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A Badger fan’s guide to the 2018 Olympics

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How and who to watch in Pyeongchang.

2017 NCAA Div I Women's Ice Hockey Championship Photo by Mark Buckner/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

There are an incredible number of Badgers who have competed in the Olympics (by my count, well over 100), and seven current or former UW-Madison athletes will add their names to this prestigious list in Pyeongchang for the 2018 Winter Olympics from Feb. 8–25. In total, 14 current or former Badgers will either coach or play hockey in the coming games for USA or Canada.

Unfortunately, Jim Johannson, who passed away Jan. 21, will be greatly missed by Team USA. The former Badger and Admiral great was serving as Team USA men’s hockey’s general manager before he left. Perhaps it should be argued that he is indeed the 15th Badger at the games, as he will be followed on Team USA by fellow Badgers Tony Granato and Chris Chelios.

Let’s take a look at which former Badgers are going to be involved in the Olympics, how to watch them, and what storylines to consider when watching.

Current and former Badgers competing

Take a brief scroll through these Badgers. They are Olympic gold medalists, national champions, Patty Kazmaier Award winners, and leaders. Behind each name is a story of what it means to be a Badger, and it’s that time again when they compete at the highest level in the world. Well, at least the women will, as the NHL doesn’t want their precious players taking a trip a couple-dozen miles south of North Korea. OK, I guess I can understand that.

Badgers in the Olympics

Name Age Years at UW Sport Nation Previous Olympics (Medal) Notes
Name Age Years at UW Sport Nation Previous Olympics (Medal) Notes
Meaghan Mikkelson 33 2003-2007 Women's Hockey Canada 2010 (G), 2014 (G) Oldest player on Canada
Ann-Renée Desbiens 23 2013-2017 Women's Hockey Canada N/A Patty Kazmaier Award Winner 2017
Blayre Turnbull 24 2011-2015 Women's Hockey Canada N/A UW Captain 2014 and 2015
Sarah Nurse 23 2013-2017 Women's Hockey Canada N/A All-American 2017
Emily Clark 22 2014-2017, 2018-2019 Women's Hockey Canada N/A Youngest player on Canada; will return to Wisconsin for 2018-19 season
Meghan Duggan 30 2006-2009; 2010-2011 Women's Hockey USA 2010 (S), 2014 (S) Patty Kazmaier Award Winner 2011
Brianna Decker 26 2009-2013 Women's Hockey USA 2014 (S) Patty Kazmaier Award Winner 2012
Hilary Knight 28 2007-2009, 2010-2012 Women's Hockey USA 2010 (S), 2014 (S) Three-time All-American (2009, 11, & 12). All-times goal leader at UW (both genders)
Alex Rigsby 26 2010-2014 Women's Hockey USA N/A 100 career wins is 2nd best in NCAA history
Rebecca (Ruegsegger) Baker (Assistant Coach) 27 2009-2011 Women's Hockey Korea N/A Goaltending coach for Korea; won gold 2008 IIHF World Championships with Team USA
Tony Granato (Head Coach) 53 1983-1987, 2016-present Men's Hockey USA 1988 US Head Coach; Hobey Baker finalist 1987
Chris Chelios (Assistant Coach) 55 1981-1983 Men's Hockey USA 1984, 1998, 2002 (S), 2006 US Assistant Coach
Cody Goloubef 28 2007-2010 Men's Hockey Canada N/A Defenseman who played in 118 games for Badgers and scored 37 points
Jim Johannson (General Manager) 53 1982-1986 Men's Hockey USA 1988, 1992 Passed away January 21, 2018; US General Manager; 1983 National Champion at Wisconsin
Rene Bourque 36 2000-2004 Men's Hockey Canada N/A Team Captain 2004

You may ask, how does this list compare with other Big Ten schools? It’s good enough for a tie for first place with Minnesota:

Olympians by Big Ten School

Big Ten School Olympic Athletes Coaches, administrators, or support staff
Big Ten School Olympic Athletes Coaches, administrators, or support staff
Wisconsin & Minnesota 11 4
Michigan 6 0
Ohio State 3 1
Michigan State 2 0
Illinois & Maryland 1 0
Indiana, Rutgers, Purdue, Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa & Notre Dame 0 0

When to watch

Now that you know who to watch, when can you watch them? Here’s a preliminary schedule for Badger hockey players, which is subject to change when results start coming in (especially for the more volatile men’s teams). For late-round specifics, please check out the master schedule here.

Canadian women’s hockey

The greatest quantity of former Badger stars is on the Canadian women’s team. When you tune in to see Canada, you’ll see a lot of recent Badger studs, as three of the five athletes played for Wisconsin last year. One thing to keep in mind is that the gold-medal game is a 99.9 percent lock to be USA vs. Canada; the talent drop-off is so significant after those two teams that nobody in the world expects anything different. Take a look at when we expect them to compete:

How To Watch Canadian Women’s Hockey

Date (Central Time) Time (Central Time) Game Type Team Opponent Notes
Date (Central Time) Time (Central Time) Game Type Team Opponent Notes
February 11 6:10 AM Preliminary Canada Russia All of Group A (USA, Canada, Finland, Russia) will advance beyond prelims. The top two teams in Group A earn a quarterfinals bye. Also, while Russia is banned from the Olympics, Russians aren't. So the players can compete on a team, but Russia is not credited for their results.
February 13 1:40 AM Preliminary Canada Finland
February 14 9:10 PM Preliminary Canada USA
February 18 10:10 PM Semifinals USA or Canada TBD (Likely Finland/Russia/Sweden) This assumes that USA/Canada will finish Nos. 1–2 in Group A and earn a quarterfinals bye.
February 19 6:10 AM Semifinals USA or Canada TBD (Likely Finland/Russia/Sweden) This assumes that USA/Canada will finish Nos. 1–2 in Group A and earn a quarterfinals bye.
February 21 10:10 PM Gold Medal Canada USA They should match up in the gold-medal game barring disaster.

USA women’s hockey

When you tune into USA women’s hockey, you’ll see perhaps the most legendary Badgers in this year’s olympics. Duggan and Decker are both Patty Kazmaier Award winners, and Knight is by far the leading goal scorer in Wisconsin history. These players accounted for two national titles at UW, and they have all been leaders on the U.S. team.

How to Watch USA Women’s Hockey

Date (Central Time) Time (Central Time) Game Type Team Opponent Notes
Date (Central Time) Time (Central Time) Game Type Team Opponent Notes
February 11 1:40 AM Preliminary USA Finland All of Group A (USA, Canada, Finland, Russia) will advance beyond prelims. The top two teams in Group A earn a quarterfinals bye.
February 13 6:10 AM Preliminary USA Russia
February 14 9:10 PM Preliminary USA Canada
February 18 10:10 PM Semifinals USA or Canada TBD: (Likely Finland/Russia/Sweden) This assumes that USA/Canada will finish Nos. 1–2 in Group A and earn a quarterfinals bye.
February 19 6:10 AM Semifinals USA or Canada TBD: (Likely Finland/Russia/Sweden) This assumes that USA/Canada will finish Nos. 1–2 in Group A and earn a quarterfinals bye.
February 21 10:10 PM Gold Medal USA Canada They should match up in the gold-medal game barring disaster.

USA men’s hockey

The NHL is not letting its players compete in the Olympics this year, so it’s a rare sight to not see a former Badger wearing a USA men’s sweater. However, the team will be lead by current Badger head coach Tony Granato with assistance from former Badger Chris Chelios.

How to Watch USA Men’s Hockey

Date (Central Time) Time (Central Time) Game Type Team Opponent
Date (Central Time) Time (Central Time) Game Type Team Opponent
February 14 6:10 AM Preliminary USA Slovenia
February 15 9:10 PM Preliminary USA Slovakia
February 17 6:10 AM Preliminary USA Russia
Februrary 19–20 TBD Qualification/Classification USA TBD
Februrary 19–20 TBD Quarterfinal USA TBD
February 23 1:40 AM Semifinals TBD TBD
February 23 6:10 AM Semifinals TBD TBD
February 24 6:10 AM Bronze Medal TBD TBD
February 24 10:10 PM Gold Medal TBD TBD

Canadian men’s hockey

While the NHL’s decision hurts many Badgers who are currently in the NHL, it does provide opportunities for Badgers playing in Europe or Canada. While former Badger Robbie Earl was snubbed from the USA roster, you’ll have a chance to watch Cody Goloubef and Rene Bourque fulfill lifelong dreams for the Canadians.

How to Watch Canadian Men’s Hockey

Date (Central Time) Time (Central Time) Game Type Team Opponent
Date (Central Time) Time (Central Time) Game Type Team Opponent
February 15 6:10 AM Preliminary Canada Switzerland
February 16 9:10 PM Preliminary Canada Czeck Republic
February 18 6:10 AM Preliminary Canada South Korea
Februrary 19–20 TBD Qualification/Classification Canada TBD
Februrary 19–20 TBD Quarterfinal Canada TBD
February 23 1:40 AM Semifinals TBD TBD
February 23 6:10 AM Semifinals TBD TBD
February 24 6:10 AM Bronze Medal TBD TBD
February 24 10:10 PM Gold Medal TBD TBD

Top storylines

Now that you know who and when to watch, here is a preview of some of the important storylines you might hear about during broadcasts.

The passing of Jim Johannson

Team USA men’s hockey general manager Jim Johannson passed away on Jan. 21, and I believe he should get credit for any successes the men’s team has in South Korea. Since the NHL did not allow its players to go to the Olympics, Johannson’s job of finding 23 players was significantly more difficult. The news hit the Badger and USA hockey family hard.

According to Granato, they will continue to manage the team in the spirit of Johannson’s ideals, values, and skills.

Olympians from Russia

Russia is banned from the Olympics, but Russians are not. So you’ll see the U.S. and Canadian women play against “Athletes from Russia” under a neutral jacket. If you have some time, check out the documentary Icarus on Netflix. It’s a thrilling watch about the Russian doping scandal.

U.S. women’s national team’s 2017 holdout

This was a critical story from the 2017 world championships that got a lot of national press. In the center of this story was a lot of Badgers taking leadership for equitable pay and conditions. Former Badgers, led by Brianna Decker, used social media to gain support and eventually improve the quality of life for U.S. women’s hockey players.

Granato leads Team USA

Some of the Badgers men’s hockey stumbles have been blamed on Granato’s divided attention between Wisconsin and Team USA. While that certainly may not be fair, Granato has a great opportunity on the international stage to put UW-Madison back in the spotlight. Can he use this opportunity to continue his success on the recruiting trail?

U.S. women’s national team’s bizarre cuts

Current Badger Annie Pankowski was considered a total lock to make Team USA, but was surprisingly cut from the team almost at the last minute. While that was surprising, nobody saw the stunning cut of star Alex Carpenter. Arguably the best player in the world was cut from her national team, and hockey fans were left scratching their heads. If USA doesn’t take home the gold, blame it squarely on the strange management on the women’s side.

South United Korea

Who saw this coming? South Korea’s women’s hockey team, which Wisconsin beat in an exhibition game 8–0 last September, has united with North Korean hockey players to compete under a single, united Korean flag. It is unclear how many other sports will be unified, but they are marching together in the opening ceremonies. It will certainly be a tall task for the Korean coaching staff to unify the players and focus on the game in spite of the potential geopolitical implications. And, of course, a Badger will make contributions there, as Rebecca (Ruegsegger) Baker is an assistant coach on the Korean staff.

No NHL players allowed

I mentioned this a bit before, but the lack of NHL talent means that the men’s side will not be the premier international hockey showcase it has been in the past. However, the women’s side will be the showstopper it has been.

Intense USA–Canada rivalry features Badgers

Perhaps the best thing about the Winter Olympics as a hockey fan is the intense rivalry between Canada and USA. On the women’s side, you will see a lot of former teammates and friends lining up as enemies.

The other critical storyline is the lengthy history between Canada and USA in international competition. USA has won seven of the last eight IIHF world championships, yet it has not won a gold medal since 1998, the inaugural season for women’s hockey in the Olympics.

And don’t think for a second any of these players are short on skill or grit.

It’s going to be intense, but it appears no matter what happens, the Badgers are winners.