On Thursday, most students will get to sleep in, visit with family, eat a filling home-cooked meal and watch football until their heart is content. The Wisconsin women’s hockey team’s Thanksgiving schedule reads a bit differently.
The team will wake up early and start practice at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning and is then given the rest of the day to travel and meet their families before coming back Thanksgiving night in preparation for Friday’s 2 p.m. drop of the puck.
Head coach Mark Johnson says hockey players are used to the sport eating into their time off during breaks.
“Hockey doesn’t do the winter holidays very well,” Johnson said. “Usually you get a little bit of time, but it’s not like a three or four-day weekend where a lot of people and their families get that opportunity.”
UW is lucky enough to have a home series this week against WCHA foe St. Cloud State, giving the team just a little more time to spend with their families.
Wisconsin has not had to travel on Thanksgiving weekend since 2009 when the Badgers went to Rhode Island to take on Providence.
Senior forward and team captain Brianna Decker says having such little time with her family can be hard, but being a part of such a tight-knit team helps.
“It is a little difficult, but we have our own family here,” Decker said. “We all support each other and are there for each other as a team, so it’s just kind of Thanksgiving within our team. That’s something you can cherish for four years.”
Some of the members of the team will be celebrating Thanksgiving for the second time this year with the Canadians having a similar holiday on the second Monday of October.
Johnson joked that the Canadians have all the fun since they get to celebrate both holidays.
“The Canadians celebrated a month ago so they’ve already been through it, so they actually get two Thanksgivings. So they are the ones who really benefit,” UW’s head coach said with a smile.
Canada native and freshman forward Erika Sowchuk says she is looking forward to spending the day with her teammates who will stay in Madison, but is disappointed that she won’t be able to see her family.
“I’m excited to spend Thanksgiving in the States,” Sowchuk said. “It will be nice to have a turkey dinner and spend it with my teammates. Whenever we are together, I think it is team bonding. It’s good for the team to be together and having fun. For sure [it is hard not going home for the holidays]. I haven’t been home yet this year, but at the same token I’ll be spending it with kind of my sisters, my teammates, so it will still be fun.”
Director of women’s hockey operations Paul Hickman will be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for everyone on the team who will not be able to visit their families.
Sowchuk says the break won’t be a distraction for the team, but will instead reenergize them.
“I think it’s a good thing for people to go home and spend time with their families,” Sowchuk said. “We can rejuvenate a little and just relax and reset a little.”
After having some time to their selves on Thursday, the team will have a quick turnaround playing St. Cloud State in an early afternoon game Friday and then again Saturday.
Despite the rushed holiday schedule, Johnson says the short holiday is good for the team and has his players in high spirits heading into the final stretch of the fall semester.
“When they don’t have school, they are generally in a real good mood,” Johnson said. “Obviously, you get a nice meal and there are a lot of things going on. I’m sure that a lot of families will come to town for the kids that live in the area. It’s a nice time of year. The kids can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as school. There’s not a lot of school left, so generally people are in a pretty good mood.”