Varsity is the free Official Online Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics, covering Badgers football, basketball, hockey and more each week.
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I BEHIND THE DESK BY BARRY ALVAREZ // UW DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS Big Ten hockey means big-time opportunity 14 anticipate a lot of excitement by our fans for Big Ten hockey. Listening to Mike Eaves talk about it the other day, I know that he feels like his players are really excited to play in new venues. From the standpoint of name recognition, it's going to be exciting to play Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in addition to our long-standing rivalry with Minnesota. Add those schools to the future non-conference series we've scheduled with North Dakota, Denver and Colorado College and other traditional WCHA rivals, and we will be able to have a top-notch schedule every year. With the Big Ten, fans can identify with the schools and I see it as a real positive for college hockey, especially since there will be a lot more national television exposure for the sport through the Big Ten Network. I recently talked with some people from Penn State and they all said that their new $90 million ice arena on campus is just awesome. I believe it will seat over 6,000 and I'm sure they'll fill it. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I know how popular pro hockey has been in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. So there's no question in my mind Penn State fans will get behind their program. I've been asked if there's any chance for future expansion in Big Ten hockey. I suppose it's always a possibility. Over the years I've had conversations with former Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther on whether // VARSITY October 10, 2013 their club hockey program, which has been very strong, would ever be ready for the next step. I don't know that answer. But hockey is being played elsewhere in the Big Ten footprint. I know that you can find junior hockey teams playing in Iowa and Nebraska. I also know NebraskaOmaha has a very solid college hockey program. The Big Ten has added Johns Hopkins as a men's lacrosse-only member in 2015 to join the league schools that play it: Michigan, Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. I don't know if some hockey programs would be a fit with the Big Ten or if there will be any expansion. But if you're asking me about hockey in this conference, I think it has a bright future. Everyone feels like we've got a good chance to be a very nice team this season. I've heard Mike talk about the advantages of having so many returning players, including both of his goalies. To be honest, I still don't know how these hockey coaches deal with recruiting. When you go out and recruit really good players, the next thing you know they're leaving school early and signing pro contracts. That seems to be inevitable. But if you don't recruit and sign those players ― for however long they're going to stay ― they'll go someplace else and you'll wind up playing against them. You're darned if you do, darned if you don't. All I know is Mike is happy with the group he has coming back and our fans should be excited about watching them play against more Big Ten opponents. Should be fun.