Although it’s slowly changing, the US College experience is still largely an unknown to most young Canadian athletes. Sure, spill-over media coverage of the big College bowl games, with huge stadiums filled to the brim, full fields of marching bands, parades, cheerleaders and crowds of mad cap fans, give some idea of what its all about. But nothing beats being there.
With this in mind, current Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy Hockey Director Maco Balkovec recently lead the Midget Prep and E15 teams on a trip the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, home the Big 10 Conference Badgers, six time national mens hockey champions.
“The basic idea was simply to give our kids some exposure to what hockey at the NCAA level looks like, both from the athletic and academic side,” Balkovec explained.
“The university experience is unlike anything we have here in terms of atmosphere, fan support, and athletic facilities. The school in the US, is the center of the community.”
With that in mind, the two BWC teams got to take in a packed UW basketball game, two UW hockey games – versus Notre Dame – and also play a couple of games vs the Milwaukee Junior Admirals during their four day tour of the university in early December.
Third year BWC Midget Prep d-man Andrew Hunt commented that the campus atmosphere was very impressive and yet welcoming, and that it was obvious the players liked being there and playing for the Badgers.
He was also very impressed by the fans cheering – standing, pointing their arms and chanting in unison a number of club cheers – including the famous taunt “Sieve – sieve” while pointing at the opposing goalie when Wisconsin scores.
This year there are nine NHL prospects on the Badgers roster, including team captain Cameron Hughes (BOS), a 1996 born forward from Edmonton, Alberta, who joined the Badgers after two years with the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL.
This year’s Badger roster includes two other Canadian players, Wyatt Kalynuk (PHI), a freshman from Virden, Manitoba, and Patrick Sexton from Ottawa. There are also two from Sweden, and six local Wisconsin picks.
The BWC Academy Midget Prep team is currently in first place in the Canadian Sports School Hockey League, with a record of 22-1-1 OTL; while the E15s are in fourth place with a record of 15-5-0.