Blackhawks News

United Center to North Pole: Dear Santa…

By Tim Lively

As I write this from the 300’s at the Madhouse on Madison (I’m staking out a prime spot at the Captain Morgan Bar for the Blackhawks-Devils game tomorrow night, in case you were wondering), with Christmas just a few days away, I realize as a Chicago Blackhawks fan, I have much to be thankful for, and in all fairness I can’t ask for anything from you this year.

However Nick, (can I call you Nick?), with that act of modest selflessness just now, I will now iron-clad my clout on the Nice list with a charitable request to bequeath the Blackhawks with any good will coming my way in a double down of good karma (that feeling you had just now was your brain getting wrinkled – FYI).

Yes, I know it is hard to figure out what to get an already so naturally gifted team this holiday season, so I’ve taken the liberty of writing down a list to keep your elves busy:

#1 – A New Bar for Patrick Kane

No, not that kind of bar, get your mind off eggnog. After all, it seems that kind of nonsense is all in Kane’s past now. I don’t know what it was about the 2012 NHL lockout Nick, but ever since, Kane’s turned over a whole new poinsettia leaf. Maybe it was the trade rumors spurred by his underwhelming play and off-ice antics since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, or maybe it was his time playing for EHC Biel in Switzerland, but Kaner’s game and work ethic have hit a whole new level of refinement and potency. After winning the Conn Smythe Tophy last season, Kane is having a stellar-of-stellar 2013-2014 season; sitting nicely six points behind the NHL’s offensive leader Sidney Crosby with 48 points. And you have to admit, that wicked backhand goal Kane had against the Nashville Predators last week made Hawks fans remember why we fell in love with him in the first place. So please Nick, Patrick needs a new bar set for him this season, because I don’t think anyone is questioning his desire and discipline anymore.

#2 – A Nickname for Antti Raanta

The feel good story of the Blackhawks this season (maybe not It’s A Wonderful Life feel good, but it’s getting there) is the emergence of goalie Antti Raanta in the wake of Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin’s injuries. Nick, if you know when we’re sleeping and when we’re awake, then you have to know Raanta has been lights out in his relief role, and it should make things interesting upon Crawford’s return. One thing I love about the Blackhawks is how the roster is replete with nicknames; Sharpie, the Hammer, Big Hoss, to name a few… Given his solid play that perhaps saved the Hawks’ season (who knows where they’d be in the standings sans Raanta’s talent in net) I think the best way for fans to show their appreciation for Antii Raanta is to give him a moniker of his own. I was thinking along the lines of “Antti II” or “The Rant (Da Rant in Chicagoan).” Think about it and get back to me Christmas Day.

#3 – Some Recognition for Brent Seabrook

I’m sure you’ve heard all the hoopla about Duncan Keith being a candidate for the Norris Trophy this season, and he certainly deserves to be in contention, but I’m tired of everyone overlooking Brent Seabrook on the blue line. You remember him right? The Blackhawk that scored the series-clinching OT goal in Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings in the 2nd round of the playoffs last year? Per usual Seabrook’s been quietly having a decent season on the score sheet, but one often overlooked stat is the number of hits he dishes out. His 96 checks this season places him among the top 30 in the NHL, and that’s noteworthy because he’s a starter, not a lower line goon like the majority of the players comprising this category. Furthermore, it’s a well-known fact how quiet Keith is when he’s not paired with Seabrook, so suffice it to say Seabs is an enforcer that allows Keith to operate. Hawks fans need to realize Brent Seabrook is the Gary Suter to Duncan Keith’s Chris Chelios, nuff said!

#4 – More PK Prowess for Michal Handzus

The Blackhawks penalty kill been at the bottom of the league ever since the departure of Michael Frolik, and thus far this season, there hasn’t been anyone to fill the void. But lately, the ageless wonder Michal Handzus (fka the aged wonder) has been turning some heads on special teams, especially after he scored that short-handed goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. You have to admit Nick, he’s a great fit for the PK.  He’s got a big 6’ 5” frame opponents need to skate around and try to put shots through, not to mention his long reach that clogs up passing lanes. Furthermore the PK doesn’t require too much coast-to-coast skating where his lack of speed is obviously a liability. Let’s not also forget his veteran vision sees a heck of a lot of ice so he knows were to be and when, and that’s essential when you’re a man down. So Santa baby, hurry that down the chimney tonight (Eartha Kitt RIP).

#5 – New Stadium Series Jerseys

There’s nothing about the Blackhawks playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1st I don’t like, except the jerseys they’ll be wearing. Have you seen them? They’re, well black, and that’s about it, and not a cool new style, but pretty much the same as the alternate jersey the Hawks used to wear from the mid 1990’s through the early 2000’s. Seriously? The Hawks are an Original Six team, with a rich and colorful history of logos and jerseys alone, and they’re going to harken back to that time period? The one where the only thing Hawks fans had to be excited about was Eric Daze? For shame! Nick, I find it very hard to believe that there isn’t enough creativity here at the UC to select or create a jersey for the Hawks that will be as awesome as skating where the Chicago Bears play, but apparently there isn’t, so a little help…

#6 – A Winning Reg. Season Record vs. the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks

Considering the Blackhawks have the 2nd most points in the NHL right now, you’d figure there’s little for Hawks fans to worry about, but Nick, I’ll tell you right now this Hawks fan checks for two things under his bed before he goes to sleep at night: the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks. These teams are dangerous, pure and simple, and what makes them more frightening is the very good chance the Hawks will have to go through one, or even both of these teams to return to the Promised Land that is the Stanley Cup Finals. So far, not so good: the Hawks are 0-2 and 0-0-1 against the Blues and Ducks respectively this season. The Hawks will play the Ducks twice more and the Blues three more times during the regular season, so there are opportunities to learn from their mistakes and come out on top, and here’s hoping, because having a winning season record is crucial against these squads. The Blackhawks certainly don’t want to be behind the learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to string together wins in Anaheim and/or St. Louis during the playoffs.

#7 – The LED Madhouse on Madison Sign Already!

Finally, the Madhouse on Madison, despite being a beloved moniker embraced by the denizens of Chicago, certain individuals here at the United Center decided that the great big red sign celebrating said nickname was just not needed, and took it down in favor of installing a new LED sign that will enhance the fans’ game experience. Enhance how, with more ads? Okay fine, just don’t raise ticket prices again since you’ll be getting extra ad revenue. Oh wait…sigh. I’m sorry Nick but this move was inane, especially because it is taking so freaking long for them to put the LED sign up where it belongs. I won’t name names but I think there are a few executives in the front office that ought to be cooking out with the contents of their stockings this year, just saying… Maybe it’s not yet a hallowed sobriquet steeped in tradition just yet (it’s only four years old), but both Bulls and Hawks fans alike aspired to make it live up to the namesake, and you me both know Hawks fans were the ones that really gave the title it’s bite. So can you please throw a new sign in your sack?

So Santa, I hope you got enough room on your sleigh for all that I’ve asked for, and even though the United Center doesn’t have a tree, you can just leave everything under the Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull statues. I’ll leave milk and cookies for you at Will Call, and by milk and cookies I mean nachos and an $8 beer. Merry Christmas!


Johnny Hawks Fan

Dictated but not read

PS – Please forward to Hanukkah Harry and Kwanzaa Kofi (that’s right, I’m covering my bases).