When Wisconsin and North Dakota play each other I think of great traditions, a good rivalry, outstanding coaches, exciting games, and championships.
Yes the “fight” also comes to mind, but for today I am going to put that aside.
Between the Fighting Sioux and the Badgers they have won 13 Frozen Four Championships, including four in a row at one point. North Dakota won the Frozen Four Championships in 1980 and ‘82. Wisconsin won it 1981 and ‘83.
The Badgers and the Sioux have had 134 players move on to play in the National Hockey League - 71 for North Dakota and 63 for Wisconsin.
When you check out the pro careers of some of those who played in the NHL, you see some interesting facts.
If you look at the career list of the top-10 players in terms of career games played you find the Sioux and the Badgers have been involved in more than 22,800 games. Their combined years of experience totals 360 years.
1. Chris Chelios - 1,867 (Still playing)
2. Scott Mellanby - 1,567
3. Gary Suter - 1,253
4. Paul Ranheim - 1,049
5. Bruce Driver - 1,030
6. Sean Hill - 931
7. Pat Flatley - 918
8. Tony Granato - 852
9. Brian Engblom - 707
10. Pat Flatley - 918
1. Curtis Joseph - 1,055 (Still playing)
2. Mike Richter - 742
1. James Patrick - 1,280
2. Craig Ludwig - 1,256
3. Dave Christian - 1,009
4. Murray Baron - 988
5. Troy Murray - 914
6. Doug Smail - 845
7. Greg Johnson - 785
8. Gary Valk - 777
9. Tony Hrkac - 758
10. Dave Tippet - 721
1. Ed Belfour - 963
2. Jon Casey - 425
But with an even closer look at the four straight years they won the championships, WCHA fans saw a great array of talent who moved on to the National Hockey League.
For Wisconsin, Bruce Driver, Marc Behrend, and John Johannson all played on both the 1981 and ‘83 teams.
Also on those two clubs were Chris Chelios, Dave Maley, Bruce Driver, Pat Flatley and Paul Houck - all of whom spent time in the NHL.
For North Dakota, Craig Ludwig and Phil Sykes both played on the 1980 and ‘82 title teams. I especially remember Sykes. He had three career hat tricks against Wisconsin.
James Patrick, Troy Murray, Dave Tippett, Jon Casey, Doug Smail, Marc Chorney, Mark Taylor, Rick Zombo, Gord Sherven, and Dave Donnelly also played in the NHL.
At the same time that hockey fans got to enjoy watching all of them play, the unfortunate fact is they did not get to see them all for four years. That’s because a majority of those players jumped to the NHL before their college eligibility was complete.
First and foremost I do not blame the players for leaving. If they have a chance to live their dream and make good money, so be it.
No I do not blame the coaches for bringing in players they know may not be around for four years. I understand they want them to make their teams better, and they don’t want them playing for the competition.
While we all would like to see them play for four years I think it is important to remember that having those talented players in college means better teams, stronger competition, recruiting benefits and more fan interest.
Those players playing in the WCHA gives the league more national exposure, more credibility and a desire by players all over the country to want to attend one of the universities in the league.
There is also not doubt that Wisconsin and North Dakota have both developed great hockey traditions and won a lot of championships by having those players on their campuses.