“It’s more than hockey” for Wisconsin fans celebrating title win
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin Badgers Women’s Hockey is once again on top of the collegiate hockey world, winning their seventh title Sunday in a 1-0 title bout over the Ohio State Buckeyes. For a group of fans watching from Paul’s Neighborhood Bar in Middleton, it is a moment they will hold dear because of their special bond with the program.
“It started with a smaller group, and it just keeps getting larger and larger,” said Greg Sylvester. “We get to know the parents and the players, and we just all love hockey.”
Sylvester says the group ranges from 10 to over 50 people. The venue and numbers may change, but these fans meet before home and away games from the regular season through the postseason. These fans are invested in the program a little more than the average fan, adopting the players’ families as their own, often including them in their pre-game festivities.
“A lot of times, the parents go past the four years, or five years their daughters are here now; a lot of times, they’re friends, you become friends all the way through and later,” said Sylvester.
He says the group started getting together for games nearly a decade ago for the love of the game. Now, they know the players and stay connected to their parents even after their daughters leave the team. Donna Kniebuehler says she has watched Women’s Badgers Hockey since 1998 and is tied to each roster that marches through a season.
“I’m there at the LaBhan’s Arena, three-three and a half hours before the games, waiting for the girls to come in, giving them my hugs, telling them to stay out of the penalty box if they can,” said Kniebuehler.
For this group, investing in not just the team, but the people around them, winning is all the sweeter.
“You’re just as excited as the girls and the parents and their family members... it’s just one of those things... we love it,” said Sylvester.
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