If you didn't see a Wisconsin men's hockey team in the last four years, you really missed out on something special.
No, I'm not talking about the fact that the Badgers have re-emerged as one of the best teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Special as that transition has been, it has been even more special to watch goalie Bernd Br??ckler, whose name has now been added as one of the greatest players ever to have worn the cardinal and white.
Let me preface with a few names and numbers.
Curtis Joseph-He boasts a 396-289-90 record with a 2.75 goals against average in 15 NHL seasons. Joseph also leads the Badgers in career save percentage with a .919 mark and the second-lowest GAA in a career at 2.49.
Mike Richter-This netminder is the New York Rangers' all-time wins leader and has a career record of 301-258-73 in 14 seasons with the Rangers. He won a Stanley Cup and has represented the United States in many international events, including the Olympic Games.
These are a couple of great r??sum??s, and I haven't even mentioned Marc Behrend, Graham Melanson and others. The list of great UW goaltenders goes on and on.
Br??ckler has definitely etched his name into the UW record book over the past three years.
He leaves UW first in career goals against average, allowing 2.48 goals per game over his four-year career to go along with his single-season record of 2.09 that he set last season. He finished second behind only Joseph in career save percentage at .916 to go along with his single-season record, set last year, of .924. He's also third with eight career shutouts.
But numbers and statistics are the last thing Br??ckler thinks about. He's just happy to have played for Wisconsin, and the Badgers are happy to have had him playing behind them, because his contributions to the program stretch much further than the record book.
If you want to see the impact he had on the program, just look at the Badgers' record his sophomore season when he split time with Scott Kabotoff, and his junior and senior seasons when he put the Badger team on his back and carried them to the NCAA tournament.
No disrespect to Badger head coach Mike Eaves and his staff, but Br??ckler deserves just as much credit for a quick turnaround as they do. I have no doubt that they could have accomplished this success without him, but there is no way it would have happened this quickly.
While his accolades would be enough for him to be a little cocky at times, Br??ckler might be the most humble athlete I've ever had the chance to talk to.
Perhaps his defining moment came after the first playoff game against Anchorage this year. It was the first time he had ever been pulled from a game, but obviously that was not the defining moment...that came after the game.
While most athletes would have dodged postgame interviewers after one of their worst outings, Br??ckler came out and answered every question with dignity.
His actions should be an example to all athletes and admired by everyone. He didn't get a big head during big winning streaks, he just got back on the ice and worked harder. He didn't hang his head when things weren't going his way, he just got back on the ice and practiced harder. He didn't take playing for a major collegiate program lightly; rather, he relished it.
While other good goalies will come the Badgers' way-perhaps Brian Elliott-Br??ckler will not be easily forgotten. Sure, his name will show up numerous times in the record book. But more importantly, the example he set will linger in the Badgers' heads, and hopefully will be passed down to future Badgers.
There are many reasons I hope the NHL returns as quickly as possible, but one of them is that I hope to see yet another Badger goalie become a force at the next level.
Eric is a junior planning to major in history. Send him your thoughts on Br??ckler to email@example.com