Feb. 3, 2010
By James V. Dowd
Since the "Cold War" inspired the proliferation of outdoors games back in 2001, there has been a certain mystique about playing outside in the elements. From the unforgettable barn burner at Spartan Stadium between Michigan and Michigan State, to Sidney Crosby winning a shootout in the Buffalo snow, and from the sea of red replacing the traditional green and gold of Lambeau Field in a Wisconsin victory over Ohio State, to an Original Six Contest at Wrigley Field, memories are forever etched in the minds of those who were lucky enough to play, attend or even watch on television.
Perhaps it's the challenges teams face in the open air. Be it frigid temperatures, snow, wind or a non-traditional backdrop, players and coaches are sure to face elements far different from those found in their climate-controlled arenas. But if anyone is to have a leg up in overcoming the elements thrown his way in this Saturday's Camp Randall Classic in Madison, it is Michigan goaltender Bryan Hogan.
Hogan, a junior from Highland, Mich., promises that he will be as comfortable as anyone in the frigid temperatures forecast for Madison on Saturday. Like so many collegiate players, Hogan grew up playing in arenas around metro Detroit, but that wasn't where it began and ended as he spent countless hours playing hockey in its most primitive form: out on the lake.
Jim Hogan, Bryan's father, fondly remembers his own upbringing on Union Lake in northern Oakland County, a childhood that included more than a fair share of hockey out on the frozen water. And once Bryan's older brother, Jimmy, and Bryan were born, the eldest Hogan wanted to provide his children with a similar joy.
"It all started back over on Union Lake," Jim Hogan said. "I grew up on Union Lake and my parents bought a place over there back in (19)57. My dream once I grew up and finished school was to raise my family in the same environment. I was lucky enough to land back there before Bryan was born."
From that time on, if Bryan had free time you could find him on the ice. Even when the Hogan family moved when he was nine, they made a point of finding a place to play once the water froze over -- even if that meant a less-traditional ice surface.
"When we left that venue I was looking for somewhere that we could still have some outdoor ice," Jim Hogan said. "So we ended up playing on a pond nearby at Brentwood Golf and Country Club on the pond of the third hole."
What may surprise Michigan fans is that for all the hours Bryan spent out on the lake, and despite suiting up as a goaltender as a mite, the future Wolverine netminder rarely strapped on the pads outside.
"It was rare that he put the goalie stuff on outside," Jim Hogan said. "He's been a closet forward his whole life. He was all about how many goals he scored rather than how many he could stop."
Bryan suggested that a classic "little brother playing with the big boys" story might have convinced him to stick to a forward position on the lake.
"The first time I played goalie out there was when I was only 6 or 7," Bryan said. "My brother wanted to me to play goalie and I forgot to bring a chest protector. My brother came down and took a shot that that hit me right in the chest. I don't think I played goalie for a while after that, until I was 8 or 9."
Jim Hogan, a former player himself, praised his youngest son's forward abilities, particularly his skating and his ability to see the ice and make plays, often surprising fellow players when they found out Bryan was a goaltender by trade. These abilities obviously served Bryan well as a lake forward, but have also undoubtedly helped him win games from the net as well by having an understanding of a forward's mindset and the ability to get in his opponents' heads to anticipate the next play.
That experience on the lake isn't all that Bryan boasts on his outdoor hockey resume. Having attended the aforementioned Cold War between Michigan and Michigan State, Bryan has an additional experience to draw from against the Badgers this weekend. Bryan vividly remembers the tickets his father obtained from a family friend, including a pair of seats just seven rows off the ice and another up near the top of the stadium.
While the game took place almost 10 years ago, Bryan remembers the similarities between his experiences on the lake and the cold air inside the stadium. Thinking ahead to Camp Randall Stadium, Bryan is looking forward to an adrenaline rush from the flashbacks to his youth.
"I`m excited for just the outdoor part of it," Bryan said. "I remember playing on the lake and feeling the cold on your face and then I remember going to the Cold War and thinking about playing in a game like that. I had seventh row seats behind the penalty box and it was fine, but then I went up into the bleachers and it was cold."
Michigan has even more reason to believe in its netminder as it prepares for this contest, as on top of his outdoor experiences, Bryan also has one prior successful outing against Wisconsin to draw on. The junior earned a third star in stopping 39 of the 41 shots he faced against the Badgers on Nov. 28 at Yost Ice Arena, leading his team to a 3-2 victory in the College Hockey Showcase.
With his father and a family friend attending the game in Madison, Bryan has the opportunity to give Jim Hogan as great a thank you any son can give his father -- the pride of seeing his son succeed by earning a central role on this historical stage. The cherry on top would be a victory within the hallowed walls of Camp Randall Stadium that would undoubtedly enhance the flood of memories as far back as Bryan and his father can recall.
James V. Dowd covers the Central Collegiate Hockey Association as a Senior Writer for InsideCollegeHockey.com.