SCHMIDT: Milwaukee hockey remains on ice

I don’t pretend to know much about hockey. To the best of my knowledge, Super Mario is a mustachioed video game character and icing is what goes on a cake.

But you don’t have to be Al Michaels to know that USA’s heart-stopping win over Canada was a miracle on ice. It wasn’t exactly Lake Placid all over again, but many are calling the 5-3 shocker over the Canadian juggernaut the second biggest upset in USA hockey history. That’s historic stuff.

So it’s no surprise that the hockey virus is sweeping the country faster than swine flu. Here at Marquette, the quest for gold has become the talk of the campus. Murmurs about Patrick Kane’s mouthpiece and Ryan Miller’s brick wall impersonation fill the streets and classrooms. Wednesday, there was a gang of students watching the USA semifinal game on a laptop while eating at the AMU. It’s getting contagious.

As the all-knowing Christopher Walken would say, “I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more hockey!”

Except here in Milwaukee, a remedy is hard to come by. There’s no Marquette team — no Division 1 team at all, actually — and no NHL team. There’s nothing for these hockey-starved citizens to get their fix, unless you count the AAA Milwaukee Admirals, whose games are fun and exciting to watch but relatively shallow in the talent department.  Trying to replace an NHL team with the AHL is like telling a Packer fan to go watch his buddies play a game of Madden and pray for mini-camp to get here.

This dilemma certainly is a head scratcher. Spring break destinations like Tampa Bay and Los Angeles have hockey teams, but Wisconsin — a state known for its frozen tundra and temperatures that make Santa Claus shiver — is left out in the cold? Holy zamboni, we’ve got a problem.

“It’s crazy that hockey isn’t bigger in Wisconsin,” Admiral’s play-by-play announcer Aaron Sims said. “I don’t think hockey gets the credit it deserves in terms of excitement and bringing in money.”

Money. That’s the culprit right there. Especially in this economy, it would be close to impossible to magically conjure up a professional hockey team. The dollar signs that are poured into starting and maintaining an NHL team could make Oprah blush. According to Marquette’s Director of Athletics, Steve Cottingham, the NHL is the most expensive professional sports league to run. And that’s exactly why students shouldn’t expect a varsity hockey squad at Marquette in their lifetime.

“I would love to see Marquette get a team. Anything to grow the sport,” Sims said. “I think that a Division 1 team in Milwaukee would create such a vibe. But I don’t think the market could bare an NHL or D1 team right now.”

It’s sad that the only thing separating Milwaukee from a beloved hockey team to call its own is someone’s depleted pocket book, because it seems the interest is there. After all, the Bradley Center was originally built with the intention of housing an NHL team. Internal problems and a pestering owner from Chicago halted those plans, but hey, at least they tried.

That was over 20 years ago. At some point, this city needs to start clamoring for a second effort. With team USA rolling through opponents like a runaway semi and the excitement level about hockey at an all-time high, now would seem to be as good a time as ever.

It should be noted that the Black Death claimed about 100 million victims in the 1300s. In 2010, expect hockey fever to claim a whole lot more. You’ve been warned.