After six games into his third season with the Wisconsin men’s hockey team, assistant coach Bill Butters has stepped down to pursue his life passion: faith ministry.
Both Butters and head coach Mike Eaves made it clear that Butters blindsided Eaves with his decision on Monday. The head coach urged his assistant to think it over for a few days, but ultimately Butters feels his passions truly lie elsewhere and therefore he would be doing the team a disservice by sticking around any longer.
“It was a surprise, no question,” Eaves said. “Once talking to Bill and never being one to roll over, challenged him a couple times, but throughout our discussions it became clear where his heart was and what he needed to do.”
Butters, who was in charge of the defense and the penalty kill, said the decision became prevalent a few weeks ago after he spoke with some players in Eau Claire, Wis., about faith. After speaking with those players, he knew that’s where his passion was, rather than helping players with slapshots.
“The decision to leave has been about four weeks, what’s in my heart has been there since about 1980,” Butters said. “This is about my calling on my life and in 1980 I felt called by God to get into ministry, to tell players about faith.
“They need a guy in here that has the passion to get in a guys face and share that. I don’t know if I was the guy. I thought I was when I came here — I really did my best, sometimes your best isn’t good enough. … In my heart I felt, ‘I don’t know if I’m the guy.’”
Butters also emphasized that there is no animosity between him and the program, that this was simply a choice he needed to make not only for himself but for the team as a whole.
“If you watch the practices and watch the games, Mike Eaves is a capable coach and so is Gary Shuchuk,” Butters said. “There are so many applicants for the job, there’ll be people. I don’t think I’m leaving them in a lurch, I think this is a necessary ending for the betterment of the team and sometimes necessary endings are tough. I have to answer this call in my life.”
The assistant coach noted that he is at peace with the decision and has already spoken with the team to say goodbye, hugging about 90 percent of them. According to Butters, some of them just aren’t huggers.
“In the end, I feel in my heart that he’s doing the right thing,” Eaves said.
Butters departure only adds to the long list of odd circumstances that have plagued the Badgers this season. In addition to inconsistent play, the Badgers have lost two players for large portions of the season — freshman forward Nic Kerdiles was suspended for 10 games due to ineligibility claims and junior forward Mark Zengerle will miss the next four to six weeks with a broken index finger.
“This is not ideal, neither were those other two things, but that’s life,” Eaves said. “We will look at what our options are and control what we can control and move forward.”