NCAA Frozen Four
INCH's Milwaukee Primer
Bill and Kelly Brophy
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The Frozen Four returns to a familiar site
this week. That's good news for college hockey fans who
came to realize in the '90s that when the national championship
comes to Milwaukee, a good time is had by all.
Unlike last year, when Columbus, Ohio, was
unknown territory for those wearing hockey sweaters and
searching for beer amidst discussions of forechecking, left
wing locks and Hobey Baker candidates, Milwaukee has a track
record as a successful Frozen Four host.
Fans recall that Milwaukee embraced the event
in 1993 when Maine won the national championship and in
1997 when North Dakota took the title. But as much as people
recall Paul Kariya's exploits for Maine or Dean Blais' first
championship behind the Sioux bench, fans also remember
that the Bradley Center is a great facility to watch hockey
and that there are lots of bars and restaurants within walking
distance of the rink in Brewtown.
Let's get the grown-up part of this travelogue
out of the way. Milwaukee is a major league city of approximately
600,000. Located on the western shores of Lake Michigan,
it is the 22nd largest city in the country, something that
tends to be forgotten when baseball fans try to turn it
into a northern suburb of Chicagoland when the Chicago Cubs
visit Milwaukee's Miller Park each summer.
Milwaukee has all the amenities you'd expect
from a town that size. General Mitchell International Airport
is a 15-minute drive from downtown, where the Bradley Center
and most of the tourist attractions are located. They include
the Milwaukee Theatre; the Midwest Airlines Center, which
hosts conventions; the Shops of Grand Avenue, which is not
the elegant shopping mall it was the last time the NCAA
skaters stopped by Milwaukee; the Historic Third Ward, which
features antique shops, restaurants, galleries and boutiques;
the Museum Center and stunning new Milwaukee Art Museum
on the lake; plus the Theater District, which consists of
the Pabst Theater, Milwaukee's Repertory Theater and the
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
This latter facility should not be confused
with Art's Performing Center, off of Water Street. And that
should remind us this article is written for INCH readers,
not the Visitors and Convention Bureau, which has lots of
swell information about the Milwaukee Zoo, the Allen Bradley
Clocktower (a downtown landmark), the Pettit National Ice
Center (where Olympic speedskaters train), and the festivals
which come to Milwaukee's Summerfest grounds each summer.
Thinking of driving to the Frozen Four?
Here are the distances from each campus to the Bradley
Center, as calculated by Microsoft Streets & Trips:
• Wisconsin: 79 miles or 1 hour,
• North Dakota: 651 miles or 9:22
• Boston College: 1,069 miles or 15:44
• Maine: 1,311 miles or 19:30
How to befriend the locals
Thanks to Brian Elliott's goaltending, there
will be lots of red and white Wisconsin hockey sweaters
around town this week. Wisconsin fans put the flavor in
the NCAA tournament in Boston in 1973, Detroit in 1977,
Providence in 1978 (where they earned a plaque from the
mayor for best fans) and Duluth in 1981. They will undoubtedly
attempt to do the same in Milwaukee. Tickets are much tougher
to obtain now than when Bucky made its last Frozen Four
appearance in 1992.
People in Milwaukee love to talk sports, take
shots and toast mugs of brew. It is much more of a basketball
town than a hockey town, however. The local media give cursory
coverage to the Badger hockey team or the Milwaukee Admirals,
a minor league team in a city where the Brewers and Milwaukee
Bucks dominate the sports page unless the Green Bay Packers,
the state's darlings, are playing a game, making a trade,
thinking about the draft, staging a press conference or
holding a mini-camp.
If you need a conversational ice-beaker just
ask any local whether Brett Favre is going to be back with
the Packers and that should take up a good 10 minutes. Fans
love their Green Bay Packers more than cheese or Harley-Davidson,
which, oh yeah, is based in Milwaukee.
You should also know that Milwaukee is home
to two other schools – Marquette University and UW-Milwaukee.
Badger fans don't like Marquette and kinda like UW-M, since
that's where current Badger hoops coach Bo Ryan was employed
before coming to Madison.
If you want to talk more sports, be aware
there is more optimism about the Milwaukee Brewers than
any time in the last 15 years. This optimism is based on
(don't laugh) a .500 season last year, the Brewers' first
since 1992. The Brewers are home this week, so if you want
to mix the Boys of Summer with NCAA pucks, you can tailgate
at Miller Park, sit under the retractable roof and watch
the sausage races on Wednesday and Friday nights at 7 or
Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. The Brewers take
on Pittsburgh Wednesday and Arizona on the weekend. Miller
Park is a 10-minute drive from downtown. Lots of tickets
are available and if you get there early you can nab the
Bob Uecker tickets for a buck.
By the way, this is Bob Uecker's hometown,
Hank Aaron hit most of his home runs at County Stadium,
next to Miller Park, and Robin Yount has returned to wearing
a Brewers' uniform this season for the first time since
he ended his Hall of Fame career.
How not to make friends with the locals
Be aware, Badger fans dislike Gopher fans
intently. It has grown since Minnesota recruited Phil Kessel
out of Madison. So don't bring up Phil's name to a Badger
fan and say something like "Wasn't it great to see
INCH named Kessel, the local kid, as its rookie of the year?"
The Badgers also have a long rivalry with
North Dakota, but both schools' intense dislike of Minnesota
has provided a sort of glue over the years. Fans of both
institutions have grown to respect one another, although
that respect may be tested should Bucky and the Sioux meet
for the title.
What to do after the game
We finally get to the point of the story.
This won't come as a shock to you, but the home of Laverne
and Shirley doesn't have a South Beach. There are, however,
lots of places that serve cold beer within walking distance
of the Bradley Center, which has been around since the late
'80s and serves as home to the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks and
American Hockey League's Admirals (Note to North Dakota
fans: Tony Hrkac finally retired from the Admirals after
last season, but still lives in Milwaukee).
Water Street and Old Third are located one
and two blocks east of the Bradley Center. On 3rd street
is where you will fine establishments such as Buck Bradley's,
which has one of the longest bars east of the Mississippi
River and a great Friday fish fry; Buckhead Saloon, Have
a Nice Day Café, and Lucille's Piano Bar, plus Milwaukee's
oldest German establishment, Mader's Restaurant.
Located directly behind 3rd street is Water
Street, where you will find a mix of frat boys, sorority
girls and Harley riders. Water Street is known in Milwaukee
for having the most bars in the smallest radius. Places
like The Harp, The Lodge, Brothers, and McGulicuddy's should
be popular spots during the Frozen Four. Water Street Brewery
offers a nine-beer sampler platter and good food for the
Right across the street from the arena, you
will run into Turner's and Gametime, both popular spots
for a pre or post-game burger and beer. If you walk toward
downtown, Major Goolsby's is a long-time sports bar favorite
of fans coming from the Bradley Center or U.S. Cellular
Arena, which is across the street from the Bradley Center
and is now home to UW-M basketball.
There are other restaurants and bars downtown
of course. Karl Ratzsch's Restaurant, like Mader's, is a
favorite stop for German food; Calderone's, across the street
from the Hyatt Hotel, serves fine Italian and is a long-time
favorite of pizza expert Jeff Sauer. On Wisconsin Ave.,
Mo's is a great steakhouse, but you may need to borrow George
Gwozdecky's pink tie to get in – it's a little fancy.
The nearby Mo's Irish Bar is not as upscale. The Safehouse,
a spy-themed club, is also worth a stop.
On Milwaukee and State Streets you will find
Cathedral Square, which is surrounded by an array of bars
and restaurants for an older crowd than the one on Water
Street. The young professional group likes Flannery's, a
great Irish Pub, Taylor's, a martini bar which can be swanky
but jeans and hockey sweatshirts still should fit in, and
Eve, an upscale dance club. If you are looking for food
in this area, Mocean's (seafood) and Elsa's (burgers) will
make you happy.
Things to know
Since Milwaukee is a small big city, getting
around is easy. Cab fares are fairly cheap, running at about
$7-10 to get from downtown to the lake. If you so chose
to venture to the east side you will find more nightlife
on the streets of Brady Ave., near Downer, and Lake Ave.
Brady Street offers live music at the Up and
Under, good dancing at Joe Cats and Key West style food
at Bosley. Also conveniently located on the East side is
Lakefront Brewery, which offers a tour for $3 or $5 dollars
on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday afternoon. The tour includes
three beers, a free mug and coupon for Milwaukee's greatest
secret: Wolski's, where you can play darts, spit on the
floor, and drink for a sticker that everyone envies.
If you are into gambling, the Potawatomi Casino,
near the Marquette campus, is always busy.
The Bradley Center raised the bar for hosting
this event in the '90s. Attendance records were set. They
have since fallen to bigger buildings, but everyone remembers
the Milwaukee tournaments with a smile.
This year shouldn't disappoint. For a week
Milwaukee will be a hockey town. You will hear how Milwaukee
University School was the first Milwaukee team to ever to
win the high school state tournament last month. The Badgers
making the tournament will make for a tough ticket and their
fans are always energy-filled and entertaining. The Skills
Challenge, after the Hobey Baker announcement, will add
something unique to Friday's off-day. The flavor and personality
of the city will ensure a good time.
And this tournament offers a guarantee. There
will be a better ending than the last time Milwaukee hosted
a sports event on a national stage, the baseball All Star
Game in 2002. This one won't end in a tie.
Bill Brophy was the radio analyst for
Badger hockey for 12 years. He has covered college hockey
in Duluth and Madison since 1973, five years as a reporter
at the Duluth News-Tribune and as a reporter and
sports editor at the Wisconsin State Journal in
Madison. He is the author of Shot
and a Goal: The Tradition of Wisconsin Badger Hockey.
His youngest daughter, Kelly provided much of the background
for the article as she is a senior, majoring in communications