Wednesday, January 18, 2012
By Jessi Pierce
There’s no sweeter story than going to play college hockey for your hometown team. It’s the team you grew up cheering for and the team who’s posters and banners most likely hung on your bedroom wall. That’s exactly the sentiments that Jack Skille echoed when I had a chance to chat with the Madison, Wis., native last year.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a Badger,” said Skille, who now suits up for the NHL’s Florida Panthers. “My dad was a Badger and I used to fall asleep at the games when I was a little kid. It was a dream come true the day they offered me that full scholarship and I jumped on it.
"Being able to go home and play in front of my family friends was something truly great."
Making an immediate impact in his freshman campaign, Skille's most noteable impression was seen in the NCAA tournament when his triple-overtime game-winner pushed Wisconsin into the Frozen Four and the enivitable 2006 NCAA Championships.
"That was surreal," Skille said on winning the NCAA title. "I couldn't have asked for a better group of guys. It was a fun team to be a part of and the way [the tournament] was laid out, Green Bay and Milwaukee [for Regionals], if we were going to win a championship, that was going to be our year."
Injury sidelined the dominant forward for the 2006-07 season and following his sophomore year he turned his attention to the pros.
Drafted with the Blackhawks first pick in 2005 among an elite draft class including Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan and Jack Johnson, Skille saw ups and downs, jumping between Chicago and its affiliate in Rockford, Ill.
While it looked like Skille may have found his groove with the Blackhawks, even earning a spot on a line between Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews before rostering a permanent spot on the 4th line, a trade sent him away from the Midwest and down to Miami with the Florida Panthers where he currently has registered just six points (2G, 3A) in 31 games.
Check out my previous story and video interview with Jack Skille in USA Hockey Magazine.