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January 9, 2015

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Page12 POST-GAZE'r'rE, JANUARY 9, 2015 ~k HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss As I gear up to write for the upcoming year, I thought I would give you a look at some of the people, places, and fights I am working on writing about in the coming year. This is just a sampling of the many subjects I want to comment on as we go through 2015. What's Coming Up A Preview in Photos When I first began writing this column I thought I would run out of things to write about. It turns out that box- ing supplies me with an end- less supply of ideas. This, coupled with my own memo- ries, assures me that I will not be lacking material. I will be doing more inter- views this year, and I am excited about the conversa- tions I will be having with so many interesting people. There is no lack of great sto- ries in the world of boxing I am not captioning these photos as I thought it would be fun to see how many you recognize. Enjoy! THE REALLY BIG TRANSAC- TION -- While the recent trade of Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks made head- lines not only here but throughout the NBA, things were brought into perspec- tive for us recently as we were returning from our annual Christmas trip to Wisconsin. As we drove through the Cleveland area we tuned in to one of the local sports talk radio programs -- one of the biggest in the Cleveland mar- ket. The topic under discus- sion was not how LeBron James returned to the Cava- liers but rather something from another sport. The host mentioned that the particular transaction he was thinking about was one that had occurred some 95 years earlier -- when Babe Ruth was sent from the Red Sox to the Yankees on January 5, 1920. Think about that. All the time that has passed and people are still talking about that deal. In all the deals that have been done in sports over the past century, how many are still well-remembered and discussed decades later? Really only one. And that sin- gular transaction continues to spark debate today. With that in mind, we won- der how many people nearly a century from now will remember any trade involv- ing any professional athlete from our own time. We think the chances are slim to none, don't you? YOU THINK WE'VE GOT IT TOUGH AROUND HERE? -- Some people may think that given that both the Bruins and Celtics are both experi- encing seasons that are departures from their respec- tive successes of a few years ago we are going through some hard times. However, given the fact the both the NHL and the NBA have quite generous playoff configurations -- each league takes eight teams from each conference -- there's still a chance that both franchises will make the playoffs. The Bruins have been stuck in ninth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference for a while now but could easily move up to eighth or seventh with a few victories. And the Celtics, though they have been playing below .400 for most of the season, are still within range of a playoff berth in the NBA's weak Eastern Conference. All they need to do is get above .400 -- they were at .375 dur- ing the first week of the New Year -- and they very well may qualify for the playoffs. But whether they do or not, one thing that has not changed is fan support. Both teams draw impressive crowds to the Garden, despite not having the success that they have had in the past. We say that because while we were in Wisconsin, we winced when we read how a once proud college hockey program has fallen on hard times. That would be the Uni- versity of Wisconsin's men's team. The Badgers are in the midst of one of the worst sea- sons in recent memory, sport- ing a very depressing 2-11-1 record as of early January. Their pre-Christmas record of 2- 10-1 was the worst in Division 1 and was the result of the program's worst start in history -- an historic eight- game losing streak to open the season. The downfall has come quickly since the team won the last Western Conference Hockey Association Champi- onship in 2013 and then won the inaugural Big 10 Cham- pionship just last year. That was then and this is now. And now means that veteran coach Mike Eaves, in his 13th season behind the Badger bench, is having to play 10 freshmen after graduation and defections to the pros took their toll on the program. Not only that but one of the freshmen Eaves was count- ing on abruptly quit the team during the Christmas break and a top recruit that had ver- bally committed to Wisconsin for next season had second thoughts and backed away. All these scenarios might be acceptable as part of the cycle of college athletic life except for one thing -- the fans are voting with their feet. According to an article in the Wisconsin State Joumal, some 4,300 season ticket holders have opted not to renew seeing that the Badgers have not won a national championship since 2010. That includes almost 1,500 who have departed over the past two seasons. Where are the fans going? Some are probably still com- ing to the same building -- to see the Wisconsin men's bas- ketball team, which has been built into a national power- house by Head Coach Bo Ryan. Wisconsin Athletic Direc- tor Barry Alvarez says that he has "complete confidence" in Eaves. Still, if a change were to come, one of the prime candidates might already be employed by the Wisconsin Athletic Department. That would be Wisconsin's women's hockey Coach Mark Johnson. Over the course of 12 sea- sons, his teams have won four NCAA National champi- onships. He has a winning percentage of over .800, is a 1994 graduate of Wisconsin and was a member of one of the most famous hockey teams in history -- the 1980 Olympic team that won the gold medal at Lake Placid by defeating the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice" semi- final game and then going on to beat Finland in the cham- pionship final. He also is the son of former legendary Wisconsin Coach "Badger Bob" Johnson, who coined the phrase "It's a Great Day for Hockey." That certainly does not de- scribe the atmosphere sur- rounding this year's team. Right now, when (and how) the "Great Days" will return is a matter of concern for everyone at UW.