Friday, March 6, 2009

Hockey Orphan: CT from Hockee Night on the Chicago Blackhawks

(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!)

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