From T.I. to T-Swift: UW players select pregame, locker room soundtrack

The Wisconsin players are tasked with picking the pregame soundtrack that plays in the Kohl Center prior to puck drop. The players really enjoy the opportunity to hear the songs they pick on the ice during gamedays.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger and Laura Mahoney

In its two years under head coach Tony Granato, Wisconsin has been focused on building an identity for its program. Granato has instilled an identity of confidence and determination — but, mostly, over the last two seasons, Wisconsin has prided itself on forming its identity of unity.

On the ice, the Badgers discuss playing as a “unit of five;” similarly, off the ice, the Wisconsin players spend a significant amount of time together gelling as teammates and friends. This drive for unity is present in everything that the Badgers do — including the little-known task of picking the pregame music that is played in the Kohl Center.

It is a less advertised job, but the Badgers’ players are actually responsible for picking the music that is played at home games while the team is warming up on the ice prior to puck drop. According to captain Cameron Hughes, this has been something the team has done in the past, but this season, more than in recent years, picking the music has been a collaborative and unified effort.

“We left it up to everybody. We keep all the suggestions and put them together, and I think we have a pretty good mix,” Hughes said. “This year we definitely made it more like everybody had a say. Together we made a detailed list for the people in the arena that play the music.”

The process for which the team picks its pregame music is involved and complex. According to various players, it took a significant amount of time before the season actually started to iron out what music would be played. The seniors and upperclassmen had the initial input, and then, once they gave their suggestions, the rest of the team had the chance to propose other music and comment on what the upperclassmen thought should go on the playlist.

“We played some songs in the locker room to see how they would sound, and then everyone got a chance to write in our group team message and give options for songs,” senior Ryan Wagner said. “Some guys are throwing in stuff that couldn’t be up there just to be funny, so it’s all good fun picking the music.”

“It’s a seniority thing. The seniors all get their say, then if all the seniors have listed songs then juniors get to go,” junior Will Johnson said. “There’s a couple guys that take full control though.”

Evidently, one of those guys that took control over this task was Hughes. Although he said it was “maybe not” his most important captain responsibility, he thinks picking the music is actually a genuinely important task that deserves serious forethought and attention.

“It’s what you’re listening to 15 minutes before you’re playing so it’s pretty crucial,” Hughes said non-sarcastically. “Thankfully I think we have some good songs on there.”

Many other Wisconsin players share Hughes’ sentiment regarding the importance of music. The Badgers don’t stop listening to music after warmups, as they play music (although, it is predominantly different, less family-friendly music) in the locker room at both practice and once they arrive to the rink before games.

“We play music before games and then the music will stop after on-ice warmups,” Wagner said. “But during practice I will go back in the locker room and music will always be bumping.”

Although Hughes headlined the effort to construct pregame Kohl Center music playlist, junior Matthew Freytag is always the first person to hook himself up to the speaker in the locker room — even if his selections are sometimes unpopular.

“Freytag is our locker room music guy,” Johnson said. “He loves his little wacky music. He’ll play some T-Swift or something like that. It’s pretty funny.”

Although the pregame and locker room music is largely a team effort, the song choices are not, however, exclusively harmonious. Some members of the team don’t always like what others — often Freytag — pick and have to find a way to get them to change whatever unpopular song is being played.

“Sometimes whoever has the music, we will kind of just look at him until he realizes what’s playing,” Wagner said.

“Usually the mood just all of the sudden drops,” Johnson added. “Everyone just kind of looks and says, ‘alright, let’s go, switch it up.’ So that’s always funny.”

The biggest conflict in the locker room, though, is the persistent rap versus country debate, which has been an ongoing issue over the last couple of years.

“[Grant] Besse last year, whenever he took control, country was the only thing that he played,” Johnson said. “Freytag was rap and upbeat stuff. That’s always been the biggest disagreement.”

Still, despite the conflicts that arise from picking the music that gets played in the locker room and Kohl Center, various players agree that getting to choose the pregame music is a largely appreciated responsibility. The Badgers take pride in getting to play their music — especially one of their pregame favorites, “Hypnotize” — when they are on the ice just before puck drop.

“It’s actually great. Coming from junior hockey where they just pick stuff that they think the crowd will want to hear, it’s kind of fun to have it where every song that comes on is something that we picked and selected,” Johnson said. “It really is fun to do that. Everyone has a great time with it.”

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