As the official start date for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team season nears, the Badgers are constantly finding new ways to strengthen their team dynamic.
During these unusual circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the team is forced to follow strict Big Ten protocols to ensure everything will go smoothly for the start of the season Nov. 13. Both on and off the ice, the team is constantly discovering new ways to build and strengthen their bond as a team.
In late October, the team took to the arch of Camp Randall Stadium to participate in an Arch March. Though the march is typically done by the football team prior to the start of home games at Camp Randall Stadium, the team decided to create a spin on the longtime tradition.
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Starting underneath the historic stone structure, the team skated along the streets of Madison and made their journey all the way to the Kohl Center, all while goofing around and showing off their latest celebrations for fans driving or walking by.
“I mean, I think it just strengthens everyone as a whole,” sophomore forward Owen Lindmark said. “When other people see us doing that and having each other’s back, that’s a real positive thing. They only trust you more, that they’re gonna have our backs whenever they need them.”
Lindmark was one of several Badgers who greeted passers-by with a friendly smile and a thumbs-up. As one driver captured the team on video going down Dayton Street, Lindmark shouted “Go Bucky!”
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Once the driver got close enough to engage in some conversation, he jokingly said, “You’re working harder now than you did at practice.”
“Oh wow, that’s tough,” Lindmark responded as he quickly took off and skated away to catch up with his fellow teammates in the single-file lineup.
Besides the Arch March, the team still continues to be social without putting themselves at risk for contracting the virus, being subject to a series of tests and a mandated 21-day quarantine. Junior defender Ty Emberson described that during their initial quarantine period, they engaged in activities outside as a team while maintaining a safe social distance.
“I think this quarantine has given us a lot of opportunities to hang out as a team, obviously, being socially distant and wearing masks,” Emberson said. “But I think this extended preseason has been good for us just to get to know each other a little bit better.”
While social distancing and hanging out with the team may be safe for strengthening team bonds, Lindmark conveyed that it’s been a struggle to maintain the same social life compared to what they had before the pandemic.
“I think obviously, it’s tough,” Lindmark said. “Everyone on campus has had limited social activities, just because you can’t go out and do things that a normal college student would do. So I think that’s definitely had a negative impact on just everyone at the campus. It’s been kind of tough because we can’t go out and see other friends like normal students here, but at the same time, we have our teams to lean on and hang out with.”
The unranked Badgers’ season begins with a matchup against the No. 20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Friday night in South Bend, Indiana. If the team continues to follow safe social distancing measures, they are preparing to have a competitive season filled with Big Ten matchups against Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State.
“We’ve kind of invested in the process,” Lindmark said of the current protocols. “We’re getting tested every day, and we just got to make smart choices off away from the rink and we’ve been doing that. So we have a lot of confidence that we’re going to be able to keep going without any trouble.”