With the 2018 winter Olympic games underway, many are wondering how University of Wisconsin hockey is going to be impacted.
With so much changing this year, many details are up in the air right now regarding men’s and women’s hockey. We’ll break down the major issues that both teams need to be concerned about when approaching the 2018 games in South Korea.
With Wisconsin’s head coach Don Granato accepting the head coaching position for this year’s Olympic team, it is possible that Granato will be called away from the UW for periods of time to deal with important matters regarding the national team.
Thankfully, men’s Olympic hockey isn’t like women’s Olympic hockey, in which players train from the time that they are selected in late July or early August until it is time to leave for the games. Men’s hockey players will typically train only four weeks prior to the start of the Olympics.
This rule used to be in place back when NHL players comprised the majority of countries Olympic rosters. However, when the NHL prohibited players from competing in the Olympics, this meant a new group of players became eligible to play for their countries, and this rule doesn’t really apply to them.
Collegiate hockey players, and perhaps some minor league players, will now compose the entirety of a chosen Olympic team, which means it is highly possible for one of our own here at Wisconsin to be selected to play in the Olympics this year.
Most countries have either already had their tryouts or, like in the case of the United States, will hold them closer to the actual Olympic games. U.S. men’s hockey tryouts are set for November, meaning any potential players who are interested in trying out for an Olympic spot could miss a week or two of hockey.
For the most part, the NCAA has gone through a lot of work to ensure the Olympics will have minimal influence on the men’s hockey world. This is still a situation that is mostly unknown, so more is likely to reveal itself as the year progresses.
Women’s hockey doesn’t have the same scheduling issue as men’s, so this is more familiar territory for coaches to deal with. In terms of UW women’s hockey, head coach Mark Johnson is going to have to deal with the loss of his top two forwards, Annie Pankowski and Emily Clark.
Both Pankowski and Clark made their respective Olympic teams, USA for Pankowski and Canada for Clark, back in July. This meant that Johnson had relatively little time to plan for the departure of these two stellar athletes.
Pankowski and Clark will both be absent for the entire year, since both Olympic teams train throughout the school year. The absence of these two veterans is crucial this year, especially after Wisconsin lost so many good players in 2017.
Pankowski and Clark come from a small class of players, with only four other seniors remaining in Madison. Both women were fearsome opponents on the ice and knew how to create scoring opportunities in any situation, which is always a valuable asset for any team to have.
But the best asset Wisconsin has is none other than their head coach Mark Johnson, who has been in this situation multiple times during his tenure at UW. Johnson knows how to deal with major roster changes like these and is sure to have a plan in place to help his young team through these times.
Overall, because the Olympics are a special event, and this might be the only shot that some players have to play for an Olympic team, any offsets caused by this year’ games are surely worth it. This is a time for athletes to show their talent on a global stage and show the world what kind of athletes UW produces.