Hockey seems to have long ago lost the art of fantastic nicknames. So it comes as no surprise Steve Alley was nicknamed "Cat."
But this Steve was no stray alley cat. He was one of the top American hockey players in the 1970s.
Alley returned to school rather than turn pro right away, but began participating in international hockey, too. The native of Anoka, Minnesota first played with the United States national team at the 1974 World Championships. It would be the start of a love affair with international hockey for Alley.
Alley returned to the World Championships in 1975, and then made a big decision. He decided to leave the University of Wisconsin early. Even though he was only a year away from graduating, he committed to the United States national team program for the entire 1975-76 season in hopes of playing at the 1976 Olympics. Alley did indeed make the Olympic team, helping the Americans to a fifth place finish.
Alley returned to school following the Olympics and had the best season of his career. Not only did hegraduate with honours, but he led the Badgers to a NCAA championship. He scored the overtime winning goal just 23 seconds into the extra frame to give the Badgers the 6-5 win over the University of Michigan.
Alley turned pro in 1976-77, playing two seasons in the World Hockey Association with the Birmingham Bulls.
When the WHA collapsed in 1979, Alley joined the Hartford Whalers as both embarked on their NHL journeys. Alley would only get into fifteen games over two seasons with the Whalers, toiling in the minor leagues otherwise.
Alley read the writing on the wall and decided the minor league hockey life was not going to be for him and his family. He moved to Chicago to sell insurance and equities. Alley also was a key supporter of construction of the University of Wisconsin's new arena.