Home in Sweden for the summer, Linus Weissbach watched with interest the toll the coronavirus was taking on North American sports.
There was no guarantee a few months ago that he would have a senior season with the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team start this fall.
At the same time, pro hockey leagues in Europe were getting ready to proceed through the pandemic. Weissbach had the option to turn in that direction, and Badgers coach Tony Granato said he wouldn't have blamed him if he did.
Why did a return to Madison and NCAA hockey win out?
"It was just knowing what I was going to get here," Weissbach said. "And obviously, my last year with school, getting that part done is important, too. I think those two things played a role.
"And I love it here, too. With all the uncertainty in the world and back home, too, I think this was a good place to be."
Part of Weissbach's return to the Badgers is a new role that'll be on display starting Friday against No. 20 Notre Dame.
He has been a regular part of the power play over the last three years but he's due to take over at the point position, where he'll have to see the whole zone and distribute the puck as well as try to get shots through to the net.
That's the role on the top unit that was filled mostly by defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk in the last three seasons. With Kalynuk due to make a run at a spot in the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup this season, the Badgers could be looking at a power play with five forwards on the ice.
From the top of the zone, Weissbach is likely to be looking at leading scorer Cole Caufield on his left side, with Dylan Holloway, Ty Pelton-Byce and Roman Ahcan also as passing options.
"We've got a pretty good power-play line there to start with," Weissbach said. "So trust the guys around me and trust myself that I can be a good player there. Just make sure that decision making is important there too."
Granato wants Weissbach to make sure shooting is a primary option, too.
"I want him to think aggressively as far as being able to deliver the puck to the net," he said. "That's one important component that Wyatt did really well. Because those other options don't open up unless you've got a shooter up top."
Weissbach has been able to open up opportunities with his speed, and the power play quarterback position gives him new avenues there.
He'll be the one going back to his own zone to retrieve the puck and start back up ice. A quick rush is one of the choices he can make, which could make opposing forecheckers back off.
"I've never really played behind the play, looking up the ice like that," Weissbach said. "I've felt in the few practices we've had doing the power play that you see everything ahead of you and you can make a play off that. So if there's a play to make, I'll make it."
After scoring 26 points as a freshman and 25 in an injury-slowed a sophomore season, Weissbach was on pace for a bigger junior campaign last year. Through 15 games, he had 16 points as a part of one of the top two lines.
But he recorded only six points over his last 20 contests, a stretch during which he fell to the fourth line.
"He handled it like you want kids to — to understand and to not be happy about it but also be in a position where, well, there's a reason here that I'm on this side and I'm going to make sure that I'm never on it again," Granato said.
Weissbach said he feels faster and stronger at the start of this season than he has before. It's a big few months not only for Weissbach with the Badgers but for his pro future.
The left wing, a seventh-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2017, made a smart decision to return to North America to play this season in terms of his post-UW career, Granato said.
"I'm going to do everything I can on my end to make sure that he's ready for that opportunity," Granato said. "But it's up to him. And from what I've seen and from what his teammates have seen for the first couple of months since he's been back, he's all in."
An improved season from Weissbach could be a good sign for the Badgers in trying to get above .500 for the first time in four years.
"It's my last year here, so it's a do-or-die situation," he said. "Now with the season coming up, it's all happy feelings. The main thing is you want to be part of a winning team."
Catch up on what you might have missed in the Badgers men's hockey 2020 offseason
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the longest Badgers men's hockey offseason in 51 years. Here's what the State Journal has covered since the 2019-20 season ended.
Alex Turcotte, the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NHL, draft agreed to terms Wednesday with the Los Angeles Kings on an entry-level contract that'll start next season.
Badgers men's hockey sophomore K'Andre Miller signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the New York Rangers that starts next season, capfriendly.com reported on Friday.
The first-round draft pick of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens led the Big Ten in scoring this season.
DSean hooghe had 26 goals and 56 points in 102 career games for the Badgers.
Former Badgers men's hockey center Alex Turcotte signed a pro contract and went to California just as North American sports were being halted because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The New York Rangers and the NHL denounced the directing of racist slurs at K'Andre Miller during a Zoom video chat promoted by the pro team Friday.
The Badgers were one of around 15 teams to contact goalie Robbie Beydoun after he entered the NCAA transfer portal in the days following the end of the season.
De Saint Phalle was a second-team selection, and Stange and Stoever were members of the third team.
Sophomore wing Roman Ahcan, who started his collegiate career as a fourth-line grinder, was second on the team with 14 goals and led the Badgers in plus/minus at plus-7.
Right wing Cole Caufield, who led the league scoring race with 24 points in 24 games, became UW's seventh player to be named the top freshman in either the Big Ten or Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Cole Caufield, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, wants to be counted on for more than his goal-scoring prowess.
Badgers men's hockey captain Wyatt Kalynuk said he'll have a decision in the next 30 days on whether he'll return to the Badgers for his senior season.
Sources said Brad Traviolia, who oversaw men's hockey as part of his responsibilities with the Big Ten since 2015, departed at the end of April.
Ty Emberson, a defenseman who's played two seasons with the Badgers, will have three senior alternate captains with him in the leadership group: forwards Tarek Baker and Ty Pelton-Byce and defenseman Tyler Inamoto.
A Madison native, Andringa was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in December 2017. He stopped chemotherapy treatment in early May.
A Madison native, Andringa was remembered as an incredible athlete but gained friendship, those close to him said, for a selfless nature and an infectious personality.
No-shows — the percentage of tickets that were distributed but unused — have been trending higher over the 14 seasons covered by available data.
K'Andre Miller said it took months to "find the words to express my frustration and anger" over being subjected to racist slurs in an online chat.
Previously, college games tied after 60 minutes went to a five-minute, sudden-death overtime of 5-on-5 play.
Luneau made a non-binding oral commitment to play for the Badgers starting in 2022 but reportedly signed with a QMJHL team Friday after being drafted.
A UW spokesman said Thursday that all 14 of the coaches whose contracts are typically considered by the Athletic Board in spring meetings were extended by a year.
The Badgers now are scheduled to open against Michigan Tech at the Kohl Center.
Of 16 former Badgers players who skated at the NHL level in the 2019-20 regular season, 12 were on rosters for camps ahead of the Aug. 1 return to play.
The Philadelphia Flyers goalie is one of 12 former Badgers players who'll chase the Stanley Cup amid restrictions to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The event traditionally serves as an evaluation for the World Junior Championship that starts in December.
Former Badgers men's hockey captain Wyatt Kalynuk has signed a two-year contract with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks that carries a $925,000 average annual salary at the NHL level.
Madison native Mick Messner plans to continue his hockey career at Merrimack after departing the University of Wisconsin through the NCAA transfer portal.
Since returning to campus this summer and starting to undergo testing for the coronavirus, Badgers men's hockey players have started conditioning and weight training regimens.
The move continues a tumultuous period at what historically has been a position of strength for the Badgers.
The Eagle River native is about to enter his second season with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
College teams were able to make scholarship offers to the left-handed defenseman starting Aug. 1, and Jugnauth picked the Badgers less than two weeks later.
Pavelski, already the NHL playoff goal-scoring leader among former Badgers players, recorded a hat trick with his third goal of the game with 11.9 seconds left Sunday to force overtime.
Ramsey said he also had heard from New Hampshire, Colorado College and Denver this month but UW made the only offer so far.
Fink is going to camp with the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Brooks Bandits in September but also could play another season with the Northern Alberta X-treme in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
While the Division I men's committee opted to give teams only a mild amount of credit for an overtime victory, women's and Division III levels will go heavier.
Coach Tony Granato said there's good reason for his team to take a patient approach to both the start of practice and the wait for a clear direction on when the season will begin amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Football and men's hockey are the only two sports pausing activities due to test results, per a UW official.
Granato said he couldn't confirm how many members of the Badgers men's hockey team had tested positive for COVID-19 but said there was a "spike, just like what's going on in our community."
The 83 athletes who have tested positive represent more than 11% of Badgers athletes on campus.
Granato joined Jerry York, Dean Blais and Jenny Potter in the Class of 2020.
"You don't think of things that you did," Tony Granato said. "You think of the people that were around you that helped you have so much fun in the game of hockey."
Joe Pavelski's Dallas Stars and Ryan McDonagh's Tampa Bay Lightning have made it through the bubble to the NHL championship series.
Cole Caufield said in March that he would return for a second season with the Badgers, but the start of the NCAA schedule has been delayed.
Former Badger Ryan McDonagh's Tampa Bay Lightning won the NHL championship by defeating the Dallas Stars on Monday.
Sophomores Cole Caufield, Owen Lindmark and freshman Sam Stange will take part in the event to help select the team for the World Junior Championship.
Cole Caufield led the Badgers in scoring last season and should be a focal point of the team's offense in a delayed 2020-21 campaign.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes in the locker room layout, how many players are there at the same time and will make for new travel plans.
He won't be heading onto the stage as a first-round pick but Holloway will get to experience the event with his family.
It was the third straight season that a Badgers men's hockey player has been selected in the first round of the NHL draft, a feat that had never happened before.
The Badgers men's hockey season will open as soon as Nov. 13, a delay of about six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also include four non-conference games against Arizona State.
Forward Sam Stange's selection made it 23 straight years that the Badgers have had a player picked on the second day of the draft.
Mike Emrick announced his retirement from a Hall of Fame play-by-play career after calling more than 3,750 pro and Olympic hockey games.
Hockey Canada is considering bringing its prospects to Alberta for a camp that could start before the Badgers are scheduled to open their season, according to a report.
The Badgers men's hockey team will join the women's hockey team in playing home games in the 8-year-old venue adjacent to the Kohl Center.
Defenseman Corson Ceulemans got an "A" grade from NHL Central Scouting.
The first national rankings of the NCAA men's hockey season are out, and the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team has work to do to impre…
Holloway's sophomore season with the Badgers is on track to begin Nov. 13. Canada's selection camp opens Nov. 16.
Having a start date to look forward to has reinvigorated defenseman Anthony Kehrer and his UW teammates.
In this Series
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