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Wild nights were a staple at Coliseum

ON WISCONSIN <b>Wisconsin returns to the Coliseum this weekend to host WCHA-leading St. Cloud State, with the WCHA title and playoff implications at stake.</b>
Wisconsin returns to the Coliseum this weekend to host WCHA-leading St. Cloud State, with the WCHA title and playoff implications at stake.

March 7, 2013

First appeared in Varsity

In light of this weekend’s UW men’s hockey series at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, it’s only fitting to revisit some of the sights, sounds and squirts over the 30-plus seasons that the Badgers played their home games at the Alliant Energy Center venue previously known as the Dane County Coliseum.

There was the sight of diminutive Michigan goaltender Robbie Moore sitting atop the cage during stoppages in play. Moore was an acrobatic, 5-foot-5, 150-pound showman, a fan’s favorite. Moore wound up playing his last season as a pro with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL.

There was the sight of dastardly Minnesota defenseman Billy Butters raking his stick across the Plexiglass next to the visitor’s bench; stirring up even more hatred out of the self-proclaimed “Mad Dogs’’ who inhabited the CC-2 section. Butters, most recently a UW assistant, was never a favorite.

There was the sight of Butters’ teammate, Mike Polich, stopping in front of the UW bench (Polich had Bugs Bunny ears) and poking his stick at a few players in the front row, including Dean Talafous. During the ensuing melee, Polich had his jersey pulled off. He left the ice without it.

There was the sight of Norm Cherrey scoring four goals against Minnesota-Duluth -- three of them shorthanded. And there was the sound of Bob Johnson afterward. “The crowd got Norm going,’’ he said. “When he’s out there killing a penalty, he can open up a throttle and fly after the puck.’’

There was the sound of the late Phil Mendel, the longtime public address announcer at the Coliseum, and his warm greeting -- “Good evening, hockey fans’’ -- before the opening faceoff. Once play began, there was the sound of Martha’s cowbell; Martha was the wife of the legendary Badger Bob.

There was also the sound of whistles; over 8,000 whistle-blowers, serenading Michigan State coach Amo Bessone, who signaled line changes by whistling. Bessone referred to the Sieve-chanting, rubber-chicken-on-a-stick-waving fans as “Banshees.” Sports Illustrated even did a story on them.

Mike Lucas
UWBadgers.com Insider

Despite all of these sights and sounds, there was nothing that could top the squirt. Most will remember the Jan. 30, 1982 matchup between North Dakota and Wisconsin as the “Water Bottle Game.” For the record, the Badgers won 3-0 behind the goaltending of Terry Kleisinger.

Also for the record, UW defenseman Chris Chelios scored on what was estimated as a 190-foot slap shot from the right circle in his own defensive zone after Ken Keryluk won the draw. Chelios was just trying to clear the puck which took a number of zany bounces and skipped past goalie Jon Casey.

But it was all overshadowed by the squirt from a water bottle; actually it was two squirts.

After a third-period whistle, while the teams were in the process of a line change, North Dakota’s Gord Sherven and Wisconsin’s Bruce Driver began jawing at the blue line. Sherven’s teammate, Cary Eades, joined the conversation and shoved Driver before the officials separated the players.

As Eades skated past the Wisconsin bench, John Newberry squirted him with a water bottle. Eades stopped and Newberry squirted him again. An enraged Eades charged through the open gate on the bench and UW defenseman Pat Ethier welcomed him with a punch to the head. Game off, brawl on.

Wisconsin sophomore winger Ted Pearson was not dressed for the Saturday night rematch because of a knee injury. But he was a central figure in the fracas that developed between the bench areas and moved down a hallway which led to one of the beer gardens in the Coliseum.

North Dakota’s Jim Archibald confronted Pearson, who grabbed his facemask and dragged him about 10 feet. Pearson remembered being knocked to the floor by one of Archibald’s teammates. “When I got up,’’ Pearson said, “a policeman was holding me and their trainer punched me in the face.’’

Archibald then charged into the Badger bench and began swinging wildly at Newberry, who was being held back by UW trainer Denny Helwig. On the ice, North Dakota’s Dan Brennan sucker-punched Steve McKenzie, who went down, popped back up and decked Brennan with a left hook.

Order was eventually restored, but not before Archibald and a fan mixed it up over the Plexiglass and several UW players tossed North Dakota gloves into the stands. The WCHA suspended Newberry and Eades two games each. Archibald drew a five-game suspension.

By the way, Archibald, like Polich, skated off the Coliseum ice without his jersey.

The Banshees howled long into the night.

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