UW Health Sports Medicine 

Back to their roots

ON WISCONSIN <b>Saige Pacholok playing on her outdoor rink at age 7. </b>
Saige Pacholok playing on her outdoor rink at age 7.

Jan. 31, 2010

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MADISON, Wis. – Many of the student-athletes on the Wisconsin women’s hockey team will be going back to their roots when the Badgers hit the ice in Camp Randall Stadium on Feb. 6.

The Badger women and men will take part in a once-in-a-lifetime event in the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic. The women’s team will kick off the day at 2 p.m. in a WCHA matchup against Bemidji State and the men play Michigan at 5 p.m.

Most of the UW women’s hockey players grew up in cold-weather climates where they had easy access to ponds or outdoor rinks. For some, they even made rinks in their backyards.

Junior Anne Dronen a Chaska, Minn., native who grew up on a property with three ponds, would clear one every year using a snowblower, Bobcat or shovel. With the help of a hose, Dronen and her brother would smooth the surface to create a hockey rink. 

“(Playing) outside is fun because you get in touch with the elements and you have a really good feel for the game and where it comes from,” said Dronen. “Nature is definitely a factor when you are playing outdoors. Some days are colder than others, but nothing beats the atmosphere.”

Freshman Saige Pacholok had a similar experience when her father created a rink in the backyard, making it easy for her and her brother to practice every day. A few years later, she moved into the city of Edmonton, Alberta, where she was able to go to an outdoor pond located just blocks from her house.

Pacholok’s biggest fans that day will be her uncle Dean Krawec, who was severely injured in an industrial accident over 16 years ago and is now confined to a wheelchair, her brother Ethan and her father Richard. Krawec never misses a game, whether he is following at home via the internet or making a trip out to Madison, which is why he chose the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic to celebrate his 40th birthday on Feb. 6.

“We’re going to bring people together and it’s going to be a really good experience,” said Pacholok. “Not just for the players, but as a fan of hockey and college hockey. It’s going to be very good for the people in the Madison area and for the people visiting. I know my family is excited and I can’t wait to have them here and hopefully give them a good game.”

The event isn’t just exciting for the players, but for the fans as well. With so many activities surrounding the classic (click here for info), it is sure to be a fan favorite as the Badgers try to draw the biggest crowd in college hockey history.

“I’m really excited because in Edmonton, they had the Heritage Classic where the Edmonton Oilers played the Montreal Canadiens,” said Pacholok. “I wasn’t there, but I was watching it, and I think the atmosphere was amazing more than anything.”

“I think it would be a good day for a family to come out and bring the kids and get to watch both the women and the men compete outdoors,” said Dronen. “If it’s one of those pretty days in the winter when the sun is shining and somewhat warm, I think we’ll be fine.”

The Weather Channel predicts a 32-degree high and an overcast sky for the showdown, but the players are prepared to play in anything.

“Back home we would play in extremely cold weather,” said Pacholok. “If you are having fun and you are working hard, it’s not even a factor at all. I think it just brings more charisma to the experience.”

Many of Dronen and Pacholok’s Badger teammates have grown up playing outdoors, but for some, Camp Randall will be their first experience. For juniors Kelly Nash and Olivia Jakiel, they didn’t have outdoor ponds in their backyard growing up in California. Senior Kyla Sanders, a Fort Myers, Fla., native, also grew up in a warm weather state.

“It will be my first time playing outside,” said Sanders. “I have always wanted to skate outside and skate on a pond, so I can’t wait for this experience.”

While some will be reminded of childhood memories, they will all be experiencing the Camp Randall atmosphere together.


Jacqueline Boscacci, UW Athletic Communications

Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
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