To University of Wisconsin women's hockey fan Evie Zadzilka, 4, the three most important things at a game are, in order: Bucky Badger, high-fiving the players, and eating hot pretzels.
"Her least favorite thing is when the Badgers score because the horn is loud," said Evie's father, Gene. "Dad likes it, but she doesn't."
Evie was one of about 200 children who turned out Sunday morning for the UW women's hockey team's first Outdoor Hockey Meet and Greet at the Vilas Park skating rink.
Hockey player Derya Kelter, a sophomore, first got Evie to stand on the ice. "Oh my gosh, we're not even touching you," Kelter told Evie as she took her first uncertain steps.
"Dad's going to take you out all the time. The next thing you know you're going to be playing for the Badgers," said Kelter, who grew up in Eagle River, Alaska, playing pond hockey.
Players taught and skated with kids at the free event. Team members, along with Bucky Badger, signed autographs and posed for photos. The team gave out T-shirts and posters to the first 200 fans.
"We couldn't have picked a better day for it," said Meghan Duggan, the team's captain. "The sun's shining and it's not too cold."
Duggan said it was good for the team to interact with the community and promote its "Fill the Bowl" game Jan. 29 when Wisconsin hosts WCHA rival Minnesota at the Kohl Center. Admission will be $1 so the Badgers can meet their goal of bringing 10,000 fans to the arena and break the NCAA attendance record.
Usual attendance is between 2,000 to 3,000, said Duggan.
On Jan. 26, 2008, the Badgers set a NCAA women's hockey attendance record when 5,377 showed up at the Kohl Center for a "Fill the Bowl" event.
On Sunday, Parks Director Kevin Briski invoked the name of Madison native Eric Heiden, who won all five speedskating gold medals in the 1980 Olympics, and skated at Vilas Park as a boy.
"There's a lot of history on this rink," Briski said. "This type of facility is where dreams come true. Where you start developing dreams and thoughts and aspirations."
Don Becker, whose firm, Becker Law Office, hosted the event with Madison Parks, said Sunday was "about the kids. It's about the community coming out. It's about the smiles on the little girls' faces."
Greg Soltis brought his daughter Olivia, 8, who has been playing hockey since the age of 4. Olivia was taking this year off, and it was her first time out on the ice this season. She usually skates in an indoor rink.
"It's nice to get out at a park instead of the normal hockey rink," Soltis said. "It's fun to be out in the sun."