Most of the UW-Madison graduates who accepted their diplomas at the Kohl Center last weekend weren't born yet when Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios led the Badgers to the 1983 NCAA hockey championship.
Chelios is now finishing his 25th season in the NHL, the longest career of any American-born player, and is stalking his fourth Stanley Cup. He has a diminished role this season, appearing in just four of 12 playoff games for the Red Wings. Coincidentally, those appearances have been due to injuries suffered by fellow Badger alum Brian Rafalski, a nine-year NHL vet who also has his name engraved three times on the Cup. Rafalski played in Madison from 1991 to '95.
Chelios, Rafalski and the Wings are facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL's Western Conference Finals this week. Fans here might be torn, as Chicago's roster includes Madison native Adam Burish, who played for the Badgers from 2002 to '06.
Burish has notched three goals and two assists in the playoffs so far, and this Sunday became a YouTube star when teammate Ben Eager was upended along the boards and his skate blade grazed Burish's neck. Burish credited his playoff beard - superstitious hockey players traditionally don't shave during the playoffs - for providing some "extra padding."
Few events in sports are as exciting as playoff hockey, particularly during sudden-death overtime. And thanks to high-definition, wide-screen televisions, it's easier than ever for novice viewers to follow the action. The Hawks and Wings next face off Friday, May 22, at 7 p.m., on the Versus network. Sunday's tilt will be on NBC at 2 p.m.