With the Chicago Blackhawks done for the season, I was looking for alternatives to watching quality hockey in the Chicagoland area. What I found was the USHL’s Chicago Steel, who have a chance to win the Clark Cup for the first time ever!
No, it’s not the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks; it’s not the AHL; and it’s not the CHL, where Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat is currently making some noise. The Chicago Steel is a hockey team that is part of the USHL, a Tier 1 junior hockey league. This league is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and is in its 15th season. The USHL boasts having four consecutive seasons with 30 or more NHL draft picks, and numerous NCAA Division I college commits.
I knew none of this until I recently looked it up. But what I did know was that the Chicago Steel is a junior hockey team that plays at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Illinois. This is a town right around the corner from where I live. As a matter of fact, it’s right by where I work. My girlfriend and I meet frequently at the arena’s restaurant, Chelios, for lunch.
It turns out I have a bit of a Chicago Steel connection. My company donates to Mooseheart, a residential home/school for children and teens in need. I help coordinate the donations, and Michael is the driver who always picks them up. He also moonlights as a cameraman for the Chicago Steel.
When I asked him about the team, he immediately perked up. He told me this is the first time in the team’s 15-year history that they have advanced to the Clark Cup Final. He also said, “These are a bunch of really good kids from all over the world. I wish them the best.”
He peaked my interest. A hockey team right around the corner competing for their Cup? I had to check this out. And I wanted to do it in style. So I looked into getting a suite for last night’s game.
My experience at a Chicago Steel game
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If you’re looking to see some really good hockey but not break the bank, a Chicago Steel game is the way to go.
Tickets sell for $10 a seat, $12 on game night. The box I ended up getting was $400 for 15 people, or roughly $27 per person. We had a beautiful private suite and balcony looking right out over center ice. It was a great view and atmosphere.
When he heard I was going to be at the game, my friend Michael made sure to find me beforehand. He introduced me to Rob, the play-by-play announcer, who incidentally was set up in the suite next to ours. As a cameraman, Michael also ensured our group was on the jumbotron a number of times throughout the game.
Yes, the Fox Valley Ice Arena has a jumbotron. Billionaire Larry Robbins bought the Chicago Steel two years ago, and immediately set out making improvements. He hired head coach Dan Muse, who used to be an assistant coach at Yale. He named former USHL executive of the year Dan Lehv president.
They moved the team from Bensenville to Geneva, added the jumbotron and got to work on other promotions. Most notably for Chicago Blackhawks fans, they do a Blackhawks night. The most recent one featured ex-Blackhawk turned broadcaster, Jamal Mayers. The Athletic’s Scott Powers recently did a nice piece highlighting the Chicago Steel, and how they are trying to incorporate themselves into Chicago’s hockey market.
But let’s get back to last night and the Steel’s quest for the Cup. It was Game 4 of the Final against the Sioux City Musketeers. In a best-of-five series, the Steel had lost Game 1 in overtime, but taken Games 2 and 3. This meant that a win last night would make the Steel the winners of the Clark Cup.
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Alas, it was not to be. The Steel fell to the Musketeers 5-4 in what turned out to be a very exciting back-and-forth game. I really thought the Steel was going to pull it off. They started out with a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Musketeers answered with two goals as well, but the Steel made it 4-2 in the second frame. Apparently, the Musketeers weren’t going to go down without a fight. They scored again in the second period, and then tallied two goals late in the third to secure the win.
Interestingly, three players for the Chicago Steel will be eligible for the upcoming 2017 NHL Draft, which will take place June 23rd and 24th at the United Center. This includes defenseman Ben Mirageas, forward Brannon McManus and goaltender Dayton Rasmussen. Goaltender Ales Stezka, who was in between the pipes last night, is a prospect for the Minnesota Wild.
Game 5 returns to Sioux City, Iowa, for a winner-take-all affair Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. I won’t be traveling to Iowa, but I will be following the game. According to the team’s website, the game’s live broadcast will be available on USHL.HockeyTV.com (video) and mixlr.com/chicago-steel (free audio). It might not have happened last night, but the Chicago Steel still has a chance to bring home the Clark Cup for the first time ever!
Unfortunately, this past Saturday’s tilt was the last home game of the season for the Chicago Steel. I was glad to be a part of it, and I’m disappointed I didn’t explore what was right under my nose much earlier. But you can guarantee this hockey housewife will be looking into attending more Chicago Steel games next season. If you happen to live in the area, I would highly recommend you do the same!