Did you know the first professional hockey team in Wisconsin was formed in 1948?
The Milwaukee Clarks were a pro team based out of Milwaukee, WI as a member of the International Hockey League. However, they only operated for two years.
While several pro teams have come and gone in the Badger State, hockey has always been deep rooted in Wisconsin’s culture.
In this article, I’ll show you what pro hockey teams are in Wisconsin, and what junior and college teams compete in the state.
Pssssst! Are you curious about hockey teams in other U.S. states? You can learn more by checking out our other posts: What Hockey Team Is in Florida, What Hockey Team Is in Indiana, and What Hockey Team Is in Pennsylvania.
Let’s dive in.
Here’s What Hockey Teams Are In Wisconsin:
Wisconsin’s pro hockey team is the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League (AHL). However, Wisconsin has one of the most robust junior and college hockey systems in America. Their top teams include the Green Bay Gamblers (Tier I – USHL) and Madison Capitols (Tier I – USHL), as well as the University of Wisconsin – Madison (NCAA D1).
Does Wisconsin Have a Hockey Team?
So, does WI have a hockey team?
Yes! Wisconsin’s top-level hockey team is the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League (AHL). While Wisconsin doesn’t have a team in the National Hockey League (NHL), the state has dozens of high-level hockey teams that compete in the state including junior, college, and high school hockey clubs.
Does Wisconsin Have an NHL Team?
No, unfortunately, Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL team. Their top pro team is the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL), an affiliated minor league farm team of the NHL’s Nashville Predators.
While Wisconsin doesn’t have a team in the NHL, there has been increasing speculation on whether or not the Badger State will get an NHL team eventually, since it’s one of the biggest hockey states.
What NHL Team Does Wisconsin Root For?
Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL team… But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t NHL fans!
So, what NHL team is popular in Wisconsin?
If you currently don’t have an NHL team to cheer for in Wisconsin, you’ve essentially got 4 options:
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Minnesota Wild
- Detroit Red Wings
- Nashville Predators
So, why these 4 teams?
There’s no #1 consensus on what the best NHL team to root for when you’re living in Wisconsin. However, there are some pretty decent reasons for most of these 4 teams.
Wisconsin’s allegiance to specific teams mainly breaks down to the geographical region. You’ll notice that 3 of those 4 teams are all neighboring states to Wisconsin.
Essentially, south central, southeast, and (most of) central Wisconsin is known as Hawks country. Once you go north of Madison, WI, it’s primarily Minnesota Wild country (especially as you start going more west). North Wisconsin is known for having quite a bit of Detroit Red Wings fans.
However, there’s one wild card NHL team here: The Nashville Predators.
There are plenty of hockey fans in Wisconsin who choose to cheer for the Preds rather than their closest geographical team. The reason is that Wisconsin’s top pro team—The Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL—is the affiliated farm team for the NHL’s Nashville Predators, so they get a good following.
What Hockey Teams Are in Wisconsin?
So, what hockey teams are in Wisconsin? The Badger State has one professional hockey team and several junior and college teams as listed below:
Unfortunately, Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL team. NHL fans in Wisconsin typically cheer for either the Blackhawks, Wild, Red Wings, or Predators.
Wisconsin’s top-level hockey team is the Milwaukee Admirals. They’re a high-level professional hockey team that plays within the American Hockey League (AHL). They’re the affiliated minor league farm team for the Nashville Predators. They play out of the Merchant Logo
UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena located at 400 W Kilbourn Ave in downtown Milwaukee.
It’s hard to find another state that has more junior hockey teams than Wisconsin. They have plenty of teams in different tiers throughout the state, playing in different leagues (NA3HL, NAHL, USHL, USPHL):
- Green Bay Gamblers (Tier I – USHL)
- Madison Capitols (Tier I – USHL)
- Chippewa Steel (Tier II – NAHL)
- Janesville Jets (Tier II – NAHL)
- Wisconsin Windigo (Tier II – NAHL)
- Wausau Cyclones (Tier III – NA3HL)
- Oregon Tradesmen (Tierr III – NA3HL)
- Milwaukee Power (Tier III – NA3HL)
- Dells Ducks (Tier III – USPHL)
- Hudson Havoc (Tier III – USPHL)
- Wisconsin Rapid Riverkings (Tier III – USPHL)
D1, D2, D3 College Hockey
Wisconsin has a robust college hockey system. The state has over a dozen D1, D2, and D3 college hockey teams that compete within the NCAA, ACHA:
- University of Wisconsin – Madison (NCAA D1)
- Winona State University (ACHA Men’s D2)
- University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (ACHA Men’s D3)
- Concordia University Wisconsin (NCAA D3)
- Finlandia University (NCAA D3)
- Lawrence University (NCAA D3)
- Marian University – Wisconsin (NCAA D3)
- Milwaukee School of Engineering (NCAA D3)
- Northland College (NCAA D3)
- St. Norbert College (NCAA D3)
- University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire (NCAA D3)
- University of Wisconsin – River Falls (NCAA D3)
- University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (NCAA D3)
- University of Wisconsin – Stout (NCAA D3)
- University of Wisconsin – Superior (NCAA D3)
Why Isn’t There an NHL Team in Wisconsin?
Have you ever wondered why Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL team?
Wisconsin is one of the biggest hockey states in America. It’s surrounded by NHL teams in neighboring states: Minnesota Wild to the West, Chicago Blackhawks to the South, Detroit Red Wings to the East, and nearby Canadian teams to the North like The Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The region is a breeding ground for ice hockey. And, Wisconsin has plenty of pro, junior, and college hockey teams, with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL at the forefront. Plus, in terms of economic market compatibility, the state has three major sports teams: Green Bay Packers (NFL), Milwaukee Bucks (NBA), and Milwaukee Brewers (MLB).
So, what’s stopping them from starting an NHL franchise here?
The general consensus is the uncertainty of market demand. However, legend has it that Chicago Blackhawks ownership has tried to block Wisconsin from getting a team (as it would eat away at their market share).
Here’s an excerpt from the book, “The Down Goes Brown History of the NHL,” written by Sean McIndoe, that explains how Wisconsin almost got a team in the 90s but was edged out due to extremely high fees:
“In October 1990, with the NHL pushing towards a decision on two expansion teams by the end of the year, the Milwaukee group dropped a stunner: They were out. Lloyd Pettit, who’d been spearheading the effort along with his wife, Jane, and investors, had simply decided that an NHL franchise wasn’t worth it.
Pettit’s logic was sound. As a longtime hockey broadcaster and former owner of the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League, he knew a thing or two about hockey—including the fact that the league’s notoriously stingy approach to expansion meant his team wouldn’t be very good out of the gate.
If he was going to hand over fifty million dollars (and potentially a bit more to the Blackhawks as compensation for infringing on their market), Pettit needed to know he’d eventually make money on the deal. He simply didn’t see how that was ever going to happen.
NHL president John Ziegler told reporters that “we do not agree with some of the [Milwaukee group’s] reasons or conclusions,” but that hardly mattered. The Pettits had donated much of the money for the city’s arena, so having someone else come along to bid for a team seemed unlikely. Just like that, one of the league’s top choices was out of the running.”
Does UW Milwaukee Have a Hockey Team?
Yes, UW Milwaukee has a hockey team. The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee has a D3 college hockey team that competes within the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).
How Many D1 Hockey Teams Are in Wisconsin?
There is one D1 college hockey team in Wisconsin: the University of Wisconsin – Madison (NCAA D1). There’s one D2 hockey team: Winona State University (ACHA Men’s D2). Wisconsin also has about a dozen D3 hockey teams.
What Colleges in Wisconsin Have Hockey?
Here’s a complete list of colleges in Wisconsin that have hockey:
- University of Wisconsin – Madison
- Winona State University
- University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
- Concordia University Wisconsin
- Finlandia University
- Lawrence University
- Marian University – Wisconsin
- Milwaukee School of Engineering
- Northland College
- St. Norbert College
- University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
- University of Wisconsin – River Falls
- University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
- University of Wisconsin – Stout
- University of Wisconsin – Superior
What Junior Hockey Teams Are in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin has a variety of junior hockey teams, ranging between Tier I, Tier II, and Tier II. There are junior teams from a variety of leagues (NA3HL, NAHL, USHL, USPHL):
- Green Bay Gamblers
- Madison Capitols
- Chippewa Steel
- Janesville Jets
- Wausau Cyclones
- Dells Ducks
- Hudson Havoc
- Wisconsin Rapid Riverkings
Is There High School Hockey in Wisconsin?
Yes, Wisconsin’s primary high school hockey system is the Wisconsin Hockey Prep (WiHP).
There are ninety high schools across the state that compete within the WiHP. These teams are high school field-sanctioned varsity teams within the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA).
There are also eight non-sanctioned hockey high school hockey clubs that compete within the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association.
Is Hockey Popular in Wisconsin?
Curious whether or not Wisconsin is a big hockey state?
Traditionally, Wisconsin has been known as one of the big hockey states, alongside the 3 M’s: Minnesota, Michigan, and Massachusetts.
But… you may be wondering just how popular hockey is in the Badger State.
To find out, let’s look at some data!
In 2022, WalletHub crunched the numbers to determine which hockey cities were best for fans of the game. In their study, they ranked the top 72 cities in America. They used 21 key indicators of what made a “good” hockey city. Different indicators include performance of major teams, stadium capacity, and ticket prices, among many other factors.
Wisconsin had just one city that ranked in the top 72. Madison, Wisconsin came in at number 39. However, this study isn’t a be-all-end-all. Wisconsin has incredible opportunities to watch and play the game, especially since it’s a cold-climate state. The state would still be considered one of the best hockey states in the country despite this study.
Are you curious to know more about hockey in other states across the U.S.? Don’t forget to check out our other full guide: Hockey Teams in Every U.S. State: Complete NHL & College List (2023).