UW Hockey: Mike Lucas: Greatest college hockey team ever? Celebrating the 1977 hockey Badgers


UWBadgers.com Senior Writer

MADISON, Wis. — As one of the goaltenders on the Greatest College Hockey Team Ever (GCHTE), Julian Baretta answered to "Sieve-y" — a nickname derived from a derisive chant aimed at opposing goalies at the Dane County Coliseum, wore contact lenses (20-400 vision), threw up in the locker room before opening faceoffs and hummed the Beatles song "Penny Lane" to stay focused when the puck was in the other end of the rink.

As the quarterback of the Greatest College Hockey Power Play Ever (GCHPPE), Craig Norwich considered leaving the Wisconsin program over Christmas of his sophomore season because of his inability to communicate with an interim head coach, specialized in free-wheeling rushes up-ice and popularized a fancy pirouette, a 360-degree spin on his skates, leaving forecheckers in his wake.

As the poster boy of the 1977 national championship game, Steve Alley didn't hear coach Bob Johnson's inspirational speech between the third period and overtime because he was in the bathroom, sitting in a stall, giving himself a pep talk and visualizing scoring the game-winning goal. A feat which he ultimately accomplished, leading the Badgers to a 7-6 overtime win over Michigan at Detroit's fabled Olympia.

Forty-years later, Alley, Norwich and Baretta will join many of their former teammates this weekend in Madison to celebrate the 1976-77 season during which the Badgers went 37-7-1 and won the Big Ten, the WCHA and the NCAA championships. Besides making a clean sweep of all the titles, this was a team (GCHTE) that converted on 39 percent of its power plays (GCHPPE), 93 of 238 chances.

"I really think we were the greatest college hockey team in history," Alley said with conviction. "Bob Johnson was not only known for power play hockey and offensive innovation, but we spent more time on defensive coverage and the defensive aspects of the game than we did on the offensive aspects.

"Through and through, we were a 200-foot hockey team. We played in both ends of the rink and we're going to match up with anybody in history on that basis. But the difference maker was the power play. We had the best power play of all-time. No college team ever had a power play like that."

True or false? Best team ever?

"It's in the conversation," said Mark Johnson, the son of Badger Bob.

True or false? Best power play ever?

"It's in the conversation," said Johnson, an integral contributor with the man advantage.

True or false? No one can match Alley's energy and enthusiasm?

"He's always fired up no matter what," said Johnson, laughing.

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