Butters played three years at Minnesota, where he served as co-captain during the 1972-73 campaign, and saw and heard everything – from his number being written on a rubber chicken in the trombone section to big bed sheet signs that read ‘When Butter Gets Spoiled it goes Rancid' and heard the ‘Billy Butters … Sucks!' chant throughout the 30-minute warm-up.
Soon after he was hired as an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin in June, Butters heard that same chant coming from the lobby of the Wisconsin hockey office. Bewildered, Butters came across two of those fans with a pan of brownies and an aluminum foil hatchet.
"They said ‘Let's bury the hatchet' and I said as long as it wasn't in my back," Butters said.
The self-proclaimed goofball and instigator, Butters has changed a lot over the years, from a foul-mouth defenseman to having a keen eye for recruiting and developing collegiate blue liners and working with Hockey Ministries International.
Butters has also traded in his Gophers gold for Badgers red, which he will proudly display this weekend when No.15 Wisconsin takes on No.17 Minnesota in Mariucci Arena.
Butters scored four goals in 89 collegiate games, but he had 112 penalties for 262 minutes, which ranks 15th all-time in Minnesota school history. He was a role player throughout his time in the CHL, WHA and NHL, a perfect role model for a big group of Badgers (5-2-1, 2-1-1 WCHA) that don't have a lot of all stars … well, perfect except for his fight record.
"I was in 102 fights and to tell you how bad of a fighter I was, I only won two of them," Butters said. "It wasn't a fun job for me. Hockey players think they win them all, but when you have 244 stitches in your face, you know you lost a few."
Entering the season, Wisconsin's defense was emblematic of Butters' fight record. Not only did the Badgers lose seven senior forwards, Wisconsin lost three underclassmen defensemen, including Hobey Baker nominee Brendan Smith and captain-to-be Ryan McDonagh, expected to be the strength of the team.
Through eight games, the defense has been the surprise strength. Wisconsin is averaging 1.88 goals-against per game, which ranks fourth in the nation and tops in the WCHA. Wisconsin's defensive corps currently leads the nation with a 3.12 points-per-game mark and boasts two of the nation's 19 defensemen (sophomore Justin Schultz ranks fourth at 1.12 points while junior Jake Gardiner's 1.00 points-per-game is tied for ?fth).
"He's been able to win the guys over," senior goalie Scott Gudmandson said. "He's pretty funny guy. He's quite the character, and I think that's help ease him into our locker room. He's molded some of the young defensemen into great players so far."
Like Wisconsin, Minnesota (5-3-0, 3-3-0 WCHA) is coming off a successful sweep this last weekend, doing so at Colorado College. In?Saturday's 9-4 win, freshman Nate Condon had five points and eight different Gophers scored. The Gophers have scored 33 goals (4.125 per game), most of which have come off captain Jay Barriball's stick, as he is second in the nation and first in the WCHA with eight goals.
The Badgers enter the series having won three of the last four games in Minneapolis and five Badgers -Gardiner, Tyler Barnes, Jason Clark, Joe Faust and Jordy Murray - are Minnesota natives. As excited as they'll be to knock off the Gophers, he fails to compare to the emotions Butters has stored up.
"Hopefully, I can bring what I brought to the Gopher table," he said. "I always said, ‘We can't lose to the red. We can't lose to them. Better be dead than lose to the red.' That's what I am trying to instill in these guys. We can't lose to the Gophers. We've got to go in and stop them on their home ground."
No.15 Wisconsin (5-2-1, 2-1-1 WCHA) vs. No.18 Minnesota (5-3-0, 3-3-0 WCHA)
Date/Time - Friday, November 5 and Saturday, November 6 at 7 p.m. CT
Stadium – Mariucci Arena (10,000) - 200' x 100'
Television - Friday – FSN Wisconsin and FSN North. Saturday – Big Ten Network
Radio - Badger Sports Network (Brian Posick and Mike Cerniglia)
Series – Minnesota leads 152-84-18 (UM leads 86-26-6 in Minneapolis)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin fell, 6-1, at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis on March 7, giving Minnesota a split in the series after the Badgers had posted a 3-2 victory at Target Center on March 5
Series Notes: This will mark the 255th and 256th meetings between the two schools, according to the UW records, and is the most played series in UW history
The Badgers enter the series having won three of the last four games in Minneapolis
UW sits 11-19-4 against Minnesota under Mike Eaves, though are 10-11-3 since the start of 2005