The last part of the Countdown to the 2014 NHL Winter Classic has to do with the University of Michigan’s fight song, “The Victors.” You know the tune. You know the lyrics. But if you don’t know both, well, you just might be living under a rock.
The story of how “The Victors” became the fight song of the University of Michigan began in 1898. Michigan began its season with four straight shutouts of Michigan State Normal School (now known as Eastern Michigan University), Kenyon College, Michigan Agricultural College (now known as Michigan State University), and Western Reserve University. Then the Wolverines beat Case Scientific School and Notre Dame. Michigan was undefeated headed into inter-conference play. They beat Northwestern 6-5, and then beat Illinois in a game held at the Detroit Athletic Club. After beating Beloit College, the Western Conference (now Big Ten Conference) championship would be decided in a game in Chicago against Amos Alonzo Stagg’s Chicago Maroons. The game was held on Thanksgiving in brutal conditions, and in their toughest game of the year, Michigan beat Chicago, 12-11, to cap off an undefeated season and win the school’s first conference championship. Louis Elbel, a student enrolled in the University of Michigan School of Music, started to write a song after Michigan’s victory over Chicago. Here’s the story in Elbel’s own words:
We were crazed with joy. We paraded in the dark. We yelled and followed our UM Band, singing to the tune of “Hot Time in the Old Town.” It struck me quite suddenly that such an epic should be dignified by something more elevating, for this was not ordinary victory. My spirits were so uplifted that I was clear off the earth, and that is when “The Victors” was inspired. I put in a lot of “hails” and I knew the fellows would get them in with the proper emphasis. Through them, the title suggested itself, and I dedicated it to the Michigan team of 1898.
The King of the March, composer John Philip Sousa once said “The Victors” was “the greatest college fight song ever written.” And why not? For over 100 years, the Michigan faithful have clapped and raised their fists in the air whenever “The Victors” is played. The song is as iconic as the stadium the team plays in. I want to wrap this countdown up by showing you this clip from ESPN’s College GameDay from 2005. Nick Lachey, renowned singer and current host of NBC’s The Sing-Off, contributed to this segment giving an inside look into the history of “The Victors”. The catch to this segment was…GameDay was emanating from Ohio Stadium that day as the Buckeyes took on Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns.
And that wraps up the Countdown to the 2014 NHL Winter Classic.