University of Wisconsin men's hockey coach Mike Eaves said his program "took one for the team" when it signed off on a plan to move its regular-season-ending series in 2012-13 off campus.
The Badgers will host St. Cloud State on March 8 and 9 at the Dane County Coliseum instead of the Kohl Center, displacing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series to make way for the WIAA state boys basketball tournament.
The concession was made as part of new contract with the WIAA to keep most of its marquee high school events in Madison.
"Right away we were not happy about it," said Eaves, who was on vacation when the men's hockey schedule was released last week. "It's not the ideal situation."
But while the move from the 15,237-seat Kohl Center to the 8,101-seat Coliseum is fraught with logistical issues that still must be worked out, Eaves understands why the decision had to be made.
"We're part of a bigger team," he said, referring to the city of Madison and the UW Athletic Department, which would have endured major financial hits had the WIAA chosen to take its business elsewhere.
"You hate to do that," UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said of asking men's hockey to make such a sacrifice. "But we wanted a shot to make this thing work."
Talks with the WIAA became controversial earlier this year when officials for the governing body for prep sports in the state made it known that, due to future scheduling conflicts with the Kohl Center, they were looking to move the boys and girls state basketball finals out of Madison. At stake was millions in consumer revenue as well as goodwill between the WIAA and the state's flagship university.
The WIAA ultimately agreed to a new contract that keeps the boys basketball tournament in Madison through 2020 while moving the girls event to the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon for two years.
Eaves said a possible alternative to relocating the St. Cloud series was to move a potential first-round WCHA playoff series to the Coliseum, which is where the Badgers played from 1967 to '98 before the Kohl Center was open for business.
"We just felt like that was a good compromise," Alvarez said.
The St. Cloud State series isn't part of the Friday-Saturday season-ticket packages and UW Athletic Department officials are still in the process of trying to draw up a plan for the weekend.
On the plus side, the Badgers will still have access to their old practice dressing room and an ice sheet will be in place because the WIAA state hockey tournament will precede it.
For months prior to the move Alvarez maintained that he didn't want to displace men's hockey from the Kohl Center because he felt UW teams should be the priority in such matters. But he made no apologies for the final outcome.
"You're damned if you do and damned if you don't and whatever decision you make you can't please everybody," Alvarez said.