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.
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?
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.
Now Playing: Alice in Chains – Dirt
NHL hockey is back. Therefore, so are the good times with your favorite hockey-loving, booze-guzzling, degenerates.
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!!!
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.
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.
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)
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!
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.
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Invite any and all friends, there’s plenty of room.
Come on out and enjoy the playoffs, kiddies. LET’S GO HAWKS!!!