Wisconsin may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about hockey, but in recent years, it has emerged as a powerhouse in the sport. Led by the University of Wisconsin’s men’s hockey team, the state has seen a surge of success in the sport, making it a new destination for aspiring young hockey players. With a combination of top-tier talent, a winning culture, and a dedicated fanbase, Wisconsin is quickly solidifying its place as a dynasty in the making.
The University of Wisconsin’s men’s hockey team, also known as the Badgers, has a long and illustrious history in collegiate hockey. They’ve won seven national championships, including back-to-back titles in 1977 and 1978. The team has also produced countless NHL players, including current stars such as Ryan Suter, Derek Stepan, and Joe Pavelski. However, in recent times, the Badgers have experienced a bit of a lull, failing to make it to the NCAA tournament from 2014 to 2018.
But in 2019, the Badgers began to turn things around, thanks in part to the arrival of head coach and former NHL player, Tony Granato. He brought a fresh perspective and a winning mindset to the team, leading them to the Big Ten tournament championship game in just his second season. And in the 2020-2021 season, the Badgers were back in full force, winning both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships. This winning culture has translated into success on the ice as the Badgers climbed to No. 2 in the national rankings.
One of the driving forces behind Wisconsin’s recent success is the talented roster of players. In the 2020 NHL draft, the Badgers had an unprecedented six players selected in the first two rounds, including the No. 1 overall pick, Alex Turcotte. This influx of top talent has helped the Badgers dominate their competition, with an average margin of victory of 2.21 goals per game in the 2020-2021 season.
But it’s not just the men’s team that is making waves in the hockey world; the University of Wisconsin’s women’s hockey team is also a force to be reckoned with. The women’s team has won five national championships and has produced several Olympians, including Brianna Decker and Alex Rigsby. They have also won the WCHA regular-season and tournament championships six out of the last ten years. With a strong record of success, the women’s team has been able to attract top talent, including four players selected in the 2021 NWHL draft.
What sets Wisconsin apart from other college hockey programs is the unrelenting support of their fans. Hockey has a rich history in the state, with dedicated fans who have been cheering on the Badgers for decades. The Kohl Center, where the Badgers play their home games, is known for its electrifying atmosphere. With a capacity of over 15,000, the arena is always buzzing with Badger fans decked out in red and white. This kind of fan support creates a true home-ice advantage, making it an enticing destination for players looking for a true hockey experience.
In addition to their success on the ice, the Badgers also prioritize academic success. The men’s and women’s teams have consistently ranked among the top in the nation in terms of academic achievement. In the 2020-2021 season, both teams were recognized with the Team Academic Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association. This commitment to excellence both on and off the ice shows that Wisconsin is not just focused on producing winning athletes but well-rounded individuals.
The rise of hockey in Wisconsin is not just limited to the college level; it is also making waves on the international stage. The city of Green Bay has recently been named the host city for the 2022 IIHF Men’s U18 World Championship. This event will bring together the best young hockey players from around the world, showcasing Wisconsin’s growing reputation as a hockey hub.
Wisconsin’s recent success in hockey is no fluke; it is the result of a combination of factors, including top-tier talent, a winning culture, and dedicated fan support. The University of Wisconsin’s men’s and women’s hockey teams have established themselves as dominant forces in the sport, with a record of success that is undeniable. And with the upcoming IIHF Men’s U18 World Championship, all eyes will be on Wisconsin, solidifying its place as a dynasty in the making.