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In the spring of 1969, Gordon (Red) Berenson was not the most
talented player on the St. Louis Blues. That distinction was
held by team goalies Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall, who would
share the Vezina Trophy at season's end after leading the Blues
to a 37-25-14 record and the NHL West Division title. But as
Berenson has discovered time and again during his nearly four
decades in hockey, talent isn't the only thing that gets you
places. That year his timely scoring and catchy nickname--the
Red Baron--landed him on the cover of the April 7 SPORTS
ILLUSTRATED in the midst of a St. Louis hot streak. Last year
his coaching skill took Michigan to its first NCAA hockey
championship. "I've found that a lot of hockey is about
development," says Berenson, 57, his famous red hair now
thinning. "You're not always looking for the kid with the most
talent as much as the kid who's going to give everything he has
to be a better player. He's the type who wins."

That's also a good description of Berenson, whose NHL career
spanned 17 seasons and four teams. He won a Stanley Cup (with
the 1964-65 Montreal Canadiens), set a league record--he is the
only player on a visiting team ever to score six goals in a
game--and finished with 658 career points. He turned to coaching
in '79 and guided St. Louis to the Stanley Cup quarterfinals in
'81, only to be fired the next season. Berenson resurfaced as an
assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabres but then, in 1983, his
alma mater came calling. Red, who had led Michigan to third
place in the '62 NCAAs, took his son Gordie on a college visit
to Ann Arbor. Twice before, Wolverines athletic director Don
Canham had offered Red the coaching job, but this time Red bit
and Michigan ended up snagging both Berensons. "I realized it
might never be offered again," says Red. "To me it wasn't just
coaching hockey. It was coaching Michigan hockey."

Actually, it was coaching bad hockey. Michigan had gone 28-44-1
in its previous two seasons. "But I knew what I was coming
into," says Berenson. "And the rewards." The Wolverines are now
enjoying their 10th straight winning season; at week's end
Michigan was 25-1-3 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. What most
gratifies Berenson is that his team has succeeded through hard
work and sacrifice. "There's no comparison between winning the
Cup and winning an NCAA title," he says. "The college
championship gave me a lot more satisfaction."


COLOR PHOTO: ERIC SCHWEIKARDT [Cover of Sports Illustrated featuring Gordon (Red) Berenson]