Since becoming the University of Wisconsin men's hockey coach five Marches ago, Mike Eaves has directed several remodeling projects.
The most obvious involves the program itself. Three years after one of the worst seasons in school history, the Badgers won the national title last April.
But Eaves has orchestrated other facelifts as well. The UW hockey offices in the Kohl Center were redone in the fall, complete with etched glass, new furniture and floor-to-ceiling murals. And the Bob Johnson Hockey Facility at the Dane County Coliseum has been getting aesthetic upgrades for more than a year.
Next on the to-do list for Eaves is another aspect of the Kohl Center: its ice surface.
For more than a decade, the Badgers have skated on a sheet 200 feet by 97 feet that almost replicates an Olympic-sized (200 by 100) surface. First put down at Coliseum for the 1994-95 season, it was adopted for the Kohl Center when that facility opened for hockey in 1998-99.
Eaves would like a smaller sheet, preferably 200 by 90. He would like to see it installed in conjunction with a new on-campus practice facility, which is No.1 on the list of capital projects for the athletic department.
"My hope is when they do that, that we can change the configuration of our Kohl Center (ice sheet) so that the practice sheet and the Kohl Center are the same," Eaves said.
Asked last year to submit ideas for a new practice facility, Eaves and his staff focused on having it "near or attached" to the Kohl Center. According to UW sources, possibilities include adding a level to the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion -- putting basketball courts on the second floor and an ice sheet on the first -- or using the open space between the Southeast Recreational Facility and the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion.
Eaves believes the 200 by 90 dimensions are ideal because they eliminate the need to practice on NHL-sized and Olympic-sized rinks to prepare for a series. That's the case right now. If UW is getting to ready to play a school that has a smaller sheet, UW players move to the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center or the Capitol Ice Arena in Middleton to prepare for the 15-foot adjustment in width.
During the Eaves Era, the Badgers have put up divergent numbers on the two surfaces.
They have played 137 games on bigger ice sheets -- 200 by 95 and wider -- and are 66-55-16 (.540). That includes rinks at Alaska-Anchorage, Colorado College, Minnesota, Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State.
They have played 52 games on small ice sheets -- 200 by 90 and narrower -- and are 31-16-5 (.644). That list includes rinks at Denver, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota.
He said his preference for the 200x90 alignment is not just about practicality.
"I just like the game better on a 90-foot-wide sheet because it's a little bit more entertaining," he said, adding the 200x85 rinks in the NHL are "almost too tight."
"Five more feet gives you a little bit more space and time," he said.