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Filed under Sports

Eau Claire brothers make name for themselves on ice

As soon as his sons could stand on skates, Dave McCabe got them out on the ice rink in their backyard.

“I used to play hockey, so that’s how they got introduced to it,” he said. “I just hoped they’d like it.”

And they did.

So much in fact that hockey continues to be a huge part of the lives of both Andrew, a senior captain for the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds, and Jake McCabe, a sophomore defenseman for the University of  Wisconsin Badgers.

“I coached both of them growing up, so I’ve gotten to watch their development really closely,” Dave McCabe said. “Hockey’s just been a part of our lives from the get go.”

Andrew McCabe, an accounting major at Eau Claire and the older of the two at 24, played hockey at Memorial High School and was the team captain there. While he was a four-time letterwinner in hockey, he also played both football and soccer.

But hockey was what stuck.

“Hockey was one option,” he said. “But I played every sport imaginable growing up. I just enjoyed (hockey) more and put more time and effort into it. It’s an all-encompassing sport. It’s really more of a lifestyle.”

Growing up, most of the McCabe family friends were involved with and interested in hockey, Andrew McCabe said.

Growing up in Eau Claire allowed him to really grow in the sport, as the hockey community here is very close-knit. He also played three years of junior hockey for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in Fairbanks, Alaska.

After high school, he began his college career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, playing hockey there for a year before transferring to Eau Claire.

His brother was always interested in the sport, too, he said.

“Jake’s almost six years younger than me, so we haven’t played organized hockey together,” Andrew McCabe said. “But growing up, he spent a lot of time around me and my friends playing hockey. He was always super competitive and could keep up with us on the ice.”

Jake McCabe joined the USA National Team Development Program in 2009 after skating for Eau Claire’s Memorial High School.

He was drafted in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round with the 44th overall pick. Prior to the draft, he was ranked 47th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings.

This winter, he played at Ufa Arena in Ufa, Russia for Team USA. The team claimed a 3-1 victory over defending-champion Sweden to earn Team USA its second gold medal. Jake McCabe was captain of the team.

“To have him named captain was just a treat,” Dave McCabe said. “To have the team go on and win, that was the icing on the cake.”

While he’s been to Europe a few times in the past and enjoyed experiencing new culture and cuisine, being able to get the gold medal for Team USA was something entirely different.

“It was a really high-paced game,” he said. “It’s really cool to be out there with the best players in the world to see how you match up. And it’s a little crazy to skate by someone and recognize their face from the NHL.”

Their dad was able to go to Russia with Jake McCabe, but Andrew McCabe and other hockey fans in Eau Claire had to get up pretty early, as there’s an exact 12 hour time difference between Eau Claire and Russia.

Dooley’s Pub on Water Street would open its doors early for hockey fans, McCabe said, so he and his friends would watch the Team USA games there at 8 a.m.

“It was just really cool to be able to experience that,” Andrew McCabe said. “I mean, this game isn’t a mainstream game, but there were so many people from the Eau Claire community there watching.”

As a senior soon to be graduating, Andrew McCabe said he wants to coach hockey someday, and is looking forward to making good use of his accounting degree.

“It’s bittersweet to know it’s coming to an end soon,” he said, laughing after a beat. “But I’ll be able to finally have the chance to go down to Madison and enjoy watching my brother play, so I’ll be able to live vicariously through him for a while.”

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