Best year ever for Eau Claire hockey helped out by city council - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Best year ever for Eau Claire hockey helped out by city council


Eau Claire (WQOW)- If Eau Claire has a goal to become Wisconsin's hockey city, it may be on its way.  What a year for hockey in Eau Claire.  The Blugolds took home the school's first national championship, the Eau Claire Memorial Old Abes won their second state title in school history, and three youth teams were crowned state champs.  A decision by the city in recent years is helping make Eau Claire a hockey hotbed.

The UW-Eau Claire Blugolds defeated St. Norbert's to make their first ever Frozen Four appearance in Men's Division III Hockey; an appearance they capped off with a national championship victory on Saturday.

Earlier in March, Memorial's 6 to 1 victory over Verona gave the Old Abes their second state championship in school history.  An important decision by the city may have paved the way for both teams' success.

Back in 2009, the Eau Claire City Council had a difficult decision to make: spend more than $5 million to renovate Hobbs Ice Arena or spend that money somewhere else.

"I think it was just that there was a lot of money and that the payback plan just didn't really look like it was going to happen," explains Eau Claire City Council Member Dave Duax.

At that time, Duax voted against the renovations.  The majority of the council supported them.  So the work went ahead.  It included adding another sheet of ice, more light, expanding the capacity, and a new scoreboard.

"The renovation has created a nicer atmosphere, a nicer building and people could come and enjoy themselves at Hobbs Ice Center," points out UW-Eau Claire Head Coach Matt Loen.

Hockey was already popular in Eau Claire.  The concern was that it wouldn't go to the next level to provide a return on the investment.

But if you've seen some of the crowds this year, that concern received a game misconduct and left the building for good; something even those who used to be skeptics would agree with.

"I'm from Missouri," Duax laughs.  "You have to show me and I think this is a case where they've really show me that they can do it."

"Now you can honestly say it was a good investment.  It was a good decision.  And I think the community has come out in full force and supported that," says Hobbs Ice Center Manager Stu Taylor.

UW-Eau Claire is already out recruiting for next year, but is two weeks behind where it normally would be because of the Blugolds' postseason run.  However, nothing says sorry for calling so late like a national championship trophy.

Many of the players on the UW-Eau Claire team played hockey right here growing up.  A few other Eau Claire natives like Jefferson Dahl and Jake McCabe will try to win their own national championship this year for the Badgers.

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