The Dean's List

Jeff Sauer – the sixth-winningest coach in college history – writes a bi-weekly column for Inside College "The Dean" was the head coach for 31 years at Colorado College and Wisconsin, where he won two national titles. Sauer retired at the end of the 2001-02 season. He was the 2003 Snooks Kelley Award winner for contributions to U.S. hockey and ranked 16th on INCH's list of the all-time greatest college hockey coaches.

For your listening pleasure, find The Bud Song on Wisconsin's official site.

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Ask The Dean

Of all the rule changes being proposed to get more scoring in the game, which one appeals to you the most? Tim E., LaCrosse, Wis.

There was a lot of talk about this at the NHL All Star Game, obviously. The one rule change I like the most is one being advanced by Jacques Demers, I believe, which would force teams to forecheck two men and make the third forward forecheck at least 10 feet over the blue line. This would basically eliminate the trap, which all NHL teams use so effectively.

Promoting forechecking means there would be more turnovers and likely more scoring chances. It seems that would provide a higher scoring game. It seems like an intriguing change to me.

February 21, 2004
The Dean's List by Jeff Sauer

A lot of time coaches get credit for providing motivation to their team. This week I attended a funeral for a 13-year-old young man who has inspired, motivated and brought perspective to the University of Wisconsin hockey program for the past eight years.

The relationship between Andrew Thiel and the Badger hockey program started in 1996 when I got a call from a doctor in Marshfield, Wis. telling me how a young patient of his had a brain tumor. The prognosis wasn't good for this young person, but he was a big hockey fan, a big Badger fan and the doctor wanted to know if he could come to a game.

Andrew was adopted by our team. We got him a Badgers jersey, autographed sticks and had him come into our locker room whenever his family made the three hour car ride from Marshfield to Madison for games. He was always outside the locker room in his wheelchair, next to the glass, when the Badgers moved their games from the Dane County Coliseum to the Kohl Center six years ago. In fact, he was there as recently last month, high-fiving Badger players like Dan Boeser and Adam Burish as they came onto the ice against Michigan Tech.

Our players took him on the ice the night we received the MacNaughton Cup in 2000. Dustin Kuk and Steve Reinprecht had their pictures taken with Andrew and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association trophy. Erik Raygor was a big booster of Andrew's the year he received the Hockey Humanitarian Award in 1998. And two of my former players, Mike Cerniglia and Jake Soper, were in the church, along with a lot of young Marshfield, Wis., hockey players Tuesday for Andrew's funeral. I know the current Badger players and staff were also affected by Andrew's death.

As much as Andrew's family always thanked Wisconsin's hockey players for their support during his illness, he did more for us. His visits to the locker room provided perspective after tough losses. He provided motivation to hockey players in their playing days as he struggled to fight cancer and taught all of us never to give up.

Every year, after Andrew joined the Badger hockey family, the youngster from Marshfield would attend the post season hockey banquet and present the UW seniors with rings, signifying their four-year contributions to college hockey.

Andrew Thiel certainly added to those contributions during his unique relationship with college hockey.

As sad as saying good-bye to Andrew was, the National Hockey League's All Star Game weekend in St. Paul, Minn., earlier this month was a celebration. I experienced a glorious three days which started in Madison on Friday night at the well-played North Dakota-Wisconsin game.

With am energized Kohl Center roaring, Wisconsin turned a WCHA race upside down. The Badgers rallied from two goals down with six minutes left in the third period to beat the Sioux, 4-3, on what ESPN's SportsCenter deemed a highlight film overtime goal by Robbie Earl. And suddenly, the Sioux, which had been No. 1 in the country, found itself in a race with Wisconsin, St. Cloud and red-hot Minnesota-Duluth for the MacNaughton Cup.

Anyone have two extras to the UMD-North Dakota series in Duluth Feb. 27-28? I didn't think so.

If that wasn't exciting enough, it was thrill to go back to my hometown for the NHL All Star Game the next day. St. Paul did a marvelous job, providing an environment suited for the best players in the game. The town was alive and made pro hockey's special weekend the centerpiece of all activities in the Twin Cities that weekend – from the spectacular Ice Palace across from the Xcel Center to the Hockey Falls party at the Metrodome Saturday night to the on-ice events Saturday night and Sunday at the Xcel Center.

It was truly a gathering of the hockey community. I got to visit with everyone from my linemate at Washngton High School in St. Paul to Billy Baker of the 1980 Olympic team to NHL execs like Lou Lamoriello, the former Providence Coach, on a walk through the concourse. It was great to see former collegians like Paul Martin and Ryan Malone in the Young Stars game and a real treat for me to watch one of my former players, Brian Rafalski, in the All-Star Game itself.

The whole weekend was like a visit to Disneyland for a hockey fan. St. Paul and the Minnesota Wild deserve as much credit as can be dished out. Just as they did at the Frozen Four in 2002, they served up a delightful hockey smorgasbord again this month.

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