcer, the four Stanley Cups he won with the Red Wings, the legendary "Fight Night at the Joe" when he took down Claude Lemieux of the Avalanche, or his rock band "Grinder," Darren McCarty has played hard and lived hard, coping with family issues and addiction even as he skated to NHL stardom wearing  No 25.

He tells his story in an autobiography called "My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star," written with the help of journalist Kevin Allen.

And, just like Darren on the ice, this book pulls no punches.

screen grab from web cam / Detroit Sports Commission

The NHL Winter Classic will be held in Ann Arbor's Michigan Stadium on January 1, 2014. The Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the Detroit Red Wings. Tickets will cost... a lot.

Right now, a hockey rink is being built on top of a football field.

The Detroit Sports Commission has set up a webcam so you can watch the progress. See below:

A football field.
user: Michael Knight / Flickr

Students in Michigan's public schools are back at their desks.

 And for young football players, soccer players and other athletes around the state, practice has been happening in earnest for weeks. This will be the first school sports season under Michigan's new sports concussion law.  We wanted to find out what it will mean to student athletes, their coaches and their parents. Laura Rowen joined us today. She's an injury prevention consultant with the Michigan Department of Community Health. Listen to the audio above.

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Tomorrow night will bring Game Four in the Western Conference semifinals between the Detroit Red Wings and archrivals Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wings handed the Blackhawks a pair of stinging losses in Games Two and Three, so tomorrow night’s game at the Joe finds the Wings up two games to one.

John Keating covers the Red Wings for Fox Sports Detroit, and he has done so for many years, so he’s seen this team through its ups and downs. He joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Scott Galvin / UM Photo Services

Sports columnist Rick Reilly once wrote that weekend golfers invariably claim, “I’m a good golfer.  I’m just not consistent.”

Well, he said, if you’re not consistent, you’re not a good golfer.  

Americans are great at building things, and rotten at maintaining them. 

We admire winners and celebrities, but we overlook the loyal spouse or the honest accountant or the people who maintain our bridges – that’s why they’re falling apart. 

So, let this be a salute to consistency – that most unheralded virtue. 

In 1984, Red Berenson took over Michigan’s moribund hockey program, which had not been to the NCAA tournament in seven years.  Berenson thought it would be easy, but it took seven more years to get Michigan hockey back to the big dance in 1991. 

Once they got into the tournament, they made it a point to stay there.  Year after year, they kept coming back. 

Finally, in 1996, they won Michigan’s first national title in 32 years – and they did it again in 1998.   They’ve come close a few times since, but they have yet to win another. 

This bothers Berenson, one of the most competitive men I’ve ever met.  When he visited my class, I listed his many accomplishments on the board.  

www.bestsportsphotos.com

A lot of amateur athletes think they’re not that far from the people who play their sports for a living. 

Well, when Michigan Radio Sports commentator John U. Bacon tried out for Detroit’s minor league hockey team, he found out that just isn’t so – and he found out the hard way.

A few years ago – okay, a bunch of years ago – I bit on a bet I never should have touched. 

I was writing for the Detroit News, and a top minor league hockey team called the Detroit Vipers played at the Palace. 

So, I got to thinking: just how big is the gap, really, between the pros, and beer league players like me?

Good question. And even better if I didn’t try to answer it.  But, being the hard-hitting investigative journalist that I am, I had to go down to the Palace, and find out.

Sheldon Boyd / YouTube

I’ve played hockey my entire life, so I’m biased. But when you combine ice skating, stick handling, passing, shooting and yes, body-checking, in one game, you’ve got it all.

Until they start playing lacrosse in the water or golf on skis, hockey will remain the hardest sport to play, and the most impressive to see played well.

There’s nothing like it. 

So, for Detroit Red Wings fans, the NHL lockout was a nightmare.

Budd Lynch began his career with the Red Wings at Detroit's Olympia Arena.
Library of Congress / wikimedia commons

His parents named him Frank Joseph James Lynch—but everybody knew him as Budd. 

He passed away this week, at the age of 95.  No, you can’t call that a tragedy, but you can call it a loss—one thousands are feeling. 

In a week that included no Big Ten teams ranked in the top 25, the idiotic NHL lockout and, far worse, Jerry Sandusky’s sentencing, I’d rather spend my few minutes with you honoring a man who lived as long as he lived well. 

Lynch was born in Windsor, Ontario, during World War I.  

Lynch was 95. The Detroit Free Press has more.

U.S. National Archives / Flickr

Teresa Bloodman’s son was thrilled to play on his freshman basketball team for two months.  But, when the coach held a third round of tryouts so the football players could come out for the team, he cut Bloodman’s son.

Teresa Bloodman was so livid she sued the school, the district and the state.  She claimed cutting her son was arbitrary, that the lack of a formal appeals process was a violation of due process, and that her son has a constitutional right to participate in school sports.

Scott Galvin / UM Photo Services

One of the most unlikely careers in the history of University of Michigan sports ended last weekend, in overtime.

Two years ago, Michigan’s hockey team was in danger of snapping its record 19-straight NCAA tournament bids.

They finished seventh in their league – unheard of, for Michigan.  So, the only way to keep the streak alive was to win six straight league playoff games to get an automatic NCAA bid.

Oh, and they had to do it with a back-up goalie named Shawn Hunwick, a 5-foot-6 walk-on who had never started a college game until that week.  

It didn’t look good.  

But the kid caught fire. 

Hamline University

I’ve coached high school boy’s hockey teams for almost a decade.  But a few years ago, I spent two years helping out the Michigan women’s hockey team – and I learned a lot more than they did.   

It’s worth noting that I’m comparing only high school boys and college women, based solely on my observations of two hockey teams.  Your mileage may vary. 

My education started on day one.

wikimedia commons

If you're a Detroit hockey fan, you're probably celebrating the Red Wings' recent record-breaking home win streak at the storied Joe Louis Arena---a bit of magic for a veteran team in an aging building---but across the river there's a piece of hockey history that make's "the Joe" look like the new kid on the ice arena block.

Why Midwest cities love outdoor hockey games

Jan 17, 2012
Micki Maynard/Michigan Radio

CLEVELAND — On Sunday afternoon, I was one of the 25,864 people shivering in 27 degree temperatures at Progressive Field, watching the Frozen Diamond, a face off between the Michigan and Ohio State hockey teams.

The Wolverines won, 4-1 — perhaps not the outcome that Buckeyes fans hoped for, but the event made Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro happy. “Pretty cool, out there, isn’t it?” Shapiro told reporters before the game.

user slidingsideways / Flickr

Steve Kampfer grew up in Jackson, and learned to play hockey well enough to earn a scholarship to the University of Michigan.  He was a good student and player on great teams, but few expected Kampfer to make it to the NHL.

What chance he had seemed to vanish in October of 2008, when he was leaving a campus bar.  He started jawing with another student, who happened to be on the wrestling team.  Things got hot, but it was all just words, until the wrestler picked up Kampfer and turned him upside in a single, sudden move – then dropped him head first on the sidewalk. 

Kampfer lay on the sidewalk unconscious, with blood sliding out of his mouth.  His stunned friend thought he might be dead.

My dad grew up in Scarsdale, New York – but, as he’s quick to point out, that was before it became “Scahsdahle.”  His dad told him always to root for the underdog, and my dad took that seriously.

All his friends were Yankees fans, but Dad loved the Dodgers.  A perfect Friday night for him, when he was a young teen, was to go up to his room with a Faygo Redpop, a Boy’s Life magazine – he was on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout – and listen to Red Barber, who wouldn’t say something so prosaic as, “the bases are loaded,” but “the bases are saturated with humanity.”

MGoBlue.com

Most sports fans love a Cinderella story.

I've found an athlete who played the role twice.

Last year, Michigan’s men’s hockey team was in danger of breaking its

record 19-straight appearances in the NCAA tournament – a streak that started before many of the current players were even born.

They were picked to finish first in the league, but they finished a disastrous seventh. 

The only way they could keep their streak alive was to win six straight playoff games to get an automatic bid.

The University of Michigan men's hockey team fell in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth in last night's NCAA championship game.  The Associated Press reports: 

NCAA.com

How’s your bracket look?

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is over, but the men’s hockey tournament is still going

And the Wolverines are in the final

The San Jose Mercury News reports:

Unfamiliar foes Michigan and Minnesota Duluth will face off for the NCAA hockey championship.

Paul Nicholson / Flickr

Will the real next Spartan hockey coach please stand up?

After conflicting reports, it seems as if the job may go to CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos. From WILX-TV:

Former Spartan Tom Anastos will be announced as the next Spartan hockey coach at a 4 p.m. press conference at Munn Ice Arena. Anastos played for Ron Mason at Michigan State from 1981-85 scoring 60 goals and 143 points in his 4-year career.

Over the last 13 years he has served as the commissioner of the CCHA. He currently serves as the president of the Hockey Commissioner's Association. They created College Hockey Inc. which is responsible for growing the sport of college hockey.

Anastos was the head coach at the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1987-1990. He was then as assistant to Mason at Michigan State from 1990-1992. The 46-year old will be just the 6th coach in Michigan State history.

Anastos emerged from a field of approximately twenty candidates, including Danton Cole, a former Waverly High School hockey star, who many believed was set to replace for MSU's hockey coach Rick Comley.

Comley guided the Spartans to a national championship in 2007, and is the fourth all-time winningest coach.

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