Madison native, former Badgers player Brad Winchester joins Wisconsin men’s hockey staff as volunteer coach
The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team has a new volunteer assistant coach, but, like with the rest of the staff, he’s not new to the program.
Former Badgers player Brad Winchester has joined coach Tony Granato’s staff after the departure of former volunteer coach Jeff Sanger.
Winchester, a Madison native who skated for UW from 1999 to 2003 before an pro career in which he played for five NHL teams, is fulfilling a long-held desire, according to Granato.
“We’ve talked about it in the last couple of years,” Granato said. “At some point, he wanted to be part of it. So I had it in the back of my mind that someday we hoped this would happen.”
Winchester retired from his playing career in 2015 and works as an account executive for Madison company M3 Insurance. He’ll be able to be at the Badgers’ practices a few times a week on off time from his job.
“I want to help,” he said. “I want to give back and mentor these kids.”
Over the course of a 390-game NHL career with stops in Edmonton, Dallas, St. Louis, Anaheim and San Jose, Winchester scored 37 goals and had 68 points.
He played 150 collegiate games, scoring 40 goals with 84 points.
“Just like all of us, when we’re done playing, we realize how special our days here were as players,” Granato said. “He wished he knew a lot of things that he knew now when he was here, and he’d like to share them. I think that’s a big part.”
Winchester’s addition came after the departure of Sanger, who had spent the last nine seasons as the team’s volunteer coach working with goaltenders.
It also marks the end of a nearly unbroken stretch where UW has listed a dedicated goaltending coach among its staff members.
Bill Howard was in the role from 1972 to 2008, serving on the staff for all six UW national championship teams.
Mike Valley, a former Howard protege who played for the Badgers from 1996 to 1998, was a goaltending consultant for part of the 2008-09 season.
Sanger, a Madison native who played at Colorado College, joined the Badgers men’s team as a volunteer in 2009 after serving in the same capacity with the UW women’s team.
He said that he and Granato mutually agreed this summer that it was time for Sanger to step away because of time demands. Sanger’s son, Noah, was diagnosed in 2017 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 5.
“It’s a tough circumstance that we’re dealing with, but the Badger community has been unreal and we’ll continue to be a part of that community, just not in the same capacity,” Sanger said in an email.
NCAA rules allow for hockey teams to have one volunteer coach who can receive as compensation only complimentary game tickets as well as reimbursement for certain expenses.
The change comes during a period when goaltending has been among the Badgers’ shortcomings. The team ranked among the worst in the country in team save percentage in the last four seasons.
UW has a former goalie on its staff in director of hockey operations Shane Connelly. Under NCAA rules, however, operations staff members can’t do any coaching during practice.
“They’ll be taken care of,” Granato said. “That’s certainly something we’re aware of from a coaching standpoint on making sure they get the proper work. We’ll go out early (to practice) with them.”