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What if the NHL Badgers all played on the same team?

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When Kyle Turris and Joe Piskula skated in their first NHL games of the season this past week, it brought the number of Badgers in the NHL to 20 for the 2011-12 campaign. Twenty happens to be the normal number of players dressed for an NHL game.

With that in mind, we put together a possible line chart for the Wisconsin Badgers in the NHL. It isn't perfect as the team would go with no back-up goaltender, one forward short and would have two extra defensemen, but as long as Brian Elliott stayed healthy, the team would be fine. Perhaps Curtis Joseph could come out of retirement as an insurance policy.


NHLlinechart11_12.jpg

Do you think the team would make the NHL playoffs? Quick calculations shows the team has 64 goals and with the number of games played by all the skaters, would be averaging about 3.26 goals-per-game, which would rank fourth in the NHL. However, the 64 goal-total would be better than three NHL teams and right in the mix of many more.

Couple that with Brian Elliott, who leads the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage, and I think you'd have something there. What do you think?


Thansgiving, Badger style

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For much of the country, Thanksgiving means spending time with family, watching NFL games on TV and eating copious amounts of food. For a number of Wisconsin student-athletes, coaches and staff members, Thanksgiving bore a striking resemblance to "Thursday" on their daily schedules.

That's not to say they didn't celebrate the holiday, just that it may have been in a slightly different fashion than most people are used to.

For the second year in a row, the Badger football team is hosting a football game on Thanksgiving weekend with enormous ramifications on the Big Ten race. Last year, UW pounded Northwestern on its way to earning a share of the Big Ten title. This Saturday, Wisconsin and Penn State meet to determine the Leaders Division representative in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship game.

Because of that, the Badgers had a regular practice on Thursday, although a little earlier in the day. The early start time allowed those players who live locally (more than 50 players on the roster from Wisconsin) to get home for a quick Thanksgiving meal. For those not so fortunate or those choosing to spend it with their other "family," the team dined at Samba, an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse in downtown Madison. Hopefully they ordered some extra beef for the evening.

MBB_1.JPGAs you can see from the photos, the men's basketball team also ate as a team today. The Badgers are in Hoffman Estates, Ill., getting ready to play Bradley on Friday in the Chicago Invitational Challenge. After practicing at the Sears Centre, UW headed back to the team hotel for a little turkey and stuffing. It may not be as exotic as the Thanksgiving meal we had in South Padre Island in 2006 but I'm sure there was plenty of good food for the guys tonight.

The women's basketball team is also on the road, albeit a little further from Madison than Chicago. After playing at BYU on Wednesday, the Badgers are in Boulder, Colo., as they prepare to take on Montana State on Friday in the Colorado Omni Classic. They also practiced earlier in the day and had a team "feast" at the hotel. As you can see from the photo below, it looks like a good time was had by all. In addition to the video above, check out some other WBB players talking about what they're thankful for.

WBB.JPGBoth UW hockey teams are at home this weekend, as is the volleyball team. Like the football team, the men's hockey team let players who live close enough go home for a quick meal after practice. Some guys tagged along to eat with their buddies while the rest of the squad ate as a team at the Coliseum.

With six UW teams in action this weekend, their Thanksgiving traditions may have been put on hold. However, Badger fans everywhere are hoping to be thankful for some victories once the weekend comes to a close.
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Wednesday was a great day for hockey. It was also a great day to recognize former Wisconsin men's coach Jeff Sauer and current UW women's coach Mark Johnson for their impact on the sport.

Sauer and Johnson were among four recipients of the 2011 Lester Patrick Award that honors special individuals for their contributions to hockey in the United States.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand for the event at the River Centre in St. Paul, Minn., where Bob Pulford and Tony Rossi joined Sauer and Johnson as Patrick Award honorees.

Johnson said that after he received a phone call from Bettman notifying him that he was a winner, "You step back and say, 'Wow!' It puts a smile on your face.''

Sauer got the same phone call and said, "I looked at my phone and saw it was a call from Gary Bettman and I thought it was someone playing a trick on me.''

It was no joke. Sauer and Johnson were most deserving. Plus, it was most timely that they were honored in the same class given that their history together dates back to when Jeff babysat for Mark.

Badger Bob Johnson -- Mark's dad -- was a common denominator. Keeping it all in the family, Jeff Sauer was a former Bob Johnson assistant and Mark Johnson was a former Jeff Sauer assistant.

There have been numerous intersections on their career timelines.

*  *  *

Before the UW Athletic Board could get around to confirming his appointment as the new hockey coach, it had to clean its desk of some old business and tend to other bureaucratic matters.

Colorado College's 39-year-old coach, Jeff Sauer, was told to take a seat and wait.

Not a problem. The job was his. And since the former Badger assistant had waited a long time for this day -- July 8, 1982 -- he was prepared to wait a little longer, however long it would take.

It took nearly two hours.

Sauer wound up in the UW basketball office, where he visited with an assistant coach who was helping hold the program together in the midst of a transition from Bill Cofield to Steve Yoder.

Neither Sauer nor Bo Ryan had any inkling what the future would hold for their respective careers. (Or that their paths would cross again in 2001 when Ryan moved from Platteville to Madtown.)

Shortly after the athletic board gave its official blessing to Sauer, a press conference was held at Camp Randall Stadium to formally introduce Bob Johnson's successor to the Madison media.

Sauer not only skated for Johnson at Colorado College, but he was a volunteer assistant under Johnson while completing his degree. Later, he was Johnson's first full-time assistant at Wisconsin.

He and his wife Jamie even babysat for the Johnson boys, Peter and Mark.

But he wanted to make it perfectly clear, "I'm not Bob Johnson, I'm Jeff Sauer. And I hope everyone realizes that we're going to do some things a little bit differently.

"Once you get to know me, I think you'll get to find that emotionally -- as far as wins and losses -- I try not to peak and valley. You have to keep your sanity somehow in this game.''

Sauer managed to do so longer than anyone -- for 31 years as a head coach in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association; 11 at Colorado College and 20 at Wisconsin.

Sauer won 655 games overall, including two national championships with the Badgers.

That Sauer was able to escape the long shadow of Bob Johnson and establish his own identity, separate from that of his lionized predecessor, speaks volumes for his system and perseverance.

"When I was a young coach in the league, I'd sit in those meetings and listen to everything the older coaches had to say,'' Sauer said after his 556th win moved him past the legendary John MacInnes.

"I don't know if I ever talked to any of them about coaching. You just didn't discuss those things back then. It's not like calling Sertie (Mike Sertich) on a Monday morning and talking about the series.''

Sertich was the longtime coach at Minnesota-Duluth and one of Sauer's closest friends.

"You just didn't do that back then,'' Sauer went on. "Everyone was so much more guarded. But you could still learn something from all of them.

"Denver's Murray Armstrong was businesslike in the way he approached the game. Michigan State's Amo Bessone was a true coach. Minnesota's John Mariucci was a good old guy.

"I'd have to say Bob Johnson did have the biggest influence on me,'' Sauer said. "I played for him, I coached with him and I coached against him. I went through a lot of things with Bob.''

Bob Johnson received the Lester Patrick Award in 1988.

Mark Johnson recalled, "When my dad received the recognition for what he did -- whether it was at Wisconsin, USA Hockey, Calgary or Pittsburgh -- it was a special evening for him and our family.''

To also receive the Patrick Award now makes it even more special.

Mark Johnson, the celebrated 1980 Olympian, cut his teeth as a head coach at Verona High School and with the minor league Madison Monsters before joining Sauer's staff at Wisconsin.

More recently, he has been collecting rings; NCAA championship rings. Johnson has guided the UW women to four national titles in the last six years.

The most recent of which was last season when Wisconsin defeated Boston University, 4-1, in the finals.  Fittingly, the Badgers will face the BU Terriers on Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center.

Faceoff both days will take place at 2 p.m.

"Having defeated them last year in Erie (Pa.) you know they're going to be excited to play us again,'' Johnson said. "They're going to be coming into the building looking for revenge.''

Over the last six games, the Badgers have tested themselves against North Dakota, Minnesota and Duluth. "It's been three weekends of playoff hockey,'' said Johnson. "And it elevates your play.''

Wisconsin has gone 5-1 over this challenging stretch.

"It's only October,'' he said, "but we've become better as a team playing each opponent.''

Not only were the Badgers able to walk out of Duluth with a sweep, but Johnson saw something that he had never seen before in all of his years in hockey as a player or a coach.

On a delayed penalty, the Bulldogs pulled their goaltender for a sixth attacker. But, in attempting to set up a teammate, a Duluth player inadvertently shot the puck into her own empty net.

The goal was credited to Wisconsin's Saige Pacholok, who took the initial penalty.

"The fans that were at the game,'' Johnson said, "and certainly the referees and both coaching staffs were a little stunned at what happened.

"Saige went into the penalty box and they announced her penalty first and then they announced her goal in the next sentence. I haven't seen that before going back to my playing days.

"But again, we found a way to win.''

Another common denominator between Johnson and Sauer, the Patrick Award winners.

Sauer, Johnson recognized

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Both Jeff Sauer and Mark Johnson are known for their hockey accomplishments, and will be recognized today in St. Paul, Minn., for their great contributions to hockey in the United States with the Lester Patrick Trophy. The story of Lester Patrick dates to the early 1900s and is worth a read.

Their hockey contributions are great, both with national and international championships on their resumes, but you'd be hard pressed to find better people. The two surely go hand-in-hand.

NHL.com: Lester Patrick Award a family affair for the Johnsons
NHL.com: Sauer has seen everything in his 40 years of coaching

MHKY_111007_Butters_Bill.jpgA year ago, Bill Butters wasn't quite sure what he was getting himself into.

"Being an ex-Minnesota player and an ex-Gophers coach,'' said Butters (right), "there was a little friction and I felt a little stress.''

A year ago, Gary Shuchuk wasn't quite sure what he was getting himself into, either.

"I never thought I'd be friends with a Gopher,'' kidded Shuchuk, the ex-Badger. "But we're good friends. I don't look at Bill as a colleague or a coach. I look at him as a close friend that I can talk to.''

A year ago, UW men's hockey Mike Eaves hired Butters and Shuchuk as assistant coaches.

That necessitated some adjustments for everyone throughout the transition period.

"Not knowing how Mike coaches,'' Butters said, "it was all new.''

"Last year,'' Shuchuk said, "there was a learning curve for me coaching at this level.''

A year later, Eaves feels much more comfortable with Butters and Shuchuk. And vice versa.

"They know our systems,'' said Eaves, adding that he has been "able to delegate more comfortably'' with Butters and Shuchuk and knowing that "takes a load off my mind.''

As a result, Eaves said, "I can be detailed about other things in terms of individual stuff with players, so we're definitely well ahead of the curve.''

As a player, Butters skated for Glen Sonmor and Herb Brooks at Minnesota. He was a no-nonsense defenseman. As a coach, Butters was an assistant with the Gophers for 10 seasons.

Hence, he went through an understandable orientation to Badger hockey.

What's the biggest difference from last season to this season?

"I'm a little bit more relaxed,'' Butters said. "I think I know a little more, I'm a little wiser and I'm a little bit more comfortable. I also have a few players that I actually recruited (on the roster).''

That would be Patrick Daly, a defenseman from Victoria, Minn.; Joseph LaBate, a freshman forward from Eagan, Minn.; and Brad Navin, a freshman forward from Waupaca, Wis.

Eaves put Butters in charge of the blue line corps. "And I'm more comfortable with them,'' Butters said of his returning players, "and they're more comfortable with me.''

Butters' transition extended beyond the ice. He also had to adjust to a new campus and community; and a new coaching environment within the UW athletic department.

"I had a good session with Bret Bielema the other day,'' Butters said of the UW football coach. "We had a recruit in town and he (Bielema) was wonderful.

"He took about 20 minutes to talk with him while the team was practicing. Just to see that side of the Badgers (family) and how everyone is pulling for each other is cool.''

Shuchuk was once an integral playing member of the Badger family. In 1990, he was an All-American and the leading scorer on a UW team that won the national championship.

"This being my second year on the coaching staff, I really feel a part of the program,'' Shuchuk said. "I know when I can speak up without stepping on Mike's or Bill's toes.

"Now I feel more comfortable with what I'm capable of doing. What's even better is I'm still learning from those guys. The three of us enjoy each other's company.

"We just love coming to work every day. We don't see it as a job. And we want to convey that to the boys in the locker room that 'You play this game to have fun.'''

Of course, it's more fun when you're winning hockey games on a consistent basis. That will be a challenge this season with so many freshmen and sophomores on the roster and so much inexperience on the ice.

"We're a young team and we realize that as a staff,'' Butters said. "We're not putting any pressure on the players. But we're not saying 'We're young' so we can lose 20 games and that's OK.

"We want to win here and we want our young guys to grow up real quick, if they can. But we know there might be some growing pains with them early on and we're going to be patient with them.''

Butters has more answers than questions with his returning defensemen. That includes an All-American and top-10 Hobey Baker Award finalist in Justin Schultz, who led the Badgers in scoring last season.

Complementing Schultz will be team captain John Ramage. "Our blue line should be a strength for us,'' said Butters. "That should give our forwards a chance to grow a little bit.''

Butters is counting on getting contributions from Frankie Simonelli, Joe Faust and Eric Springer, the lone senior. "They'll all get some playing time,'' he pointed out.

A freshman, Jake McCabe, will also factor into the mix. "He's kind of like Jake Gardiner (who signed with Toronto),'' Butters said. "He's got a good stick; he's a good skater and a strong kid.''

That has always been a teaching point for Butters -- how a defenseman handles his stick.

"I think the guys are more used to how I want them to play,'' he said. "I'd like our guys to be more like me (as a player). But I'd have liked to have been more like them. They have a lot more talent.

"We just need to be a little more physical. I'm not asking Justin Schultz to crush guys. But John Ramage and some others have that 'crush-ability' and they should step into a few more bodies.''

Shuchuk likes the energy and emotion that Ramage brings to the rink. "He's a steady guy who plays the game with heart,'' he said, "and he's trying to share his passion with a lot of the other guys.''

The competition should be pretty intense for spots on the forward lines, he added.

"If you want to play and be in the starting lineup, you have to show us,'' Shuchuk said. "We're basically having open auditions for a lot of things; power play, penalty-killing. That's the intriguing thing.

"I'd love to be a player coming in here right now. If you weren't hyped as a goal-scorer or a first-line player, this is your chance to prove that 'This is my spot now.'''

That would also apply to the three goaltenders: Mitch Thompson, Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson. "Who wants to take the bull by the horn and be the number one guy?'' Shuchuk asked.

That will be answered in time. "That's going to be an important part,'' Butters said, "to see how we play in our zone and give those guys (the goalies) some confidence.''

Shuchuk nodded and said, "Our defensive corps is a huge catalyst.''

It's definitely a good starting point.

Making sense of road TV, home video streams for Badger hockey

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I tried to put together a release about television for road games at North Dakota on Jan. 27-28 (Fox College Sports) and at Minnesota on March 2-3 (Fox Sports North), as well as the online streaming schedule for select Badger home games, but clearly explaining the streaming schedule is proving a challenging task.

Instead, I'm trying here in a more informal way to see if that works better.

So... there are four Badger home game streams available to anyone. Two of those are free at wpt.org/wisconsinchannel. They are Oct. 8 against Northern Michigan and Jan. 20 against Alaska Anchorage. The other two games, which involve both games of the Mercyhurst series Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 25-26), require a subscription at UWBadgers.com.

The remaining six streams will only be available to viewers residing outside the borders of Wisconsin and again require a subscription at UWBadgers.com. Please note the subscription auto renews, so unsubscribe when you are done watching games if you don't want to keep getting charged.

Why outside the state, you ask? That is because they are on TV inside the state. In the Madison area, they are either on WISC-TV or TVW. Outside the Madison area, Charter Extra will carry the games. Those games include North Dakota (Oct. 22), Nebraska Omaha (Oct. 29), Minnesota Duluth (Dec. 10), RIT (Jan. 7), Alaska Anchorage (Jan. 21) and St. Cloud State (Feb. 4).

What this means is that all 22 regular-season home games will either air on TV or be available via the web.

Hopefully that makes sense so far.

A few bonus nuggets. All of Coach Eaves' Monday news conferences, which begin next Monday at 12:30 p.m., as well as all postgame news conferences at the Kohl Center, stream live and for free at UWBadgers.com.

Many of Wisconsin's opponents stream their games live at Americaone.com. This year, that means streams for games at Bemidji State, Colorado College, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State should be available to watch.

I would suggest checking UWBadgers.com each week for possible changes to the schedule.

We will be posting a chart on the Web in the next week that should help keep you informed on where you can catch Badger hockey.

Badgers and NHL training camps

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It's not the easiest task to keep track of all the former Badger hockey players skating in the professional ranks these days, but we attempted to bite off one piece and find out what Badgers have been in NHL training camps up to this point. So far we've counted 25 names, with a 26th on a training camp roster, but holding out as a restricted free agent. The number has slowly increased as we discovered new names on rosters. Some have already been waived, while some have been sent to AHL affiliates.

Here's the list, in no particular order

Matthew Ford - Washington Capitals
Jake Gardiner - Toronto Maple Leafs
Brian Elliott - St. Louis Blues
Joe Pavelski - San Jose Sharks
Brad Winchester - San Jose Sharks
Derek Stepan - New York Rangers
Ryan McDonagh - New York Rangers
Adam Burish - Dallas Stars
Jake Dowell - Dallas Stars
Tom Gilbert - Edmonton Oilers
Brian Fahey - Chicago Blackhawks
Blake Geoffrion - Nashville Predators
Ryan Suter - Nashville Predators
Craig Smith - Nashville Predators
Davis Drewiske - Los Angeles Kings
Dany Heatley - Minnesota Wild
Brendan Smith - Detroit Red Wings
Cody Goloubef - Columbus Blue Jackets
Andrew Joudrey - Columbus Blue Jackets
Jamie McBain - Carolina Hurricanes
Rene Bourque - Calgary Flames
Joe Piskula - Calgary Flames
Ben Street - Pittsburgh Penguins
Jack Skille - Florida Panthers
Steve Reinprecht - Florida Panthers
Kyle Turris - Phoenix Coyotes (Unsigned Restricted Free Agent)

Men's hockey opens at No. 17

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College hockey is upon us. That became more apparent on Monday when the USCHO.com and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Polls released their first prognostication for the 2011-12 campaign.

The young (20 of 26 skaters are either sophomores or freshmen) Badgers check in at No. 17 in the USCHO.com Poll and in the receiving votes category of the USA Today Poll, which equates to No. 18. That's three spots higher than the Badgers ended the 2010-11 season in both polls.

Notre Dame comes in at No. 1 in the USCHO.com poll, while Miami tops the USA Today survey. For the WCHA, North Dakota (3/3, Denver (4/4), Colorado College (7/7), defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth (8/10), Nebraska Omaha (14/14) and Minnesota (19/RV), join the Badgers in the rankings.

Some context regarding preseason polls. The 2006 NCAA champion Badgers opened the season ranked No. 10, the 2010 NCAA runner-up Badgers opened at No. 13 and No. 14 and the 2003-04 Badgers opened by receiving votes, but went on a 15-game unbeaten streak early on and were within an overtime goal of the Frozen Four.

Official practice for the Badgers begins Saturday, while the Kohl Center reawakens Friday, Oct. 7 when Northern Michigan visits Madison.



Lucas at Large: Chelios, Suter deserving of call to the Hall

MHKY_110802_Chelios_Chris.jpgChris Chelios loved to be challenged; on the ice, or off. So when a UW football player questioned his speed and suggested that he could whip him in a foot race, there was no backing down.

Chelios demanded the race and won easily over the stunned gridder.

Adding insult to injury (i.e. one bruised ego), Chelios was wearing street shoes.

"He's got that mischievous look in his eyes,'' said Lou Vairo, who coached Chelios on the 1984 Olympic team, "and there are times when you don't know what he's up to.

"But the son-of-a- gun can play.''

Since that was also true of Gary Suter, it's only fitting that the two old friends -- Chelios and Suter -- will be part of the same induction class for the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Monday's announcement triggered flashbacks; including one to a memorable Chelios rush against Minnesota during which Chelios skated past or around four different Gophers.

He also beat the goalie, but hit the pipe with his shot.

Afterward, UW coach Jeff Sauer called it "one of the most beautiful plays I've ever seen and he didn't even score. But he has the ability to make those kinds of rushes.

"And I don't know if I've ever had a player who has been more durable. He's a mentally tough kid. Even when he's hurting, he plays with the same pace and intensity.''

Chelios, unlike Suter, wasn't exactly raised in a hockey family.

He grew up on the southwest side of Chicago and played street hockey and just about anything else that offered a challenge until he was 15 and his family moved to San Diego.

Despite his early passion for competition, he was rather small for his age and he was cut from the first hockey team that he ever tried out for -- a Junior B team in Canada.

Chelios lost some interest in hockey so he spent most of his afternoons on the beach. At night, he would skate with his younger brother at the House of Ice.

It was the only available rink in the San Diego area and the home base for U.S. International, a school that had just begun to develop a collegiate hockey program.

Once a week, Chelios' parents would drive him to Los Angeles so that he could play for a midget team. But the competition was so bad that his interest began to wane in the sport.

As a result, he spent more time in the water (surfing) and more time on the beach (goofing off).

"It was a stroke of luck,'' he would later concede after bumping into a group of hockey players from U.S. International; one of whom would put him in touch with a Junior coach in Canada.

Chelios called and arranged his own tryout with the Moose Jaw Canucks. Even though he was so inexperienced, so raw, and so unfamiliar with playing defense, he made the team.

"I was decent, nothing great,'' said Chelios, who grew four inches in one year. "I got so much ice time that I was bound to learn something, though.''

The following season, he was voted the top defenseman in the league.

That was his first step on the road to Wisconsin and eventually superstardom in the NHL.

"Chris is one of the rare players who always have the capability to come back for more,'' said Denny Helwig, who was then the trainer for the Badger hockey team.

"Nothing bothers him. He's like a diesel; the more work he gets, the better. He's very similar to Bobby Suter in that the little things don't seem to bother him.''

Bobby Suter wore No. 2 for the Badgers, John Suter wore No.3, Gary Suter wore No. 4

"I watched John and Bob play all the time and I used to idolize them,'' Gary said of his older brothers. "I would sit in the stands and band would start playing and I would think about what it would be like to be out there playing for the Badgers.''

It would be a dream come true for Gary Suter, who left Madison before the start of his sophomore year in high school and enrolled at Culver (Ind.) Military Academy

Suter was exposed to better hockey and strict discipline. Rather than making a direct jump to the WCHA and the Badgers, he played a year of junior hockey in Dubuque, Iowa.

That's where he learned more about himself and his game. Would he turn out to be a combination of Bob's offense and John's defense?  Ideally, yes.

"But I'm not going to model myself after either one of them,'' Gary Suter said upon getting to Wisconsin. "I can only be myself. And I don't feel any pressure to be anything else.''

Neither Suter nor Chelios cheated Badger hockey fans from that standpoint; making their induction into the Hall of Fame all the more deserving and special.

Lucas at Large: Change in college hockey nothing to fear

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College hockey's charm has always been its curse; provincialism, which has forever encumbered the decision-making process between the WCHA and CCHA and ECAC and Hockey East.

College hockey's enigma has always been its membership. For every Michigan Tech, there has been a Michigan and Michigan State; for every Minnesota, there has been a Minnesota State.

College hockey will survive itself; but only through aggressive thinking and bold realignment. Anything less would have further empowered those who are still anchored to a distant past.

There will be a press conference Wednesday in Colorado Springs to formally announce the formation of a new hockey conference, a "Super League'' if you are to believe the advance notices.

Colorado College, North Dakota, Denver, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota-Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha will form the alliance. Notre Dame and Western Michigan could be in the on-deck circle.

These schools have bonded together in response to the advent of Big Ten Conference hockey in 2013 -- featuring Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and the start-up program at Penn State.

That raises the possibility of a competitive series between the Big Ten and the Super League, not unlike the current Big Ten/ACC Challenge in basketball. That would preserve some rivalries.

Nobody knows the battle ground -- or on-going issues that have polarized regions and programs -- better than Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who played at Wisconsin and previously coached at Michigan State.

Speaking to the Denver Post on realignment, Gwozdecky said, "We want to be aligned and want to be continued to be aligned with schools of like-minded thinking (that) operate as we do.''

The Grand Forks Herald expanded on that theme by connecting the dots between the buzz phrase "like-minded schools'' and the division of power and principle within the WCHA.

The newspaper suggested that the separation often resulted in "two blocks of voting.''

Wrote Brad Elliott Schlossman, "The schools with larger budgets typically wanted to spend money, invest and try new things. Schools with smaller budgets often resisted.''

Those smaller WCHA programs -- Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State -- will have the option of regrouping with "like-minded schools.''

That category will likely include CCHA programs like Alaska-Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan. Match-making does have its benefits.

In the end, the WCHA will have to reinvent itself.

The Colorado Springs Gazette cited a "dissatisfaction with WCHA leaders' efforts to get a league-wide TV deal'' which, in part, has created this end run or breakaway or whatever you want to call it.

In sum, reports of college hockey's death have been greatly exaggerated and embellished by those who are uncomfortable with change and oblivious to a 21st century reality.

If it's true that water seeks its own level why shouldn't that also apply to ice hockey and its diverse membership? Call me provincial, but it sounds like a plan that can work, and will work.

ON WISCONSIN