Women’s Hockey ‘culture of excellence’ shines, despite loss

It was a heartbreaking ending Friday night at the semi-finals of the women’s hockey Frozen Four in Minneapolis. As you might know, the Badger women fought through two overtimes, but finally lost to Colgate 4-3. It was the second longest game in our program’s history.

I was honored to be there for every last shot, along with hundreds of red-dressed Badger fans, a good representation from the band, and (of course) Bucky.

While it was a disappointment to fall a goal short of reaching the NCAA national title game, I want to appreciate the culture of excellence in this program, which continues to achieve great things nearly every season. They’ve won four titles and have 11 appearances at the Frozen Four since 2006. And I’m confident we’ll be back to earn our fifth very soon.

Our women’s hockey student-athletes also thrive in the classroom, with 13 named to the 2017-18 WCHA all-academic team, honoring those with above a 3.0 GPA for consecutive semesters. They conduct great outreach to local schools and hockey programs through the Badgers Give Back program.

While women’s sports don’t get the same attention as football and basketball, our women’s teams are thriving, with great recent performances by women’s hockey, volleyball, rowing, softball, soccer and swimming to name a few.

One of the best coaching selections in recent decades was to entrust the women’s hockey program to Mark Johnson, who has Badger red running through his veins as a student-athlete, Olympian and coach. In addition to being one of the nicest people you’ll meet, Mark has been a teacher and mentor to a generation of players and boosted the entire sport.

You only needed to turn on your television during the gold medal game in Pyeongchang to see our impact—nine American and Canadian Badgers participated in the game, with Hilary Knight even making an appearance on Saturday Night Live with Leslie Jones.

Both men’s and women’s hockey have had many successes at UW.  And in recognizing the consistently top performance of women’s hockey, I don’t want to ignore the upward trajectory of our men’s hockey team. Many of their players have gone on to NHL and Olympic success (Mark Johnson among them.) I was also proud to see their coach, Tony Granato, representing the U.S. as men’s Olympic coach.

Many things differentiate the University of Wisconsin from other top academic and research institutions. Our frozen lakes and state’s love for hockey – and our Badger hockey teams – are among them.

I can’t wait to see what next year brings in LaBahn Arena for the women Badgers.