King of Madison

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Like a volcano, the Kohl Center erupts into a frenzy. It's the first home game of the 2005-06 men's hockey season and the Badgers just scored. From her seat behind the opponent's net, freshman Ashley Ojala can already tell her decision to purchase season tickets was a good one.

The celebration subsides a few moments later as the head referee retrieves the puck and brings it to center ice for a faceoff, but not for long.

Synchronized with the drop of the puck, a man wearing a white sweater over a red turtleneck with thinning hair and thick glasses rises from his seat and points toward his wife who thrusts her hands into the air.

"One," the frenzied people around Ojala chant. "We want more."

Surprised at the crowd's responsiveness, yet excited to be a part of the tradition, Ojala can't stop thinking about the man who started it all. "Who is he?" she thought. "Maybe he is the father of a former hockey player. What other old guy would get up and be the life of the crowd?"

Curiosity rising, she asks the person next to her about "that guy."

"Oh, that's Phil."

What Ojala and much of the student section don't know is Phil Dzick, 64, is a simple man. His life revolves around his wife, church, part-time job and Badger sports. Dzick says he never advanced during his days as a Quality Assurance inspector at Oscar Meyer because he didn't want to work nights and miss attending UW sporting events. He has been to every football game since 1962, and has had basketball and hockey season-tickets since 1971 and 1973, respectively.

While Dzick describes himself as just another fan, his tendency to cheer real hard has made him well-known around Madison, Wis. -- especially among the hockey faithful. Three girls in the student section could be seen wearing "I Heart Phil" T-shirts at this year's regular season home finale in mid-February.

Others have dressed up as Dzick -- also known as "sweater guy" and "the sign guy" by Badger fans -- and his wife, Mary Lou, for Halloween.

"You know you've reached icon status when people dress up as you for Halloween," said senior Peter DeMaio, a marching band member and current men's hockey season ticket holder.

But the infatuation with Dzick doesn't stop there. Several UW students, including Ojala dedicated a Facebook group to "Phil (the old guy from the hockey games)."

"He probably has the most Wisconsin spirit out of anyone there," said Ojala. "The fact that this old guy is so willing to stand up and cheer harder than a lot of the student fans do says a lot about him."

Dzick doesn't like the idea of fans being spectators, and believes it's up to him and the UW band to get them involved since hockey doesn't have a spirit squad or dance team. Simple cheers like "On Wisconsin," "Let's Go Red," or the score count ("1-we want more") do the trick.

"It isn't that people won't cheer along, it's that they need someone to get it started," said Dzick, who works at the UW Credit Union as an informant and volunteers his time at Bethel Lutheran. "I think it's encouraging more to the team when they're struggling or need a goal, let them know that the crowd is still there behind them."

Dzick's legacy as "the old guy from the hockey games" (although he wouldn't get old until years later) began in Potsdam, N.Y., during the 1981 season. Wisconsin was playing Clarkson in the NCAA Tournament at Walker Arena, Dzick remembers, and there were about 50 Badger fans on hand. It was ignited by a simple, spelled out word: "B-A-D-G-E-R-S."

Wisconsin's season is over. For Ojala (who can't afford season tickets) and those graduating this spring, it means no more hockey games, and more importantly, no more Phil. But the memories will forever remain of the first time they set eyes on him, the old guy who always left them wanting more.