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28/05/2014 / Hackett

A-Toews-ing Grace: Part II

The Blackhawks charter has a somber yet youthful feel to it as it departs Los Angeles International airport after a disappointing game four loss to the Kings. A few players are chatting about the current 3-1 series deficit they face, up front there are coaches going over video on their iPads, and a painfully stoic Jonathan Toews sits in his own row with his headphones on. 

Andrew Shaw gallops over “I gotta show Tazer, this twitter shit is hilarious”, he exclaims before being gang-tackled by the trio of Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell, and Patrick Kane with his hardest hit of the postseason. 
 
“Duuuude,” Bickell scolds him, “leave cappy alone, bro. He’s on his Elliott Smith/Jeff Buckley playlist, hands off.”
 
Coach Joel Quenneville’s looks up briefly as the scuffle catches his eye, but does not otherwise acknowledge the situation.
 
After disembarking in Chicago, Toews heads to his car and points it towards his downtown condo. He arrives to a doorman who hands him his mail and knows better than to give anything more than a head nod to the pensive star. Toews enters his spacious penthouse and immediately notices a draft. He sets down his mail and grabs his phone as he cautiously investigates. As he approaches his balcony which is big enough for most of us to live on, he spots a familiar figure in the recliner, cigar smoke rising in the moonlight.
 
“Stan..?” he asks.
 
“Sit down, Jonathan. Grab a glass.” the figure instructs. 
 
Toews does as told, and as the smoke dissipates, the face of Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita becomes clear. 
 
“Jonny, you guys sure backed yourselves into one hell of a corner here, ehh?”
 
“Man, I’m tired, I don’t need th-”
 
“Shut up and have a drink. Yes you do.”
 
Toews reluctantly pours himself three fingers of brown liquor, and looks at the label, “I was saving this shit, this is three hundred dollars a bottle, dude.”
 
“I’ll have Binny’s send a case, don’t worry. You need to decompress, son. You guys are pent up like a high-schooler on prom night. What’s goin’ on in that head, buddy?”
 
“I just…I don’t know. We’re getting smoked on special teams, taking stupid penalties, and we look tired when I know there’s gas left in the tank. I know, I just have to remember last year against the Red Wi-”
 
“Oh screw that shit. The Red Wings were playing with half a goddamn minor league roster. If you didn’t beat them I’d have kicked your ass myself. This is different, boy. This is a team that’s accomplished more than just making the damn playoffs to keep a stupid streak alive and give someone a first-round cupcake. It’s time to really knuckle up.”
 
Toews, looking surprised and humbled, nods in sheepish agreement. 
 
Mikita continues: “This is when your boys need you more than ever. They will follow you, they want to follow you. No one’s doubting the effort, of course you guys want to win, but some need to be shown the way, like it or not. This is what you signed up for. Of course Raising The Cup gets your jersey up in the rafters, but these are the moments that cement your legacy. This is a silly, fluky endeavor we’ve chosen, and you’re not going to win every time. But as their field general, you have to make your troops believe you will with every fiber of their being. You will revel with them in times of victory, and pick up the pieces if it goes the other way, but they will never have to look for you. You lead them through it all, front and center.”
 
“Stan, I know all this.”
 
“I know you do son, but sometimes we all need reminders. And you know as well as I do, this is one of those damn times. To be the best, you have to b-”
 
“I know, you have to beat the best, blah blah.”
 
“No, to be the best, you have to be the best. Be the best, Jonny. Show the world. Or at least those that can find the NBC Sports Network on their fucking channel guide.”
 
Toews lifts his head, “I will make you proud.”
 
“Don’t make me proud, make yourself proud. You’re the one who has to look at yourself in the mirror every morning, not me. Find it within, and go get it.”
 
Toews finishes his drink, “Yes sir.” 
 
The moon has since receded and Toews winces as the sun makes its first appearance over the edge of Lake Michigan. He glances at his phone and realizes he has practice in just a couple of hours, thanks to what he doesn’t realize is a group text from Quenneville. 
 
He responds: “Got it, did you send Stosh over here?” 
 
Quenneville: “Nooooo, not at all… <looks both ways, snickers>”
 
Kane: “Bobby and I just left The Lodge, but I’ll be there in time!”
 
Handzus: “You guys are lucky, I got Olczyk. He ate all my fucking ice cream.”
 
Toews: “Let’s go boys, we got work to do.”
 
LET’S GO HAWKS!!!
25/01/2014 / Hackett

Outdoor Hockey is for Everyone, Too

This weekend marks the beginning of the National Hockey League’s Stadium Series, a group of four games to be held outdoors at historic stadiums in the country’s largest sports markets: Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, New York’s Yankee Stadium, and Soldier Field in Chicago. For now, let’s skip the “how the hell are they going to play hockey outdoors in Los Angeles” crap because look, they have had games outside in Las Vegas, which is in the middle of the goddamn desert, so it’ll work, and that’s not the issue here. The issue here is this:

I get that the annual Winter Classic and Heritage Classic games are something special, but that’s also exactly the point. Whenever I see someone saying they should stop diluting the product, it’s almost always someone whose team has participated in one. This time, it’s a “journalist” that covers one of those teams. I have been fortunate enough to have attended not only the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, but also the Hockey City Classic, a college hockey showcase held last February at Chicago’s historic Soldier Field. I grew up in Wisconsin, and while I was part of many house and travel leagues in my youth, playing hockey outdoors on lakes, ponds, and makeshift ice surfaces was a significant part of my development. Seeing my favorite team take on their biggest rival outside, in the elements, on a national stage, with my father who helped and coached me every step of the way was an experience that will live with me forever. Why should we not expose this incredible opportunity to as many people as possible?

LOOK AT THAT. The above picture is from this year’s Winter Classic, held at legendary Michigan Stadium. It looks like the greatest snow globe ever. Look at the perfectly contrasted red and blue team colors. My mind is immediately flooded with memories of the classic bubble hockey game, which we’ve all played in the vestibule of a local peewee hockey rink, or at a crappy dive bar that’s too cheap (or awesome) to replace it with Golden Tee. We want to limit this type of atmosphere for what reason, again?

Granted, it will most likely not be snowing in Dodger Stadium, and many local youths may not have grown up lacing up their skates with fingers numb from the elements and dodging massive ruts to retrieve pucks from eight-foot snowbanks, but they know of the legacy of the game, or at least they should. This is an opportunity to teach them where the game was born, and how it has grown to the point where they can play even in a place where ponds and lakes don’t freeze over, at least not without a lot of engineering by the NHL’s hockey operations department.

I apologize for bringing the sputtering of a ham-fisted clod like Joe Haggerty to your attention, but his exclusionary attitude towards the expansion of outdoor hockey is just too idiotic to ignore. His assertion that the league is damaging the appeal of the Winter Classic is not only sublimely smug and narrow-minded, it’s downright incorrect. If your product has a limited audience, withholding that product from them and denying access to a wider audience is absolutely the opposite way to grow your fan base. Look no further than Chicago Blackhawks fans that couldn’t even watch home games on local television until 2007, and are now setting not only local TV ratings records, but attendance records as well.

I know that these games are, in part, a cash grab for the league, especially with the ridiculous, chromed-out jerseys they’ve designed, but shut out the cynical voice inside you for just a minute and allow yourself to see what these games can be for those who haven’t experienced them yet: a re-connection to hockey at its roots. Try and enjoy the game for once instead of looking at what it might do to Winter Classic viewership, because that kid seeing outdoor hockey for the first time won’t let a dip in television ratings prevent him or her from falling in love with the greatest game on earth.

-hackett

14/01/2013 / Hackett

Game On: Let’s Get Pucked Up

Now Playing: Alice in Chains - Dirt 

NHL hockey is back. Therefore, so are the good times with your favorite hockey-loving, booze-guzzling, degenerates.

Let's get NUTS.

Join us, won’t you?

The Chicago Blackhawks open their season watching the Los Angeles Kings raise their banner right in their faces, and we’re throwing a party that will hopefully watch the Blackhawks spoil theirs.

We will once again be gathering to kick off the season and all you hockey gods and goddesses are invited, regardless of your rooting interest.

The date is 19 January, and puck drop is 2:oopm central time. The venue is Lincoln Park’s Hidden Shamrock, located at 2723 N. Halsted St., at the corner of Halsted and Diversey, a couple blocks east of the Diversey CTA Brown line stop. There will be specials on beer, cocktails, brunch, and of course, Jeppson’s Malört.

The bar opens at 11am, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be banging the door down at 10:58.

If you can’t make it this time, don’t worry, there are plans for several more get-togethers already in the works at various Chicago watering holes throughout the season.

Any questions can be left here or on Twitter .

LET’S GO HAWKS!!!

-Hackett

15/12/2012 / Hackett

On Tragedy: It Shall Not Define Us

Now Playing: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Words are damn near impossible to come by at a time like this. The ironic thing is, it’s because there’s a flurry of emotions and there are so many of them it creates a logjam trying to force their way out. I’m going to try and put them together in some sort of rational order.

Today our nation, our world, suffered an horrific tragedy of unspeakable proportions. We lost many people, children at that, whom could have been the shining minds of the future. It’s the kind of thing that leaves people in absolute shock and disbelief that a human could have such disregard, contempt even, for human life. It also leads to quick judgements, snap reactions, and hyperbolic proclamations about the state and future of our world.
Many of the comments lament the world as “doomed”, “hopeless”, “completely fucked”, and “utterly sick”. I know that atrocities like this one make it seem that way, but in an effort to want to continue living on this planet, I want to disspell those sentiments, as I know it cannot be that bleak.
This world is a beautiful world. It’s a beautiful world filled with beautiful people who do wonderful things every day. Take, for instance, the gift from National Football League’s LaMarr Woodley to the community in which he was raised. He donated $60,000 so that kids wouldn’t have to pay to participate in extracurricular sports. See also the enormous $10,000 anonymous donation made to a Texas family trying to raise money for a service dog to assist their autistic son. There’s also the story of a family close to me that was selected by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to have their youngest daughter’s wish granted. It involved flying her and the family to California, putting them up for a week, and taking them to a taping and backstage to meet the stars of her favorite sitcom. The family, which is relatively well-to-do, offered to pay for their trip and lodging, and just wanted the foundation to facilitate the celebrity meet and greet. The Make-A-Wish people vehemently denied, saying that’s not how it worked, and footed the entire bill. The family now makes a sizable annual donation as a thank you and in the hopes that they can do the same for someone else.
Recently, much of the eastern seaboard of the United States was devastated by a hurricane, and the way strangers have come together to assist each other in rebuilding their lives is nothing short of heroic.
I have also been the recipient of humanity’s gracious and compassionate ways. One cold, winter day as I was cursing and battling with a flat tire in my parking lot, a nice gentleman came and asked if I needed assistance. I had it relatively under control, but thanked him. He then told me he was the proprietor of the hot dog stand across the street, and I was welcome to come wash up in his kitchen when I was finished. If that wasn’t enough, he also gave me a meal, free of charge. I was speechless at this gesture and have patronized his establishment frequently ever since.
My childhood was also affected by the selflessness of heroes. I was burned in a fire at the young age of two, and have lived with the physical and emotional scars ever since. One of the things that helped me cope was the Burn Camp, put on by the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance. Held every summer, it’s a week-long camp provided free for burn survivors funded solely by donations. The camp is staffed by firefighters and medical personnel that do so at the expense of a week of their personal vacation time. You can’t even imagine what this does for kids that are mocked, shunned, and bullied just because they look a little different.
You see, this world has a whole lot of incredible people who do incredible things. Unfortunately, they don’t always get the same press and public attention that the purveyors of crime and hatred do. Therein lies our opportunity, fellow humans. I have a good feeling anyone who finds my blog is at least a relatively good person, and does good things on a regular basis. I implore you, continue doing these things. Encourage others to do good things. Donate your money, your time, your love. Listen to those in need. Reassure those of us who still believe in the good in humanity, and give the rest a reason to not leave our species for dead. Do not let our country, our continent, our world be defined by tragedies such as this, but rather let us make our mark by how we respond in a beautiful and humane way to such heinous crimes. I believe our souls are good and full of love, and you should too.
Much love.
-Hackett
25/10/2012 / Hackett

NHL: Don’t Do it for Me, Just Do It

Now Playing: Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet

I miss hockey, you miss hockey, we all miss hockey. If you know me and/or follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m a bit of a hockey fan. Live it, eat it, breathe it (that last one is the most difficult, especially when I was younger with asthma…but I digress). I’m not here to go over my fandom résumé for you, but you’re welcome to check my tattoos if you have questions. Anyway, I am taking what might be considered a novel, dumbnaïve, or even enabling stance towards this lockout: it has NOTHING to do with the fans.

If you’re still with me, great. Allow me to make a few points, then you may yell and scream and call me a moron.
All sports, amateur and professional, are a luxury. They are a source of entertainment and escape to which some of us have become hopelessly addicted, but it is an indulgence on which you choose to spend your hard-earned money. No one is forcing you to spend almost four hundred dollars for your favorite authentic jersey, or drop half a paycheck to take your family to a game; these are things you do because you enjoy the game, the atmosphere, and in some venues, even the food. I get it, I absolutely love dumping my money to do these things as well, I’m an addict too. People deal with this perplexing scenario in different, and sometimes, ridiculous ways, such as tweeting hatred and venom at the players, owners, agents, and in the most asinine fashion, writers and reporters. Yeah, stop doing that.
The owners, as much as you may want to delude yourself into thinking otherwise, have a business to run. They have invested millions, and in most cases billions of dollars in a franchise from which their goal is to turn a profit. This isn’t a goddamn hobby for them. They didn’t find a small fortune lying about and decided on a whim be a sports owner, they have worked for their money and have invested in what is often a volatile industry with great public vulnerability and accountability.
The players are their employees, and this isn’t a hobby for them either. This is how they make their living. They and their families depend on what they make to provide them with food and shelter. If I never hear the phrase “getting paid to play a children’s game” again, it’ll be too soon. This is not your children’s game. Decades ago, athletes used to have jobs in the off-season to supplement the paltry income they made playing sports. That was before the escalated contracts, multi-million dollar endorsement deals, exorbitant bonuses, and the ridiculous television and licensing deals came about. The professional sports landscape has become so intensely competitive that athletes have to dedicate their entire lives to “this children’s game” and aren’t able to secure off-season employment, which, due to their largely adequate salaries is not necessary for most.
The point is, this is more than just a game to the parties involved in the negotiations.This is their job, their career, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand in the way of them safeguarding their livelihoods in any manner they can. It’s great that we can get wrapped up in the trials and tribulations of our favorite teams as they beat themselves up for the glory of sport (and let’s not forget the almighty dollar), but when it comes right down to it, we have no place in the negotiations, and we really don’t deserve one.
I miss NHL hockey terribly, and I want it back right now. The reality is, it’s going to be a while, possibly a long while. I’m hoping that they will get things right this time, and we won’t be doing this same dance six or seven years from now. I just want both the league and the players to stop lobbying for the support of me and other fans. This social media PR war is getting the talks nowhere, and it’s only serving to make everyone more furious. I will be there the night the NHL comes back. I’ll bring my half a paycheck to the United Center gates and gladly hand it over for three hours of escapism and camaraderie with my fellow meatheads. I’ll buy the eight dollar beers, the hats, the shirts, the jerseys, and of course, a Committed Indian on the sidewalk. (That last one doesn’t contribute to league revenue, but it’s kind of a Chicago tradition.) If that makes you think me naïve, dumb, or part of the problem, then I can’t help you.
Come back to me, hockey.
-Hackett
22/06/2012 / Hackett

Youth is Wasted on the Young

Now Playing: Blues Traveler - Live From the Fall

Like many people my age, I’m turning 29 again this June. As you may or may not know, my jackass friends Doug, Tony, and I gather a couple hundred of our closest friends together and celebrate our June birthdays in a debaucherous brewhaha…or hootenanny, if you will. This will be our fifth year doing this, and after a pub crawl or two and a couple beautiful roasts, we’re changing it up a bit. Not too much, there will still be tons of single dudes and ladies, great music, and bad decisions galore. I made a facebook invite, but I know some of you are not of the facebook-ing ilk, so here’s the information on the Fifth Annual Tri-Athla-Drunk.

The Amigos Tres

This WILL Happen. BOOK IT.

When: Saturday, 23 June, 8pm ’til the end of time

Where: The Hidden Shamrock 2723 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614 (Halsted & Diversey, just east of Diversey brown line stop)

Who: EVERYONE.

What: People. Carousing. Laughing. Drinking. And yes, SINGING. We’ve got the entire back room of the Shammy, and some fantastic drink specials: $3 drafts of Brooklyn Summer Ale, $4 tall boy Miller Lite, High Life, and PBR cans, $5 call cocktails, and $5 Jameson shots. Yeah, ya really can’t beat that. Also, the karaoke starts at approximately 9pm, so get there early to load up on some liquid courage so you can rock the mic with us.

Please join us. This isn’t one of those $35 bracelet things…you get a wristband so that the bartenders know you’re with the party. There’s a separate bar JUST for us, takes cash and/or credit…honestly, I couldn’t have made this any easier. And I have a few karaoke surprises lined up for you all. You’re NOT going to want to miss this.

I wanna rock! ROCK!

-Hackett

10/04/2012 / Hackett

Blackhawks Playoff Road Watch

Let's Get It On

It’s the playoffs, it doesn’t get any better than this. So let’s get together, watch some hockey, and bend an elbow (or eleven…teen). Many of you have joined me and others for game watch-type outings, but for those of you who haven’t, please, don’t be afraid to make this your first. I encourage you to wear as much Blackhawks-related attire as you can fit on your body, and even paint your face should the urge strike you. This is a low pressure situation: no wristbands, entrance fee, drink minimum, or anything of that ilk, so even if you choose not to imbibe, please feel free to join us as well. So without further dudes, here are the details:

  • WHERE: The Hidden Shamrock 2723, N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614
  • WHEN: Saturday 14 April, 8pm until the celebration ends
  • WHO: Me, my jackass friends (see below) and YOU.
Reppin' Mickey's

We roll 40 deep, y'all

  • SPECIFICS: The Hidden Shamrock will have the Blackhawks on a majority of its 11 HDTV’s, with sound on for the entire game. Specials include $3 pints of Newcastle Founders’ Ale (a delightful new offering, try it if you haven’t), and $5 #goalshots (whiskey, duhhhh). They also have a fantastic and extensive food menu for those of you not drinking your dinner. First game that day starts at 2pm CT, soooooo, you know what time I’ll be there.
  • RSVP: I’m trying to gauge interest so the bar can order and staff appropriately, so if you’re planning on joining us, let me know, either in the comments section here, on Twitter, or via email (hackett42@gmail.com). Invite any and all friends, there’s plenty of room.

Come on out and enjoy the playoffs, kiddies. LET’S GO HAWKS!!!

-Hackett

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