Travel plans

Mark and Helen Burish have a special interest in the men's and women's NCAA hockey tournaments

MADISON — If all goes according to plan, Mark and Helen Burish will log more than 1,000 driving miles this weekend.

The parents of Adam and Nikki Burish, Mark and Helen have quite a hockey weekend before them.

Nikki is an assistant captain and senior forward with the No. 2 seeded University of Wisconsin women's hockey team, which faces off with No. 3 St. Lawrence in an NCAA Frozen Four matchup at 4 p.m. today at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

So today Mark and Helen are driving from their downtown Madison home to the Twin Cities, roughly 270 miles away, to watch Nikki and the Badgers.

Adam Burish
(AJ Maclean/Badger Nation)

Saturday, they will drive east to Ashwaubenon — about a 280-mile trip — where Adam Burish, a senior forward and captain with the No. 1 seeded UW men's hockey team, is taking part in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Resch Center, with a first-round matchup at 1:30 p.m. against Bemidji State.

If the Badger women are victorious Friday, the Burish parents will drive back to Minneapolis after Adam's game Saturday, so they can be in the stands for Sunday's women's national championship game at 3 p.m.

"(It is) pretty exciting and more nerve-wracking than we ever thought it would be," Mark said, in a telephone interview Thursday night. "They've never both been in this position at the same time before."

If things really go according to plan, about an hour or so after the women's team hoists the national championship trophy, the men's team will be putting the finishing touches on a regional title, and punching its ticket for Helen's and Mark's next hockey trip: to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Thursday, April 6, for a men's national semifinal.

"That's the goal right now is win two games this weekend and get to Milwaukee," Adam said, after men's practice at the Shell Wednesday. "Anything can happen once you get there."

Right now, Nikki's team has achieved what Adam's squad seeks: a berth in the Frozen Four.

"She says, ‘We're as good as anybody in the country,'" Adam said. "So they think they can do it. And she says, ‘I hope you guys have the same chance. It's pretty cool to be going to a Frozen Four, first time in your four years. It's a pretty neat feeling.'"

Adam is a year older than Nikki, but the former spent a year playing junior hockey for the Green Bay Gamblers prior to enrolling at Wisconsin, which served to line up their college careers.

"We consider ourselves so lucky," Mark said. "We are so grateful to have both kids playing at the same school in our hometown. We couldn't have had it any better.

"We live downtown, and so Adam comes over with his buddies and Nikki comes over with her friends. We're like parents to 40 kids rather than just our two kids — it's just fabulous."

It has been a fun setup for Nikki and Adam as well.

"It's nice to have someone that's sharing the same experience you are," Nikki said, after practice at the Kohl Center Tuesday. "So you talk to them, they know what you're going through. It's neat to come out here and say, ‘That's my brother on the ice' and see him be successful and their team be successful, and then see him in the stands watching our team be successful as well."

Of course, this is not the first time in four years that the Badger men's and women's hockey schedules have forced Mark and Helen to make a choice regarding which child to watch on a given weekend.

It is easier when both teams are playing home games at the Kohl Center. Typically, the women play on weekend afternoons, while the men play Friday and Saturday night.

"We tried to get the Kohl Center to give us cots there, but they wouldn't do that," Mark joked. "It's been tough too, to figure out who to follow and who to watch, but it's worked out pretty well over the years. And the kids, they understand that we're behind them both 100 percent."

When the teams have hit the road over the years, the best location won out. So Helen and Mark visited Alaska and Denver when the men's team played there, and traveled to the East Coast when the women's team took in venues in that part of the country.

"Over Thanksgiving Nikki was out at Dartmouth, so we went out there," Mark said. "We actually kind of teased them that weekend. Because at that time Nikki's team was No. 1 in the country. So we said to Adam, ‘Hey Adam, we only follow No. 1 teams.' And then the girls lost at Dartmouth to New Hampshire and Adam's team beat Michigan and Michigan State and they became No. 1.

"So the next weekend we followed Adam and said, ‘Sorry Nik, we only follow No. 1 teams.'"

After growing up playing hockey together, Adam and Nikki are now each hoping to finish their college careers with national titles.

"We talked about how neat it would be to both win national championships," Adam said. "That would be the ultimate."

"It's bittersweet that it's coming to an end," Nikki said. "That's sad. But the fact that we're being so successful at this point in our season and both have a shot at the national title that just makes the ending that much better. It's going to be really sad the last day we play but if we can both come out with championships, that's been our dream since we were little, so that would be really great."

It is an exciting time, but it also is a bit unsettling for Helen and Mark.

"Cause now it's you lose and you're done," Mark said. "The next time any one of them loses, their college career is over. That's a little nerve-wracking for us."

Nikki's hockey playing days will likely come to a close this weekend, while Adam, a 2002 Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, hopes to continue on with a professional career. In any case, their days playing in the same city, and essentially for the same organization — dating all the way back to the early years of youth hockey — will soon be done.

"We were commentating to ourselves: it's been 18 years of every winter weekend has been going to watch our kids play hockey," Mark said. "So I don't know if I'll take a job being a part-time pizza delivery boy next year on weekends just for something to do."

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