Archive for the ‘Orphan – Chicago’ Category

Hockey Orphan: CT from Hockee Night on the Chicago Blackhawks

March 6, 2009

(So, with all the running specials on this crazy little blog we got a little behind on Hockey Orphan. We’ve already had Clare from All Hawks provide her Chicago Blackhawks perspective, but our general rule of life: the more the merrier. Then again, that rule does not apply to whiners, man boobs or Burger King. Anyway, here’s CT from Hockee Night’s take on Chicago. Make sure to check out Hockee Night and their fun-tastic pod casts.)

I am a hockey orphan.

In 2006, I had given up on my team, the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks had made the playoffs once in the last decade, and had become a team which combined the worst of failed prospects and washed-up veterans (the powerhouse 02-03 team included names like Phil Housely, Steve Thomas, Lyle Odelein and Theo Fleury – an impressive bunch 10 years earlier). Worse than that though, was the impression that the organization, from the owner to the GM to the coaching staff to the players to the popcorn vendors, didn’t care. There would be no changes made. Owner Bill Wirtz ensured that the same unimaginative bunch would continue to foist this crap on the (quickly diminishing) fan base.

But then, in late 2007, a house fell on the Wicked Wirtz of the West Side, and things changed. The owner’s son, Rocky, took over and actually put home games on television! I bet no other teams in the NHL do that!

But seriously, there are a lot of other reasons to be Blackhawks fan these days, besides their decision to finally embrace this wonderful 20th Century technology called television.

Jonathan Toews: There were some in Chicago who questioned the wisdom of making a 20 year old the captain of a team in his second NHL season. Especially a team that was expected to make a big leap forward this year. When Toews started the season with a 12 game goal drought, those questions got louder. Well, those people can all shut the hell up now. Toews now leads the team in goals with 25, and he’s one of the best all-around players in the league right now. Need a guy who can backcheck? Toews. Need a key faceoff won? Toews. Need somebody to set a screen in front of the net? Toews. Need somebody to skate through 4 guys and score a breathtaking goal? Toews. He can do it all, and he’s just as happy to be backchecking or setting the screen as he is to score a goal. The NHL is on notice: Mr. Serious is the total package, and he’s only going to get better.

Patrick Kane: The sizzle to Toews’ steak, Kane doesn’t quite have the all-around game down yet, but then he’s only 20. But while he’s learning about defense in the NHL, there’s no doubt that Kane understands offense. His speed and ice vision are a match for all but a few in the NHL. You want a reason to be a Hawks fan? Watch Toews and Kane make a rush up the ice together. You’ll be hooked.

Duncan Keith: Who’s the best defenseman you never heard of? Chances are it’s Duncan Keith. On a team where Brian Campbell gets most of the hype due to his giant contract, Keith has been the workhorse, normally playing 25 minutes a game and is currently 2nd in the NHL in +/- at +30.

Adam Burish: Not just the stars of the team should be recognized. The Hawks have a lot of good role players, but Adam Burish may be hands down my favorite. He kills penalties, he fights guys twice his own size, he does whatever needs to be done. As my co-Meathead Forklift is fond of saying: “if the Hawks needed him to, Adam Burish would skate through hell in a gasoline suit”. Luckily, the Blackhawks didn’t play in New Jersey this year, so that wasn’t necessary.

Youth Will Be Served: The Hawks currently have 2 players on their roster over the age of 30, little used defenseman Brent Sopel and little used winger Craig Adams. Despite such a young core, the Hawks have all but sewn up the 4th seed in the Western Conference. Oh, and if you’re into that sort of thing, the Blackhawks have $13 million in salary coming off the books after this season, which leaves plenty of cash to tie up their current guys and maybe make an addition or two.

They’re Challengers: Yes, the Hawks are good, but no, they’re not the best. They’re second in their division to the rival Detroit Red Wings and while they’re quite a few points behind at this time, the Hawks could conceivably close the gap for a huge showdown against the Red Wings in their final two games of the season. Trust me, if the division is close, you do NOT want to miss those games.The Roar: Back in the day, Chicago Stadium was one of the loudest, most hostile places for an opposing team to visit. The United Center isn’t the Stadium, but as the fans have come back this year, the roar has returned. The ticket prices haven’t skyrocketed yet, and there’s nothing like spending an evening in the 300 Level with 20,000 of your most profane friends.

(Thanks CT! Just read a great passage about the Chicago Stadium roar and its deafening organ in “Open Ice” by Jack Falla, so I sort of know what you’re talking about!)

Hockey Orphan: Clare from All Hawks Hockey on the Blackhawks

February 13, 2009
Just a short time ago things were bad for Blackhawks fans. In fact, bad is probably an understatement. However, things have turned around for the Blackhawks and now is certainly a great time to be a Hawks fan.

So many things have changed, it is hard to narrow it down, however there are a few changes that prove that the Hawks are a different team than a few years ago, and a team to cheer for.

The following is a random and extremely condensed list because the original list was close to 50 items long and it was a random choice because every change was significant in it’s own way.

The Captain: Jonathan Toews is appropriately nicknamed “Captain Serious,” rarely one to goof off but the way the team has responded to his leadership has been remarkable. When it was announced that Toews would become captain this year a lot of eyebrows were raised. After a tough start to the season, Toews has raised his game and shown that he can be a leader and a top line center all at the age of 20.

Toews is super-Cereal.
The Rookie of the Year: Known as the guy who always needs a haircut and who never has his mouth guard in his mouth Patrick Kane is the Blackhawk’s top scorer for a reason. Told he was too small to play in the NHL, Kane proved his critics wrong by not only making the Blackhawks roster out of training camp but by having a fantastic rookie year and winning the Calder Trophy. He has continued to impress those around the league this year and is the Blackhawks leading scorer. Now the only question is: Who is better Kane or Crosby?

Forwards: Overall this is a very skilled group of forwards, the trades for Kris Versteeg and Patrick Sharp a few years back, seemingly meaningless trades at the time have added two of the most important players to the Blackhawks group of forwards. Combine that with good secondary scoring and the forwards look good.

The Blackhawks are on TV: Seems simple right, a professional hockey team in the 21st century technology obsessed world would be on TV, however until this season the Blackhawks’ home games weren’t televised by a Chicago network. Since a new owner has taken over the Blackhawks on TV has been just one of the numerous positive changes that have been made. Now Chicago residents can see all 82 Blackhawks games this year from the comfort of their living room.

Young and Fun: Two words that can be used to describe the Blackhawks are young and fun. Combine the youngest team in the NHL with a whole lot of personality (need I say more?)

The Hawks are a fun team on and off the ice.

Goaltending: While sometimes inconsistent, goaltending for the most part has been good for the Blackhawks this year. Nikolai Khabibulin has shown signs of the goalie that won a Stanley Cup in Tampa. He is close to the end of his career, one would assume, but has shown that he can be a starter in the NHL still. Cristobal Huet has been nowhere near as good as he was towards the end of last year and certainly isn’t playing to the expectations of his almost $6 million contract. However with Khabibulin now day to day with an injury, he will be counted on to carry the load for the Hawks and with Khabibulin being an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year he will be the Blackhawks goalie of the future one would assume.

Defense: With Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the Blackhawks defense, the defense corps can be described as young and skilled. They are an extremely important part to the Blackhawks success.

Now while there have been a lot of changes there have been a few things that haven’t changed.

Original Six Team: The Chicago Blackhawks have history. They have been an NHL franchise since 1926. Each time they take the ice with the Indian head stitched in their sweaters they represent not only this current Blackhawks team but also all of the players that have worn the Blackhawks sweater in the past.

The rivalry with Detroit: The Blackhawks most intense rival is no doubt, Detroit. At least from a fan’s perspective, the games against Detroit are the ones with the most on the line, especially with Detroit being at the top of the league every year, a true test of how good the Blackhawks are at that point are in games against Detroit.

There are many more things to like about the Hawks than those above so the only question now is why aren’t you watching?

(Thanks, Clare! For more on the Chicago Blackhawks, make sure you check out All Hawks Hockey.)