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Let the Weekend of the Badger begin


In case you haven't noticed -- and it's been impossible not to notice if you work at Camp Randall Stadium -- Madison has spent the past two days being transformed into the center of the college sports universe.

It began Thursday when crews from ESPN, ESPN 3D, ESPN Radio, ESPN College GameDay, ESPNU Road Trip and the Sports Illustrated College Football Experience literally invaded Camp Randall to begin setting up for Saturday's matchup between No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State.

The madness has continued today and quickly enveloped the men's basketball and men's hockey teams, as well. Both programs have already been the subject of pieces filmed for the ESPNU Road Trip show.

'The Herd with Colin Cowherd' broadcast live this morning from the terrace at the Memorial Union. 'The Scott Van Pelt Show' is airing live as I type this with co-host Ryen Rusello orginating his portion of the broadcast from the lawn in front of the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center.

That set is the same one that Rusello and company will use for the day-long College GameDay on ESPN Radio broadcast Saturday.

Then there's the live broadcast of ESPN College GameDay live from inside Camp Randall beginning at 8 a.m. Gates open at 6:30 for those of you who want to join Chris, Lee, Kirk and Desmond.

And that's all before ESPN and ESPN 3D offer their live broadcasts of the showdown between the Badgers and Buckeyes. That's what we're all here for, remember.

But that's not stopping ESPNU Road Trip from picking up some color from around town by stopping by men's hockey practice and getting ice cream at the Union with Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor of the men's basketball team.

The hockey Badgers take on Alabama-Huntsville at 7 p.m. tonight to open their weekend series, with the basketball team then taking over the UW Field House at 2:30 p.m. Saturday for Field House Madness.

And we're going to be there. Keep checking back here all weekend for behind-the-scenes access and updates from hockey, College GameDay and Field House Madness, among others.

We'll chronicle the Weekend of the Badger here on the UWBadgers.com blog, on the Wisconsin Athletics YouTube  channel and on Twitter through @UWBadgersdotcom. If you're tweeting, be sure to use the #beatohiostate hashtag.

It's going to be a fun ride over the next 48 hours. Buckle up.

Tracking Badger alumni and the NHL

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It has been an eventful offseason for the Wisconsin men's hockey team and its dealings with the National Hockey League. There have been free agent signings, graduate signings and early departures to the league. There have also been prospect camps, and a short list of former Badgers are still waiting to find out where they'll end up for the coming year.


If you are keeping score, two former Badgers changed NHL franchises, five signed their first NHL deals, three pros from last season are unrestricted free agents, three others signed with the same team as last season, one is a restricted free agent and 13 former and current Badgers attended or are attending NHL prospect camps.


The most impactful to Badger fans as it relates to the 2010-11 Badgers are the four underclassmen who have signed NHL contracts. To recap, the New York Rangers inked Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh, while the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Cody Goloubef and the Detroit Red Wings brought Brendan Smith into the fold.


After that, five players who will be on the Kohl Center ice for next year took part in NHL prospect camps. Blue liners Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz spent time at the Anaheim Ducks camp. In addition, returning forward Craig Smith joined former Badger Blake Geoffrion at the Nashville Predators camp, while Podge Turnbull skated with the Los Angeles Kings. Finally, incoming Badger forward Jason Clark took part in the New York Islanders prospect camp.


In addition to those six players, seven additional former Badgers skated in camps, including McDonagh, Stepan, Goloubef and Brendan Smith, as well as Andy Bohmbach and John Mitchell, who skated in Chicago, and Kyle Klubertanz, who took part in the Montreal Canadiens camp.


All of these players hope to one day make it to the world's best hockey league and add to the Badgers in the NHL legacy.


Some of those already in the NHL look to continue to add to that legacy. San Jose's Joe Pavelski, St. Louis' Brad Winchester and Minnesota's Robbie Earl are three who resigned with the team they skated with last season.


Stanley Cup champion Adam Burish, who won the Cup this year with the Chicago Blackhawks, has already moved on and signed a deal with the Dallas Stars. He is not the only Badger to change organizations, however, as Brian Fahey, who still looks to make his NHL debut, left the Colorado Avalanche franchise to sign with the Washington Capitals.


Among those looking for a team are unrestricted free agents Chris Chelios, Andy Wozniewski and Joe Piskula. Chelios (Atlanta) and Wozniewski (Boston) saw NHL time last season, while Piskula (Los Angeles) has in the past.


One more former Badger with NHL experience who is searching for a home is Madison, Wis., native Jack Skille. Skille is a group 2 free agent, which means if a team other than Chicago signs him to a deal, the Blackhawks can match the offer. If Chicago doesn't match, they will receive draft pick compensation should the forward sign for more than just over $1 million a year.


It has been an interesting offseason for the Blackhawks following their Stanley Cup victory. The organization has been forced to trade away some of its key parts from the Cup run because of salary cap issues. Those trades should leave room for someone like Skille or even former Badger Jake Dowell, to stick with the NHL team in the upcoming season.


That leaves nine other former Badgers not mentioned who already have previous contracts, so they are working out in preparation for the upcoming season with little stress. Those include Calgary's Rene Bourque, Los Angeles' Davis Drewiske, Ottawa's Brian Elliott, Edmonton's Tom Gilbert, San Jose's Dany Heatley, Detroit's Brian Rafalski, Florida's Steve Reinprecht, Nashville's Ryan Suter and Carolina's Jamie McBain.


UW has had 65 Badgers skate in the NHL, all time, including 17 during the 2009-10 season.


Former Wisconsin Badger Mike Richter, one of the schools most successful NHL and Olympic stars, was part of a group of 10 professional athletes to tour the Gulf Coast in a fishing boat on Tuesday.  


Here's a couple of stories so far on the trip...

Atlanta Journal Consitution

Bleacher Report


Richter, perhaps the most widely known, at least to Badger fans, was accompanied by Mike Alstott, the former Purdue fullback and NFLer, as well as current Boston Bruin Andrew Ference, tennis player Chanda Rubin, NASCAR's Leilani Munter and other Olympians and X Games athletes.


Richter, who was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005 and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008, backstopped the New York Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup and was the 1996 World Cup of Hockey Most Valuable Player for Team USA's title. A three-time Olympian and NHL all-star, Richter spent 15 seasons in the NHL and has his number retired for the Rangers. All that came after his two years at Wisconsin, where he was named 1986 WCHA Freshman of the Year and All-WCHA second-team honors in 1987.


After his playing career ended, Richter completed his degree at Yale and at one point was rumored to be running for Congress, but he decided against a run. In his second career, he is part of a private equity firm called Environmental Capital Partners that invests in companies with a green tint.


Here's a video from April when Mike Richter made an appearance on Fox Business.


Here's an interview at the Winter Classic in Boston discussing his current passion.


Here's some video from more than two years ago during an NBC hockey broadcast.

Lots of news in Badger hockey world

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Burish wins Stanley Cup; Geoffrion, Stepan sign NHL contracts; Ramage invited to World Junior camp; Joudrey wins Calder Cup


Five people with ties to the Wisconsin men's hockey program - a combination of former and current student-athletes - have been in the news of late, and there is great reason to be happy for all of them.


First off, Adam Burish and his Chicago Blackhawks teammates reached the pinnacle of the hockey world when the team won game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals with an overtime goal in Philadelphia. That victory, on an overtime winner by Patrick Kane that nobody but Kane actually knew went in the net, gave Chicago its first Stanley Cup victory in 49 years. Burish now boasts a somewhat rare double that includes NCAA and Stanley Cup titles. He also brings another Cup title home to Madison.

Surely the news most directly impacting the 2010-11 Badgers is the early departure of junior-to-be center Derek Stepan. Named an assistant captain for next season, Stepan decided to pass on his final two years of collegiate eligibility and take his game to the next level. Wisconsin's leading scorer last season was one of three players in the nation to average better than an assist per game. And in one of those annual end-of-season quirks in college hockey, was completely absent with regards to individual league and national honors. The former Badger star opened eyes when he led Team USA in scoring as captain and led the team to the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal. Stepan is a fantastic person with obvious leadership abilities who will be sorely missed in the Badger locker room. He will be a great addition to the New York Rangers organization.


Another former Badger signing an NHL contract over the past couple of weeks is Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Blake Geoffrion. Having spent the past two weeks in the New York area myself, his signing has been covered even in the local media there. Among some of the places I've read about the signing included CNNSI.com.


As the first Tennessee native to ever sign an NHL contract, Geoffrion would have been breaking ground. It just happens that his hometown Nashville Predators drafted the All-American and so the hometown boy did good.


He also happened to sign his contract at his elementary school, as this video shows.

It seems strange to bury what a current Badger is up to, but that is just how this worked out. Sophomore-to-be John Ramage has been invited by USA Hockey to the 2010 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp this summer in Lake Placid, N.Y. He will be among 44 players auditioning for a spot on the U.S. National Junior Team that will take part in the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2010-Jan. 5, 2011, in Buffalo, N.Y. Ramage was a part of last year's gold medal-winning American squad, along with Badgers' Jake Gardiner and Stepan, as well as former UW assistant coach Mark Osiecki.


The NHL draft runs June 25-26 from Los Angeles and Ramage is among the players who may be drafted over the two days.


Lastly, in addition to a Badger winning the Stanley Cup, another Badger won the Calder Cup, which goes to the winning team of the American Hockey League playoffs. Former UW center Andrew Joudrey, a former teammate of Stanley Cup champion Burish, helped the Hershey Bears capture their second consecutive league title. Hershey is the AHL affiliate for the NHL's Washington Capitals.

Badger Days takes over Lambeau

IMG_8270.JPGThis is probably my fifth or sixth Badger Days trip and I still can't get over how cool it is. This year there are a couple new wrinkles. Student-athletes are making a couple of trips and Blake Geoffrion (with his Hobey Baker Trophy) and J.J. Watt were on the bus with us Tuesday.

Photo Gallery / Badgers Days - Green Bay video

The cheerleaders and Bucky have been mainstays at Badger Days but this year the UW Band will also be in attendance, playing all the fans' favorites. And, for the second straight year, 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne will join the festivities.

Tuesday's journey took us to Green Bay and Lambeau Field. I was going to do a running diary-style blog but I got an hour in and it was already a couple pages long and I'm sure no one wants to read that much detail. So I'll just hit on some highlights:

Drop the Puck!!

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The team is four years in the making. You could argue six years in the making with the initial recruitment of Wisconsin's fifth-year senior Ben Street back before the 2005-06 season. Either way, it has been a long road for Wisconsin's trip to the 2010 NCAA Men's Frozen Four.

It is officially the school's 11th trip to the Frozen Four and the Badgers historically are one of the best teams once they get there. Wisconsin is 15-5-0 all-time at the Frozen Four, trailing only Lake Superior State, as college hockey's most successful championship-week participant. That translates to six out of the 10 previous Frozen Four trips during which Wisconsin was the team hoisting the NCAA championship trophy upon the conclusion.

Seven seniors and nine juniors make up the team's core. Tri-captains Blake Geoffrion, Ben Street and Ryan McDonagh, its heart. But it is a team that is at its best when its depth carries the day.

You invariably hear the players talking about how it all started last summer. After Wisconsin missed the 2008-09 tournament by 0.002 points in the Ratings Percentage Index, there were t-shirts made up as a reminder to work that much harder. The margin of error in a six-month season is just that small. One extra squat, a little extra effort running up Bascom Hill could make that difference.

Now Wisconsin (27-10-4) takes on RIT (28-11-1), a school with its own rallying cry. Each team has one, or so it seems. They're representing the "small" schools that are hoping for a little more recognition and are on a magical run. Miami was up two goals with a minute to play in the 2009 NCAA title game, only to see it slip away in overtime. Boston College has been a Frozen Four staple over the last decade.

It's funny, but during the 2006 season, Wisconsin adopted the phrase "relentless" as one of its key principles. They were relentless at all times, never taking an easy shift or easy practice. That year, the team wore red "Livestrong"-like bands with the word "RELENTLESS" carved onto the side. I'm naturally fidgety with my hands and I've been finding myself flipping around one of those bands in the office while I've worked over the past two weeks. I don't even remember where I grabbed it from the first time, but it has been in my hands an awful lot recently.

These Badgers are ready for the opportunity. Will they seize it?

As you can expect, Blake Geoffrion has been a popular media request leading up to this week's games. He has made it well known that he is ready to be done practicing and he is itching to just play the games. Monday's practice seemed particularly physical as the team looked ready to play that very day. Will they keep that edge?

The media requirements for the coaches and student-athletes are vast and more for some than others. Wednesday at Ford Field will involve a four-hour stay at the rink for some of the Badgers to take care of ESPN, Westwood One Radio, Scoreboard and the rest of the Frozen Four media. The coverage is great for a sport that always thirsts for more, but the extraordinary interview schedule will test all four teams.

Balanced success

With "March Madness" in full bloom, I thought it would be appropriate to see how the UW athletic department stacks up with other schools around the country in terms of regular-season success.

B_Smith.jpgThere are currently 35 schools that compete at the Division I level in men's basketball, women's basketball and men's hockey. Among those schools are Big Ten members Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State as well as "big-names" such as Notre Dame, Connecticut and Boston College.

Out of those 35 schools, only two qualified teams for the NCAA tournament in all three sports. One, obviously, is the Badgers or I probably wouldn't be writing this. The other is Vermont who, coincidently, was paired up against UW in the first round of both the women's basketball and men's hockey tournaments (the Badger men's hockey team will look for revenge for the loss Vermont hung on the women's hoops team).

It is just the second time in school history all three Badger teams advanced to the NCAA tournament. The only other time was in 2001 when UW was a No. 6 seed in men's basketball, a No. 7 seed in women's basketball and a No. 4 seed in men's hockey. This year, men's hoops was a No. 4 seed, women's hoops a No. 7 and men's hockey a No. 1.

Archived rinkside blog: Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic

Please join Brady Hartung and Allison Metcalf as they chronicle all of today's action live from the Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic.

To begin the day, the No. 9 Wisconsin women (15-10-3, 12-9-1 WCHA) will square off against the Bemidji State Beavers (8-13-7, 7-8-7 WCHA) in a conference battle.

The second matchup of the day features the No. 3 Wisconsin men (15-7-4, 11-6-3 WCHA) and the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines (16-12-1, 11-9-1 CCHA) in a crucial non-conference battle.

Time to start thinking details for Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic

For the first time since the announcement of the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic, I took part in a details meeting.

What I mean by that is that discussion began in earnest about how exactly outdoor hockey games will take place at Camp Randall Stadium.