Sunday night’s second-last episode of AMC’s acclaimed Breaking Bad featured a bit of UW-Madison hockey history, which attracted the attention of a lot of hockey fans. Near the end of the episode, when Walt is in the bar in New Hampshire, dejected and demoralized, there’s a hockey game on the TV in the bar.
I tried to listen to both the soundtrack of the show, and the soundtrack-within-the-soundtrack of the hockey game on TV, because I suspected it might just be a Wisconsin hockey game. But I couldn’t tell for sure. A lot of hockey fans with ears more keen than mine figured out right away that it was a Badgers hockey game, and the backstory – as reported in the Cap Times this morning by Rob Thomas – is a fascinating tale.
Rob’s article points out that Wisconsin Public TV has a huge archive of old Badgers hockey games, and that there’s a clip of a UW vs. Minnesota hockey game fairly early in the great flic “Fargo” (which I noticed the first time I saw the movie, because I immediately recognized my friend Paul Braun’s voice doing play-by-play of the game), and more recently, there’s a UW hockey clip in Clint Eastwood’s baseball movie “Trouble With The Curve”, which I also picked out the first time I saw that flic.
But the hockey clip in the bar scene in Breaking Bad kept me wondering, and yesterday several stories about it appeared on social media, pointing out that it was indeed a UW hockey game. Sports Illustrated writer Sam Page did the hard work and narrowed it down to a game between UW and Denver University on February 13th, 1998 at the Great Dane (Dane County Coliseum).
I remember that game very well, even though it was 15 years ago. The Badgers were trailing Denver 3-1 with about 7 minutes left in the 3rd period, but they came back to score SIX goals and win the game 7-4, which is one of the greatest comeback stories in UW athletic history.
My wife and I were at that game.
We were Badger hockey season ticket holders, and back then we had “Friday night tickets”. Most WCHA hockey matches are a two-game weekend series, with the first game Friday night and the second game Saturday night - and it’s the same this coming season with the new Big Ten Hockey League debut. The UW Athletic Department splits season tickets into Friday night season tickets and Saturday night season tickets. Toni and I had Friday night tickets, and we went to every home game.
I also remember the game because somewhere in my vast collection of VHS videotapes (just dying to be converted to digital files and burned to DVD) there’s a clip of Channel 3’s coverage of that game. Back in those days my friend Eric Franke was a sports reporter - not at all like the highly distinguished news anchor he’s become. In his report on the amazing comeback, he used a bit of videotape (which the TV folks call a “cutaway” or “B-roll”) that showed Toni and me jumping up and down cheering one of the six comeback goals (yes, back then I could actually jump, even though my hip replacement was 3 years in the future at that time). Eric said something like “and there’s News 3’s Assignments Manager, Toni Morrissey and her husband Tim, cheering on the Badgers”.
One of these days, I’ve gotta find that clip in my videotape collection.
Just as the size of the fish grows each time the fisherman tells the story about catching “the big one”, I’m pretty sure I can continue to morph the story of that tiny bit of videotape into a tale about how Toni and I were guest stars on Breaking Bad.
Of course, about 10,229 other UW hockey fans can make the claim, too…..but I’ve got the videotape!