The University of Wisconsin has a long tradition of sending current and former athletes to compete in the Olympics and this year’s games in Sochi will be no different. With at least one representative in each of the last 10 Winter Games, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team will have four former players competing for Team USA to make it 11 straight Olympics with at least one Badger skater. On the women’s side, after 11 current and former Badgers played at the 2010 Vancouver Games, five former stars will take to the ice in Sochi, four for Team USA and one for Team Canada. Finally, the last athlete representing Wisconsin is a former golfer whose first Olympic competition was before she even reached her college playing days.
Although he only spent two years in a Badger uniform, the forward from Hastings, Minn. had a big impact and played a key role in Wisconsin’s run to the National Runner-up finish in the 2009-2010 season, tallying 12 goals and 42 assists to lead Wisconsin in scoring. After totaling 21 goals and 77 points in his two-year career, Stepan chose to forgo his final two seasons with the Badgers to take a shot in the NHL with the New York Rangers. Stepan is now in his fourth season with the Rangers and this will be his first Olympics.
Hailing from Arden Hills, Minn., McDonagh will play on his third different team with Stepan with the Sochi games, McDonagh’s first Olympics, too. Even though he is a defenseman, McDonagh scored 46 points in his three-year career with Wisconsin. Following the second-place finish in 2010, he decided to give up his final year of eligibility to sign with the Rangers. McDonagh is also in his fourth year in the league, all of which have been spent with New York and his Badger teammate Stepan. He has scored 20 goals along with 70 assists.
This marks the second consecutive Olympics for the Plover native who took home silver with team USA in 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. In his junior year with the Badgers, Pavelski guided Wisconsin to the program’s sixth national championship in the 2005-2006 season, leading the team in scoring with 56 points, including 23 goals. Pavelski left for the NHL following the championship season and now plays with the San Jose Sharks. This season he is tied for third in the NHL with 29 goals.
The hometown product of Madison, Suter, whose father won the gold medal with the U.S. men’s hockey team at the 1980 Lake Placid games, will play in his second winter games, having also earned a silver medal with team USA in 2010. Suter played only one year with the Badgers before moving on to the NHL. He is currently a defenseman and alternate captain with the Minnesota Wild.
Decker finished her collegiate career with Wisconsin last season, and Sochi will mark her first Olympic games. During her time in Madison, Decker totaled 244 career points, second-most in Wisconsin women’s hockey history, and won the most prestigious of the individual honors in women’s hockey when she was awarded the 2012 Patty Kazmaier with an 82-point season.
Although Knight holds the UW record for the most points (262) and goals (143) in a career, she is the only one of the former Badger players on the US team who didn’t win the Patty Kazmaier. Despite that shortcoming, Knight is statistically one of the best players to come through the women’s hockey program in the 15 seasons Wisconsin has sponsored the sport. Knight will be playing in her second Olympics, winning silver in 2010 in Vancouver.
Vetter is from Cottage Grove and had one of the most illustrious goaltending careers, playing from 2004-2009, earning the 2009 Patty Kazmaier and setting many records in the process. Although current UW goaltender Alex Rigsby has reset most of the records, the one record that may never be touched is Vetter’s 39 career shutouts. The Sochi games will be Vetter’s second Olympics after starting in goal for the U.S. in 2010.
After taking the silver medal in Vancouver in 2010, Duggan came back for one final season with Wisconsin in 2011-2012 and led Wisconsin to the National Championship in 2012, winning the Patty Kazmaier in the process with 39 goals and 87 points. Duggan will also be playing in her second Olympics and is third all-time behind Decker and Knight with her 238 career points.
Mikkelson was part of Wisconsin’s first and second National Championships in the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons as a junior and a senior. Her 115 career points at Wisconsin have her 15th all-time. Mikkelson is competing with Team Canada for the second consecutive Olympic Games.
In her time at Wisconsin from 1993-1996, Brown was a four-year letterwinner, not in curling, but in golf, and was a member of Wisconsin’s only Big Ten championship team in 1994. Before attending Wisconsin, she was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team in 1988 as a part of the curling team. Sochi will be Brown’s third Olympics, and she will lead her own Erika Brown rink.