Sept. 17, 2012
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MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves was joined by Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez at this week's Monday news conference to reveal a logo and announce efforts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the modern era of Badger hockey.
Archived video of the announcement can be found with the link above, while the complete transcript of the announcemt is below.
COACH ALVAREZ: As all of you know, we've had tremendous success and history in our men's hockey program. This year we celebrate our 50th anniversary.
As we celebrate, we will use the entire season to do so, beginning with the honoring of the architect of the hockey program in naming the ice at the Kohl Center after Bob Johnson.
A very much deserved honor. We're very proud to do it. We will do that in November. Also it's only appropriate that we have the grand opening of the LaBahn Center, a state of the art hockey facility.
This will give us one of the finest hockey complexes in the nation. In listening to our former players, now in the NHL, don't know if there's one better as far as the total complex with locker rooms and everything which goes with the program.
So we're very excited about this season and very excited about this celebration.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach. Coach Eaves also has some things to say.
COACH EAVES: Well, I think it's a real exciting time in Wisconsin hockey history, just because of the fact that we've got all these happenings in the year of our 50th year of modern hockey here.
With the LaBahn opening, with the renaming of the rink, this will be our final year in the WCHA before we head back into the Big Ten as a hockey program.
It just is a really unique time for hockey here at Wisconsin. And we'll be able to do a lot of neat things this year. And one of the neat things we're going to do this year, and I hope it's appropriate I talk about this, is the fact that we're going to have an honorary puck dropping at every home game.
And with the strike going on, I talked with Paul Capobianco, we might be able to get some big names coming back. They've got nothing to do right now. We may be able to do some neat things that go along with all the neat things happening here this fall with our hockey program.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach. As you see, over to our right Senior Ryan Little has a jersey with the patch for this year on the left shoulder. We can also afterwards have a little photo shoot for that. If there's any questions now for Coach Alvarez or Coach Eaves. Again we have microphones on each side of the room.
QUESTION 1: Barry, when you first came here to the University of Wisconsin, what did you know about Wisconsin hockey, and what have you learned in the last 20 plus years?
COACH ALVAREZ: When I came here, I'd never been around hockey, a little bit at Notre Dame, very little. But never seen a match just very, very unaware.
When I grew up in Pittsburgh, there were no Penguins. I went to Nebraska, there was no hockey in Nebraska. Iowa, no hockey. So when I came here my first day on the job Pat Richter took me out to see the '90 team play and had a chance to go into the locker room and meet some of those guys. And that was really my first exposure.
I think a few years ago I walked on the ice to visit with Mike and he said: Coach, how many times have you been on the ice? I said: This would be my first.
So I was not exposed to hockey until I got here.
COACH EAVES: I'll say one thing, Coach has come over to the Shell when we've had practices and seen him stand behind the bench and the bodies go into the glass, the puck comes ripping at your head. It's a unique sport, I think anybody, especially coach who played a contact sport would appreciate hockey. And I think he's come to enjoy it from that aspect.
QUESTION 2: Barry, not too long ago it used to be that Wisconsin hockey was the top dog of the athletic department. How important is it to you now, this program, hockey, considering the strength of football and basketball over the last 20 years?
COACH ALVAREZ: I think it's important for me to have 23 strong sports. But as a businessman, in running the department, naturally it's important that your three revenue producing sports are strong: Football, basketball and hockey.
So we want to provide the resources necessary for them to be competitive. We understand how important it is historically for the community, for the state and for this university. But also we want to be competitive for other reasons also.
QUESTION 3: Mike, with the celebration you guys are going to have, the ceremonial puck drop, does that put any added pressure on your team to perform well, as well, so the product is good, that maybe you'll have more fans come out and really take part in the celebration or do you not look at it that way?
COACH EAVES: I don't look at it that way. I don't think our players do. The one thing that stands out in my mind about the kids who play, the seniors go talk to Coach [Alvarez] at the end of the year, they have an exit interview. And one of the questions that coach asks is: What's the most outstanding memory of you playing here at Wisconsin.
They all say playing at the Kohl Center in front of all 15,000 people. Does it get any bigger or better than that? I don't think so.
The fact the other things we haven't touched upon, this is our 50th year, but we're going to celebrate the 40th and 30th anniversary of our '73 team winning and '83 team winning. So those things they're all emotional energizers as you come to the rink. And if they get to meet Chris Chelios as he drops the puck, that's the belief we have.
QUESTION 4: Mike, as a player and coach here, you have a special perspective. You also have the perspective of college hockey in general. Can you talk a little bit about the significance of Wisconsin's hockey history on college hockey in general?
COACH EAVES: I think it has to be one of the leaders, because of its length ... and what they've accomplished in terms of there was hockey here in the '20s, and it went away a little bit and it came back.
You look at the championships, the national championships that this university has been able to accomplish as a hockey program. You take a look at the rinks we've had here. The coliseum was the Kohl Center in its day. Now we have the Kohl Center. Now we have a practice facility that in my mind sets the table in terms of what a facility should be for a hockey program, for the men's and women's.
And that facility itself in the competitive world of recruiting will carry us for the next 50 years, I believe. And the way where we keep things up. So it's hard to quantify the impact that that rink will have in the recruiting, but you just know it's going to be a positive one.
So to go back to answer your question in a very brief way, the things that this program has accomplished over the years puts it right in the forefront.
QUESTION 5: Mike, were you being recruited in '73 when they won it?
COACH EAVES: Yes. It's funny, though, in my recruiting process because I was in the middle of the season I never got to see a game at the Coliseum. I didn't get to see the crazy fans and all that.
I came and fell in love with the campus. I walked around the lakes and I said I could be happy here even if I didn't play hockey. That's what sold me. That's something that we tell every one of our kids that comes on campus: Beyond, if you're going to go to a school, if you can say that, then you know you've got something special in a school.
QUESTION 6: What do you say is the lasting impact of Bob Johnson, he's had on this program, on college hockey and what does it mean to someone who has played for him that his name will be Bob Johnson rink?
COACH EAVES: It's well deserved. It is well deserved for many reasons. The fact he came in, he came in got the program started again, and sold it. In an area where he had to go out and really... I've heard great stories about Coach Johnson having a school bus drive around campus ask kids what they were doing. Nothing. You want to go get in a bus and see a hockey game? What's a hockey game. Off they went to Hartmeyer.
Those are classic stories. That's how hard they had to sell it to get it going. And the next level was getting in the Coliseum. So he would talk a lot to youth groups and do all those type of things at the grassroots, to build it up to where it is today where we actually, we had a building that sat 8600 people on a Friday, a different 8600 on a Saturday.
Now we've got one building that seats 15,000 and we can get everybody in in one night and we try to do it two nights in a row.
So his impact for Wisconsin hockey is immeasurable. And the fact that we're able to look down on the rink and see his name is a great tribute.
QUESTION 7: Mike, I realize you're a couple weeks away from even getting into a game situation. But do you have any very, very early impressions of how you're team's going to look this season?
COACH EAVES: The neatest thing we can say as a coaching staff is we're going to be older. After having 20 sophomores and freshmen last year, now we're going to be an upperclass team having more balance and that's going to be a real good place to start.