It’s been a question for years, “Why doesn’t Wisconsin have an NHL team?” and it’s always followed with one of these responses:
- Who cares about hockey?
- The Blackhawks have a stranglehold in the Milwaukee market.
- Milwaukee (or any Wisconsin city) cannot support an NHL team.
If you’re giving the first response of those three, you probably aren’t reading this and if you are, I wish I could bring you to the light. In response to the second statement, the team doesn’t have to be in Milwaukee and if the NHL saw money in Wisconsin or Milwaukee they would just add another market, which leads into the final response. Why don’t they see money in Wisconsin? Why can’t we support an NHL team? Is it because we are too small, or the fan base wouldn’t be there? That hasn’t stopped a lot of NHL franchises from existing. I don’t mean any disrespect, but the Hurricanes have sold out about 65% of their stadium the last two years according to ESPN, and they’re an above .500 team. When the Brewers and the Bucks are bad they’re numbers still aren’t that low. The Brewers in bad years usually finish in the middle of the pack percentage-wise, and the Bucks sit near the bottom but are always still around 80% and I can’t wait to see those numbers with their future looking how it is.
So, where are the hockey fans in Wisconsin? Well I’ve always found this picture to be very funny:
If you’re a hockey fan in Wisconsin, this is the truest thing you’ve ever seen in your life. If you look, I drew a circle where I live. I’m going to try and put in perspective what I see every day.
I live almost right in the center of the state near Stevens Point, and Stevens Point is a melting pot for hockey fans. I see Wild fans, Blackhawk fans, Red Wings fans, and, not only that, Stevens Point is where Joe Pavelski went to high school. So yes, there is an incredible amount of Sharks fans as well. Now, I know what I see in central Wisconsin isn’t enough to convince anybody that we deserve an NHL team but it makes you think. There are thousands and thousands of NHL fans in Wisconsin influenced by no one else that chose their team based on proximity, a specific player, or jumping on the bandwagon (Blackhawks… I kid) because those are the only choices we’ve been left with. It’s extremely paradoxical that die hard Packer/Bucks/Brewer fans are supporting teams from Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit when during every other sport’s season they want the other fan base’s blood.
That brings me to one of the biggest things the state is being robbed of without an NHL team, rivalries. I get chills at the idea of a team from Wisconsin vs the Blackhawks in late March with something on the line, or, even better, in a playoff series. By posting this, I am not trying to glorify fighting in hockey, but I am glorifying how important rivalries are to fans and how important protecting their team and representing their city is to these players: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7LZbJhi6Fo&t=48s Now, that brawl was 20 years ago, and it’s not something you will ever see again in today’s NHL, but it still means a lot to Detroit and their fans (https://twitter.com/DetroitRedWings/status/846013474060861441). Cheap shots and pure hatred for the Avalanche boiled over into this moment, but there are other ways to shut up a rival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKeTho0bkvs Scoring seven goals in game seven of a playoff series. Sports are about moments, and moments like those will never die. Sadly, those are moments that we have never known, and that’s a tragedy.
I don’t know if Wisconsin will ever have an NHL team in my lifetime, but I do know we deserve one. I will never knock anyone for choosing to be a fan of anybody because hockey is such a wonderful sport that everyone should be invested in, if you want to don a black and red sweater and sing Chelsea Dagger at the top of your lungs whenever Patrick Kane scores, you should you have every right. We weren’t left with many options here, but one day I really want us to have that choice. For some, it’ll be too late to make the switch from one team to another, but for a lot of people, and a lot of kids in the state, it’ll be a day they will never forget.