Hockey team reunites in swirl of stories, memories
By Peppy O'Neill
UW-Parkside Alumni Association Director
"Hockey--Something New at Parkside" trumpeted the headline from the UW-Parkside student newspaper some forty years ago. It was the 1971-'72 school year, and the short but sweet era of ice hockey at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside had just begun.
Perhaps because it took deep devotion to this game played on ice and a pair of particularly on-fire team captains, Bill Westerlund and Tom Krimmel, the "era" lasted only a few years at UW-Parkside. But they were years of great satisfaction and pride--and even some sacrifice--for the players and their coaches.
The sacrifice came in the form of very early-morning practices, lack of local playing facilities and little in the way of resources for purchasing equipment and hiring the buses to take players to practices and games at their home rink, Wilson Park in Milwaukee, and to away games in places scattered across the region. But they were plucky, raising funds and playing hard-nosed hockey as they went. And they usually won, finishing their first season, for example, with 18 wins, one tie and only two losses.
Saturday evening, Sept. 29, seven of the 16 original members of the UW-P Hockey Team, reunited on campus in The Den of the Student Center to relive past glories and to be regaled once again by the artful story-telling of the man who reluctantly agreed to coach them at first--and then became their greatest fan and truest mentor.
The coach was Ludd Podlogar of Racine, who devoured the game of hockey while growing up in northern Ontario near James Bay and who was at first taken aback by an unlikely mob of young men with beards and mustaches. But soon he learned that they had grit and a hunger for excelling at the game.
"I had to be convinced," recalls Coach Podlogar, who volunteered to lead the team in its first three years, "but I soon learned that they were a committed group of guys. They were such gentlemen, too."
Coach Podlogar soon enlisted the help of his best friend Bruce Reber to be assistant coach. Coach Reber was unable to journey from Texas for the reunion, but was well-remembered for his service to the team.
Sitting in a circle on Saturday night, surrounded by wives and friends, the players and their coach shared stories about the games and lost teeth and pranks and bus rides and lots of laughter. They enjoyed a magnificent display of team memorabilia and a PowerPoint that captured their imaginations, and were gifted with specially-designed hockey pucks and coffee mugs bearing the official team photo. And they pored through program books laden with newspapers clippings, action shots, and memories.
Led by co-captains Krimmel and Westerlund, the reunited group included Gordie Bradshaw, Mike Broderick, Rich Rosko, Marc Tutlewski, and Scott Piemeisl. Old teammate Paul Sattler and one of the coach's kids, Brent Podlogar, called in their memories to Westerlund's cell phone. Teammates who couldn't attend include Dave Bradshaw, Terry Flatley, Ron Eifler, Jerry Madala, Dave Tilley, Mark Conrad, Rick Orechevosky, and brothers Joe and Eugene Rosko.
After 40 years, Westerlund summed it up for everyone in the circle, "Playing hockey at UW-Parkside really prepared us for life. There's just something about hockey."
In the photo, seated from left, Scott Piemeisl, Coach Ludd Podlogar, and Bill Westerlund; standing, Gordie Bradshaw, Rich Rosko, Marc Tutlewski, Tom Krimmel, and Mike Broderick.