From the game the produced the infamous Molly incident* and pregame mascot brawl* comes Jed Ortmeyer leveling St. Cloud State’s Matt Hendricks during the 2nd period of the opening round of the 2002 NCAA Midwest Regional held at Yost Ice Arena. I can’t recall for sure, but I don’t think Hendricks returned to the game (or didn’t for a long time, if he did). This hit literally had many fans–myself included–jump out of their seats cheering. TV doesn’t do it all justice, but Hendricks tried to get up quickly and almost fell right over, which is why he’s holding the boards.
* The infamous “Molly incident.” St. Cloud State has skating cheerleaders on the ice during pregame warmups and intros. While this may be common in the WCHA, it’s not in the CCHA, and definitely not at Michigan.
The previous season Michigan and SCSU battled in the Midwest Regional final in Grand Rapids (CCHA/Michigan territory). Michigan won the game, 4-3, to advance to the Frozen Four. Apparently some of the cheerleaders didn’t like reception they received from the pro-Michigan crowd.
Before their rematch at the 2002 regional, skating cheerleader Molly McGannon was quoted in the St. Cloud Times saying, “The University of Michigan fans are like combining (North Dakota) Sioux fans and Minnesota Gophers fans. They’re horrible people. It’s like they’ve never seen hockey cheerleaders. Their band was obnoxious, horrible, not very welcoming at all. Now it’s going to be on their home ice and they’ll be worse.”
The Michigan Daily reprinted part of the quote… “Michigan fans … they’re horrible people. It’s like they’ve never seen hockey cheerleaders. Their band was obnoxious,” which was enough to incite the ire of Wolverine fans. Apparently the cheerleaders also didn’t realize news spreads in print form and through the series of tubes that are the internets and a few were stunned when Packer over at The Blog That Yost Built encountered a few in the concourse before the game and jokingly yelled, “”WHERE’S MOLLY!?! WE’RE NOT HORRIBLE PEOPLE!” and they gave him a look like they couldn’t believe he knew about it. Well, Packer wasn’t the only one who knew about it! The entire student section at Yost Ice Arena did, too!
As the cheerleaders took the ice before the game to a MASSIVE, continous chorus of boos, students were waving dollar bills at the cheerleaders chanting “Jer-sey chas-ers!” and yelling at them to get off the ice. Add to it the mascot and cheerleaders taking up the entire neutral zone during warmups, and now you’re just asking for it. As the Michigan players had to dodge them during their skate around, mammoth defenseman Mike Komisarek gives one of the cheerleaders a little tug on her skates and almost makes her bite the dust to the delight of fans. He might have also knocked the stick out of the mascot’s hand, too, but I don’t recall.
During introductions the mascot liked to skate up close to the Wolverine players and point his stick at them. This type of antic isn’t too uncommon as I know Northern Michigan’s mascot has in the past been on the ice during intros acting like he was shooting at them with his stick. However, the closeness the Huskies mascot got to the U-M players was a little too close for comfort.
After the line introductions, the SCSU mascot was at center ice and would not leave the ice. The officials were telling him to get off the ice, and he refused. So one of the linesmen started to physically push him towards the exit. Keep in mind this is when Yost only had one entrance and exit in the Michigan end. The mascot kept trying to turn back around and get by the linesman, but it didn’t work, so he finally gave up and started skating towards the exit with the official right behind him.
Most of the U-M team was huddling around the net, but a few were still skating around. As the linesman and mascot were coming around the corner, the mascot speared defenseman Brandon Rogers in the gut with his stick as Rogers was skating by. It was not a trip. I was sitting right in front of what happened. He jabbed Rogers in the gut, causing Rogers to fall down. That caused a melee to ensue. The linesman tried to push the mascot through the exit as fast as he could as the entire Michigan team went after him with fists flying and sticks swinging. I visibly remember backup goalie Kevin O’Malley going airborne just inside the exit trying to jump over the official and throwing punches at the mascot.
And the mascot’s antics backfired as all he did was fire up the Wolverines. Michigan jumped out to a 3-1 lead and held on for a 4-2 victory.
This is without a doubt the most incredible pregame experience EVER! Absolutely classic! It’s too bad it wasn’t shown on the TV broadcast.