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24/11/2010 / Hackett

Blackhawks Stuff I Couldn’t Care Less About

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Humans are an interesting breed.  They (OK, we) love drama, celebrity gossip, and all that goes along with it.  When you analyze the subset that is sports fans, it really isn’t that much different, for the most part.  This point is hammered home (albeit ad nauseum) when you look at the last two seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks.  There has been so much press and discussion around this team that has absolutely nothing to do with the game of hockey, it’s a bit maddening. 

To start with, I understand the connection a fan base develops with certain players, especially when they win a championship with your favorite team.  But to hear/read that some people will be on the verge of tears seeing former Hawks netminder Antti Niemi manning the opposing cage tonight is a bit extreme.  My opinion on the team’s decision aside, Niemi is now standing in the way of a Blackhawks win, and on a larger scale, possibly a title defense, and must be treated as such.  The first time he is introduced at the United Center this season, I will clap and show my appreciation for his fantastic efforts here.  After that, in my eyes, he’s wearing the color teal, and that alone is grounds for torment. 

Another “story” I can’t bring myself to give a damn about is the team’s trip to Las Vegas over their three-day break this week.  I’m not sure why everyone NEEDS to know what they did, where they did it, with whom they did it, how much it cost and why weren’t they spending that time preparing, practicing, and/or looking at film.  Look, I recognize that since the infamous incident last season in Vancouver there has been a big brother-esque flashlight cast upon this squad’s off-ice adventures, but just because they are professional athletes doesn’t mean they can’t take a few days off in the midst of a long road trip (and much longer season) to enjoy themselves and blow off a little steam.  (Yes, I realize the team did publicize the trip themselves, likely in order to drum up a little coverage.) 

Maybe it’s just that after years of being relegated to second-tier coverage (not only for the Blackhawks, but the entire league), I’m not quite used to seeing the Blackhawks leading the headlines, sometimes more notably for their activities away from the game than on the ice.  I’m not saying there isn’t an element of psychology that plays into the Blackhawks facing their former goaltender tonight, that would just be naïve.  I also know that it makes for much sexier storylines and interviews, it’s just being a bit overblown.  I, for one, won’t shed a tear for the one affectionately known here as “Nemo” if the Hawks perforate him for a half-dozen in the first period.  He’s a professional, and he (read: his agent) made the decision to seek more money elsewhere (yeah, how’d that go for ya?). 

The main point here is that I’d rather the discussion surrounding the Blackhawks (and hockey in general, for that matter) revolve more around the sport than the peripheral activities of the players.  People (myself included) have questioned this team’s focus in the early-going, and this sort of intense scrutiny is definitely something that could be affecting that.  The unfortunate reality is that the mercurial rise in popularity of this team invariably comes with increased exposure, and it’s not likely to just go away.  I don’t want to tell anyone how to be a fan, so I won’t, but this is my blog, and I’ll express my opinions as I see fit, dammit!

As always, your thoughts and reactions are encouraged.  Whatcha got for me, folks?!

-Hackett

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