Hockey has come a long way in Sauk County

By Jim den Hollander
This has been a bit of a weird hockey season for this writer due to real life issues away from the rink.
But I was at some games last week that made me realize just how far the sport as come locally.
Shortly after moving to this area in 2000, I became an assistant coach with the then Dells/Delton Blades, helping on a squirt team.

We didn’t win a lot of games that season, but there are some happy memories. One thing I remember was early in the season, the parents decided to meet at the Lake Delton Ice Arena to head out together for a road game. I remember arriving at the arena at around noon on a Saturday and being shocked that it was closed.
At that time, the locals had been skating indoors for just a few seasons and there was still an outdoor rink in Mauston. The craziest of the league teams we played was West Salem where they had a sort of mix. There was a roof and two walls with the other two walls yet to come. The sun would shine in on one side and I remember seeing kids skate over the blue line and just disappear into shadows.

Reedsburg and Baraboo both had varsity hockey teams and Wisconsin Dells had a high school club team, coached by Mike Kaminsky.

I remember that first season, some of our kids missed practices or games because of basketball commitments. It was tough to keep most youngsters involved in hockey then it seemed.

Fast forward to last week. On the Thursday night I went to the Lake Delton Ice Arena jammed with students and fans for the RWD vs. Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds game. I left after the first period to travel to Sauk Prairie and arrived there in time for the third period of the Eagles’ game against the Madison Edgewood Crusaders.

Both games were played in packed arenas, and it made me realize that hockey has more than a foothold in Sauk County now. It is a legit popular sport with a loyal following. This week I went to Pierce Park Pavilion to watch the Badger Lightning taking on Beaver Dam.

They were celebrating local female youth players that night and between periods, the warm room was full of players wearing RWD, Sauk Monkeys and Lake City Whitecaps jerseys.

I started to promote the sport locally. It looks like the sport is already in good shape here. Now, let’s go win some state titles.