Bigger and better.
That’s what former Wisconsin Badgers hockey star and 2010 Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion said to expect from his second annual Blake Geoffrion Hockey Classic on Friday.
A star-studded cast of former Wisconsin hockey greats will take the ice and ESPN broadcaster and walking college hockey billboard John Buccigross will emcee the event that Geoffrion hopes will raise "six figures" for the UW Health Burn Center. Throw in a couple of undisclosed "surprises" for the fans in attendance, and you have a recipe for success.
"I’m really looking forward to this year," Geoffrion said to local media Wednesday. "Bigger, better."
Also announcing a late addition of Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith, 30 Badgers are now scheduled to play in what Geoffrion called a "family reunion," including 16 NHL players, nine All-Americans and four Olympians.
"We all played four years, for the most part, together," Geoffrion said. "We became brothers and kind of like a family, and it’s always great to have family reunions. It’s great to get back together with those guys."
The game is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at LaBahn Arena.
Captains for the game are San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski and New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan. Olympian and All-American Jessie Vetter will be in goal for Pavelski’s Team Red, which also features NHLers Adam Burish, Robbie Earl, Jake Gardiner, Andrew Jourdey and Joe Piskula. Also headlining the Stepan-led Team White is Olympian Hilary Knight and, from the NHL, Brian Elliott, Tom Gilbert, Geoffrion, Jake McCabe, Jack Skille, Craig Smith, Brad Winchester and Brendan Woods.
"I think this year there might be a little something on the line internally," Geoffrion said. "It’s great to get back here with all the guys. It’s going to be a blast."
Though some of the most skilled Badgers to ever take the ice in Madison will all be coming together, it won’t be all competition, Geoffrion added.
"It’s a game in the summer, we’re not going hard out there," he said. "It’s fun to see the guys’ skill and breakaway goals and nice passing plays and that kind of things. But let’s keep it light and show the fans our personality.
"First and foremost we want everyone to have fun. That’s what this game’s all about it -- that’s what we’re all about."
"I think John’s a smart guy, he knows what he’s doing," Geoffrion said. "He loves the game of hockey. He’s a passionate fan. He can quote the entire 1980 Miracle movie. I think that’s what he’ll add to the event, his personality, and show his passion."
Players are arriving in Madison Wednesday and Thursday, according to Geoffrion, with a hockey reunion golf outing planned for Thursday.
Though the game bears Geoffrion’s name, he insists it required plenty of additional help to put on the second annual Classic.
"The entire event itself was the [University of Wisconsin] athletic department and the UW Health Burn Center board," he said. "Those people have been astronomical in terms of their help and what they’ve brought and what they’ve done."
He thanked the UW and Madison community, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and the Badgers hockey coaching staff in making the event happen a second consecutive year.
"You combine all those together and this is what you get," he said. "This is just a piece of the pie."
As for the surprises? Geoffrion may be better known for his hat trick as a rookie, but he’s got a rabbit in his hat with one big trick in particular for Friday.
"I’ve been quoted as saying, ‘It’s going to shock the sports world,' which I think it really will."
Tickets for the event are $20 for adults and $15 for youth and seniors. All proceeds will benefit the UW Health Burn Center. Visit UWBadgers.com for more information.