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Hell, yes. Hockey’s back.

A love note to Wisconsin’s birthright.

Jake Linhart David Stluka/UW Athletic Communications

Wisconsin hockey—that sieve chantin’, more wantin’, you’ve-said-it-all-sayin’ older brother of Badgers sports—has made its annual return to the ice.

Praise be.

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The men are ranked No. 10 by the coaches. The women are ranked No. 1 by... everybody. Both squads are young—so young—and hungry.

Both are coached by Badgers legends. Mark Johnson has four rings with the women’s squad and sits third on the NCAA wins list. Tony Granato is one of the most decorated players in Wisconsin history, with a long pedigree in the NHL and Team USA, and has already started to pull the men’s team back to relevance.

The fans are back (on the men’s side—the women’s fans never left, thank you very much).

For the second straight season men’s season-ticket sales are up, the Wisconsin State Journal’s Todd Milewski reported on Monday. After cratering in 2015-16, Wisconsin has crept back up to nearly 12,000.

The pace is still far off from the halycon days of the mid-aughts, but it’s a positive sign for sure.

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Experts agree.
Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

Normally this column is reserved for well-researched, well-composed, thoughtful sports analysis (and the occasional picture of horrifying clowns).

This is not that.

Annual Halloween Parade Winds Through New York's Greenwich Village
Well, not the analysis part, at least.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This is a fan’s unabashed love note to Badgers hockey, and all things cawledge hockey (™Buccigross), men’s and women’s.

Many of you know and love this game. For those who don’t know what the fuss is about, here’s why this @#!^ is the pure, adulterated, uncut best.

It’s grace and power and speed wrapped in intelligence and vision and impossible trigonometry.

It’s tactile—like nothing else in sport. Wisps of breath escaping among the rasps of skates on frozen water and the unmistakable, adrenaline-invoking sound of padded body hitting unpadded plexiglass.

It’s a warm blanket of the smartest, snarkiest fans in sport, the comfort of which is punctuated by the dulcet, melodic belching of a gaggle of sousaphones (sousaphi?).

It’s non-stop action—damned near the perfect sport—like GOD ALMIGHTY herself took figure skating and the best parts of soccer and a little dabble of pro wrestling, melted it down, threw sticks in the middle, and dropped it into Canada.

It’s brats, too. Lots of them.

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Take all of this and toss it with a healthy mix of fun programs on the rise, and you have 2017-18 Badgers hockey.

This is the gentlest reminder that this sport—this oft-forgotten, greatest of Wisconsin sports—is the birthright of all Badgers. It was here before Ryan and Gard. Before Bielema and Chryst. Before Alvarez.

Hockey’s back, y’all.