Each season, the question gets asked: Why isn't there a Big Ten hockey conference?
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State all have Division I teams, but they're split between the Western and Central Collegiate Hockey Associations. Wisconsin is in the WCHA, competing against teams from significantly smaller schools like Alaska-Anchorage, St. Cloud State and Denver University.
Many believe that if one more Big Ten school were to field (ice?) a Division I team, a Big Ten conference could create a compelling schedule. That means Badger hockey fans could root against Michigan four times a year, instead of the single game played during the annual College Hockey Showcase on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Badgers could still play non-conference rivals from the WCHA and CCHA, but would do so much less often. And that's a shame. For instance, the Denver Pioneers, the Badgers' opponents this weekend, have an impressive 11-2-2 record against the Badgers at the Kohl Center. With 29 points, Denver is tied with North Dakota for first in the WCHA, with Wisconsin just one point behind.
And George Gwozdecky, in his 15th season as Denver's coach, played at Wisconsin on the 1977 national championship team. He's led the Pioneers to national championships in 2004 and 2005.
So while Big Ten foes like Michigan might inspire more excitement among casual fans, the rivalry with tiny Denver University is legit and heated.