By Derrick Zimmerman
The skates are laced, the sticks freshly taped and a smooth surface of ice waiting. Hockey season is here.
Even though Wisconsin doesn’t have a National Hockey League team, there is no shortage of quality hockey to watch this winter. We’ve highlighted some great spots to grab a bite to eat and watch an action-packed game.
American Hockey League
The Milwaukee Admirals are affiliated with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, so you’ll see many up-and-coming stars battling to get called up from the American Hockey League to the Music City. Admirals’ games make for great on-ice entertainment, and families will love their mascot, a pirate pooch named Roscoe. Notable Admirals alumni include Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne and Kimmo Timonen.
Eat Here: Head over to one of Milwaukee’s favorite sports bars, Major Goolsby’s, for a couple drinks and the “World Famous” Major Cheeseburger, which has been voted Milwaukee’s finest and will fill you up before some hard-hitting Admirals hockey at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
NCAA Division I
The University of Wisconsin has a rich history of hockey success, with the men’s team winning six national championships and the women’s team winning four. It’s hard to beat the rowdy atmosphere and rousing UW band performances.
United States Hockey League
The Madison Capitols are a relatively new franchise in the United States Hockey League, a Tier I Junior League that provides opportunities for players ages 15 to 20 to develop their hockey careers toward either a college program or professional opportunity. These incredible young athletes leave it all on the ice every single game.
Eat Here: Make your way downtown to The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company. The delicious food, craft beers, pool tables, darts and plenty of TVs make this a terrific choice before heading to the Kohl Center or LaBahn Arena to chant “sieve” at UW’s opposing goalie or watching the opening face-off at the Alliant Energy Center for a Capitols game.
Also members of the United States Hockey League, the Green Bay Gamblers have been lighting the lamps at the Resch Center since 1994. From the antics of mascot Ace the bobcat to activities on family nights, Gamblers games are always a great choice for winter entertainment. They’re no strangers to success, as the Gamblers have hoisted the Clark Cup four times, most recently in 2012, and alumni Matt Greene won a Stanley Cup with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.
Eat Here: Spice up your evening before seeing the puck drop and swing by Margarita’s for some authentic Mexican cuisine and more than 50 varieties of margaritas. From delicious classic tamales to modern twists like barbecue chicken bacon quesadillas, this spot is worth a stop.
North American Hockey League
One step below the USHL is the Tier II North American Hockey League, the largest junior hockey league in the United States. While the skills at this level may not be as polished as other leagues, you’ll still see spectacular hockey players grinding out each and every shift, providing plenty of jolting hits and deadly dangles. You can catch some USHL action by cheering on the Janesville Jets at the Janesville Ice Arena, or the Coulee Region Chill at the Onalaska OmniCenter.
Eat Here: Craving some barbecue? Whiskey Ranch Bar & Grill in Janesville serves up delicious barbecue classics with a southern rock atmosphere makes for an appetizing pregame meal before watching the Jets hit the ice.
Eat Here: Drop in to Blue Moon Restaurant in Onalaska before you check out the Coulee Region Chill at the OmniCenter and enjoy the sunset over Lake Onalaska as you indulge in a classic Wisconsin fish fry.
Maybe you prefer the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field? Check out these ideas to get pumped for the Packers.