Wisconsin Badgers home games draw over half a million in attendance each year. But, are those places any good? I am somehow 40 of those attendees. Let me tell you what to think about the places Badger fans call “home.” We’ll start with the newest facility.
The Band In LaBahn, They Play My Favorite Song
|Address||105 East Campus Mall|
|Named For||Charles and Mary LaBahn|
|Best Bar Nearby||City Bar|
LaBahn has two main entrances on along the Dayton street side. Tickets are occasionally available at the gate for about $7, or if you wave your hand around long enough you can get an extra from someone that just want to know you’re not going to scalp it.
There’s a stand at the other side with a grill, like a real operation! (If you think that’s a given, oh boy you are in for a trip.) You can get a bottomless popcorn if you love salt and flossing, and of course there’s Dippin’ Dots. I think? Some sort of ice cream.
For the majority of games, LaBahn Arena is general admission. Finding good seats is easy to do in the smaller arena, as there’s not a lot of rows in the bowl. You can do your own calculus of “close to the glass” versus “at center ice.” Plenty of fans take the opportunity to stand at the railing above the bowl to watch the action. Really, compared to some of the other GA places, this one’s not a problem at all.
RAISING A BANNER. Since LaBhan opened in 2012, the Badgers have won 4 WCHA regular season titles, 4 WCHA tournament titles, and a national championship. They’ve made the Frozen Four six straight years, if you put an asterick on 2020 sports-wise. I bring up this success mainly to spite the guy at the Rathskeller who I overheard complaining about how Mark Johnson couldn’t get it done after the Badgers lost to Clarkson in ‘17. This is a real thing that happened.
I once played a really fun “Hockey Bingo” and won a burrito. I don’t know how often that happens but it should be every game. Both the bingo, and the burrito. It was a Panchero’s coupon, so I didn’t have to eat some marketing intern’s leftovers then and there.
Additionally, Phil makes it to a lot of the games.
Wisconsin has been a hockey college for decades, and the typical crowd for women’s hockey expects a win. If it’s a regular season game, the excitement comes from putting the biscuit in the basket. It almost feels like a fairground, with the goalie waiving to kids and a diversity of jerseys in the audience leading to a “hey, we got this” feeling.
But against Minnesota, UMD or in a tournament game, it’s cranked up a notch. The ill-advised glass roof (seriously, why let the sun shine on ice?) buckles on big stops and breakaways and comes off for goals. The pep band gets drummin’, and everyone identifies the sieve together.
LaBahn’s biggest problem is the ice melting because someone honestly thought sun shining on frozen water wasn’t a big problem. Measures have been taken to reduce the impact of Mother Nature on what is an indoor rink, but what the hell man. You outta know not to stand by the window. Someone see you up there.
But that’s my one quibble. Show up, give the ticket counter a sawbuck and get change, and watch top-level women’s hockey. Mark Johnson’s alumni form the backbone of the Olympic rosters of both USA and Canada.
Additionally, for a few years Blake Geoffrion put together a charity game at LaBahn to raise money for the UWHealth burn center. JJ Watt took penalty shots against Brian Elliot and... I want to say Jessie Vetter. Vetter made the stop, Elliot dove out of the way. At the end of the game there were multiple pucks, 20 skaters on the ice and at least one person in the “Green Man” outfit from Always Sunny.
It’s clearly a cover, but it builds on other people’s original works and makes it unique. Still, it’s probably the version everyone thinks of.