For those that grew up in a family based around the tradition of the Christmas season, the saddest day was when it was time for the Christmas tree to come down.
The anticipation of the holiday season and the excitement of Christmas morning had come and gone. Rudolph and Santa were names I wouldn't hear in the house for another year, another time.
Early this morning, I went to Michigan Stadium. And for some reason, I felt like a little boy watching the Christmas tree coming down.
The ice rink at the Big House was being dismantled piece by piece. The dasher boards were down. A crew was using sledge hammers to break the ice. And only the Big Chill logo at center ice and a hastily made snowman in the southwest corner of the field gave one a semblance of what really happened on Saturday (Dec. 11).
And when I looked back on the Big Chill and the weeks leading up to this event, it was indeed just like another Christmas season for me, the players and individuals that were able to play or skate at the Big House plus the 113,411 fans that witnessed and enjoyed a one-of-a-kind event.
I watched the ice go in during the Thanksgiving weekend. I watched the athletic department and ice rink event management group work and worry about the Big Chill -- day and night --- similar as a mom would work and worry about everything for a holiday event.
There is something about sport that brings out the little kid in all of us, and even more so during the holiday season. I noticed the wide-eyed youngsters, excited to step on the ice and play a game or skate in the Big House. It was wonderful to see the same wide-eyed look on the adults.
It didn't matter who you were -- Red Berenson, the Michigan or Michigan State team -- this was more than a game, for fans and players alike. Last Saturday and the days leading up to The Big Chill were special, and everything went off without a hitch.
Oh, we got lucky, no doubt about it. Mother Nature delayed the rain, then the snow and frigid temperatures just enough to let us enjoy the game and the event. Even Central Collegiate Hockey Association Commissioner Tom Anastos brought mom into the effort saying, "All this proves is Mother Nature is truly a hockey mom."
I don't know when I will see an event like this again. So, like a little boy who knew Frosty and Santa were names I wouldn't hear for a long time and who watched mom take down the Christmas tree, this morning I watched the high-lows putting the boards away. And I knew Scooter and Patrick, who were among the men who put the ice down, were names that I might not hear for a long time.
The rink was coming down just like the Christmas tree I remembered as a boy. This special season was over.
Fortunately, we can all now sit back and enjoy the real holiday season, thinking back to the fun we had the last few weeks and looking forward to another favorite part of the year: bowl season and the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.