Destination: Madison, Wisconsin
by Damien Goddard/Columnist
Every now and then, Mr. Goddard and his merry band of Denver-loving brothers (and sisters) puts himself in the penalty box, and tells us his tales from the road. — ed.
(Authors Note: I'd like to apologize for the length of this article, but certain Denver fans, who couldn't get permission from their spouses to go to Madison, are "Badgering" me for EVERY detail from this weekend. It's sad really to think that their lives have been reduced to this.)
Last weekend, four DU fans embarked on a journey to find the perfect Bratwurst. Oh yeah, the DU hockey team happened to be in Wisconsin the same weekend.
Chicago 2 PM (Friday) - Hertz Car Rental in Chicago. The "gang" arrives on schedule. Brad from L.A., Kent and Todd from Denver, and yours truly from Texas. We have five hours 'til faceoff. Plenty of time to get to Madison and down a few pre-game brats & beers. The SUV has a DVD player and "DU's Championship Run 2004-05" is whirling away.
Chicago 2:05 PM - Traffic in Chicago has not moved an inch in over 5 minutes as we attempt to get on I-90. We decide to drive via Milwaukee, despite the longer distance, at least we're moving.
Somewhere South of Milwaukee 4 PM - The traffic slows to a crawl and the next 50 miles takes two hours. Still no brat stands on the side of the freeway. What kind of a state is Wisconsin?
Brookfield, Wis., 4:30 PM - Now it starts sleeting, we're an hour and a half behind schedule and faster than you can say: "Snow blindness and pitch dark at 4:30 in the afternoon" it starts snowing.
Between Brookfield & Madison 5:30 PM - We're crawling along at 20 MPH, it's snowing like crazy and it's looking doubtful for making the game on time. The 140 mile trip will exceed 5 hours.
Brad: (helpfully mentions) "Next time let's pay the extra $50 and fly directly into Madison or Milwaukee."
dg: "Man Law"
The Gang: "Man Law"
Did I mention it's cold? It turns out that over 50 cars crash on and off the freeway that night. Cars have run into freeway signs, each other and are stuck in the mud. It's the first snowfall of the season.
Kohl Center 7:30 PM - We arrive in our seats with five minutes remaining in the first period. Luckily it's still 0-0. That's the great thing about watching the Badgers and Brian Elliott. You can miss the whole first period and you'll never miss a goal.
Kohl Center 7:35 - Bucky Badger's crack security staff is on to us from the get go. Kent's Cow Bell has been confiscated within five minutes and a Boone poster was denied admission because "he didn't have a ticket." And we thought Magness security was tight. Sheesh.
The Wisconsin Student Section is fantastic. They bump and grind, sing along with the band, and dance in sync. However, it's not really intimidating. It's more like watching a Broadway production with catchy show tunes (think 'Guys & Dolls' or 'Cats'). DU goaltender Glenn Fisher only has two career shutouts and both of them are in Kohl Center. Glenn apparently likes show tunes.
1st Intermission Kohl Center - Brad and I can't wait to have a brat, so we have one at the Kohl Center. They're not bad, but we didn't come a thousand miles for this. Brad orders a second brat. They're served on a hot dog bun, which I've learned from my pre-trip research is immoral.
Kohl Center 9:30 PM - It's the 3rd Period and Mike Handza scores on a rebound off Elliott. What's the biggest mortal lock in college hockey? A one-goal lead over the Badgers. Their offense is terrible and DU's defensemen and forwards have blocked 22 shots. Game over and DU eventually wins 2-0.
State Street, Madison 10 PM - We agree on dinner at Gino's Italian Restaurant on State Street. No brats dang it, but we're starving. At Gino's we have a real sassy waitress from Kosovo named Emma. Since she's from a war-torn country, I leave her an extra large tip. She's sexy in a "War-torn-refugee-kind-of-way."
dg: "When you hit 40 years old, any waitress that sort-of-kind-of flirts with you automatically gets a 30 percent tip."
The Gang: "Man Law"
Somewhere off State Street, Midnight - We're trying to get back to our car, but it's so bitterly cold that we seek refuge in bars every four blocks to "warm up." This is how we end up at the Doubletree's "Badgerland Bar."
Church Key Bar on State Street 1 AM - Somehow we end up back on State Street with some young UW students as tour guides. The Church Key Bar looks sort of like a Church, except that the drunk parishioners keep flipping off fans in Denver jerseys. A student challenges me to a beer chugging contest. The same thing happened to Clint Eastwood, every time he rolled into a new town. Some young gunslinger would challenge him. I tell the kid he's not ready, hoping he'll go away. Not to be denied, he steps up the banter and inevitable happens. The kids loses and he has an incredulous look on his face. "I've never lost before," he stammers and he looks hurt. I'm thinking it's a good thing he wasn't a gunslinger or he'd be boots up on State Street right now.
Saturday Noon - State Street Brats has come highly recommended, so we head there to watch the Badger football game. Surprisingly most of the older Wisconsin fans aren't eating the brats. I ask one guy why and he says, "Triple Bypass" and points to his heart. He sadly looks at my brat, literally oozing with mustard, onions and fixins. Turns out the guy's name is Bill and although he can't eat brats because of his heart condition, he's got a ton of funny stories about Wisconsinites. He claims that people in Northern Wisconsin "eat so many brats that the only vegetables they eat in the winter are ketchup and pickles." Scurvy must be a big problem in Wisconsin. Bill gets so excited when the Badger football team scores a touchdown, he spills his beer all over the table. I'm wondering what his heart surgeon had to say about alcohol.
Saturday 2:30 PM - I stagger down State Street because I'm so full of brats. I've eaten three brats and I'm trying to figure out how Kobayashi eats 56 hot dogs at Nathan's.
Saturday 5 PM - Pre-game is at a restaurant/bar named Nitty Gritty, which is a Madison institution. It's packed to the gills and there has to be 500-plus people jammed in there. It's a sea of red as Badger fans binge drink cocktails before the game.
Kohl Center - DU and Wisconsin battle for almost 65 minutes and DU wins on a miracle shot with 14 seconds left in overtime. This means two things, DU improves to 11-1-2 all-time in the Kohl Center, and we're going to be showered with obscenities as we walk down State Street tonight.
Dinner @ Ginos 10 PM - Over dinner, I offer to buy the Kohl Center and UW Student Section for $120 million from the University of Wisconsin. To me it seems like a no-brainer. DU finally gets home-ice advantage deserve, Wisconsin moves back into Dane County Coliseum where it was unbeatable, and Madison gets 3,000 drunks off the streets. I'm still waiting to hear back from the UW Board of Regents.
Sunday 10 PM - Somehow I made it home after spending half the day at O'Hare Airport. DU won't be playing in Madison next season due to the WCHA schedule rotation. This means two things: DU will have two less victories next season and it will be at least two years before I have another good bratwurst.