A Chicagoan lost in the wilds of Brooklyn.
Posts by Le Pac
CHICAGO — Jeremy Morin sat on his haunches at the back of the cage. Every muscle tensed. His fists were clenched, held stiffly in front of his shins. When I happened to make eye contact with him, he let out a low growl. The young man’s rage distorted the air around him.
Bryan Bickell, on the other hand, slept soundly in the next cage over. Whenever Morin wasn’t growling, Bickell’s soft snoring filled the room. A snapshot of Bickell’s baby was taped to the wires beside his head.
Contrary to popular belief, Joel Quenneville’s “dog house” is more than a metaphor. Never before glimpsed by anyone outside the Blackhawks organization, there is a bona fide detention center. It is a small, dead-end cinder block hallway buried deep in the United Center’s bowels.
Several years ago (no one will specify when), an equipment manager heard that an animal testing lab at the University of Chicago was upgrading its enclosures. He bought seven cages destined for the scrap heap, brought them to this hallway, and bolted them to the wall. According to unconfirmed reports, Joel Quenneville smiled.
Morin and Bickell were not alone on the day I was granted access. Brad Richards occupied a spot down the hall. He sat against one side of his cage, watching pensively as a handler showed me the water bottles and feeding trays. Brandon Saad was on “part-time” – he could roam freely between practice sessions, but had to return immediately after dinner.
I tried to speak to Richards several times, but my handler wouldn’t allow it. The old timer’s eyes were hollow and doubtful. He seemed more rueful than angry.
“I think it’s good for them,” my handler was saying. “It shows them what Q’s looking for. Sometimes, they need this kind of motivation.”
It was then that I noticed small notes taped to the cage doors. They were titled “Requirements for Release.” I hurried closer to read them but each simply said “More.”
I turned to ask about the vagueness of this when Quenneville himself entered the hallway. Morin’s rage evaporated. His body uncoiled. He slumped into a heap and turned towards the wall behind him.
Quenneville merely grunted. Walking past, he motioned for me to follow. At the end of the hallway he pressed a single cinderblock, causing a hidden door to swing open with a loud hiss.
“Are you sure, Q?” asked the handler. Q said nothing. I followed him through the doorway.
We were in darkness. Then the lights snapped on and a gleaming contraption of steel, tubes, wires, gauges and switches loomed before us. My handler scurried in, rounded the machine’s base, and began pressing buttons. Steam hissed. Beeps and bloops and whirring echoed off the walls.
I asked what this monstrosity was. “Machine,” replied Quenneville.
“What does it do?” I asked.
“Machine,” said Quenneville. “Kiwi fruit.”
The machine was thirty feet tall and twice that at its widest. It took my handler several minutes to power it up. When he was done he was out of breath. He came back to stand beside me.
“Some of those gauges are hard to turn,” he said, panting.
“What is this thing?”
“It’s the Blender.”
HAWKS 6 5 – CANADIENS 1 0 [SOOOO CLOSE!]
Late Sunday night, after the shutout loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Corey Crawford [SHUTOUT] called his mother. He had an unusual request. “You and the other moms still have those minivans, right?” he asked. “Can you get everyone together and meet us at the border? We don’t want to take the plane to Montreal.”
Crawford mère was confused but she didn’t let on. Of course everyone still owned their minivans. Of course they could rustle up une petit caravanne, drive down to the New York border, and ferry a professional hockey team to its hotel. It would be a great way to spend some extra time with her son [SHUTOUT] and his teammates.
Corey [SHUTOUT] told his mom to figure out the details, except for one thing: “Shawzer said it can only be hockey moms.”
Crawford mère nearly pointed out that Mr. Shaw’s request was superfluous. There is not a mother in Châteauguay who was not, at some point, a hockey mom. Then she thought better of it. The emotions roiling Mr. Shaw were obvious, even third-hand.
[STET] Mr. Shaw needed his mom. Like the rest of his team, Mr. Shaw has been playing far below expectations. Asked to fill the “2C” role on a Stanley Cup favorite, Mr. Shaw has run into the natural limits of his game. He loses the majority of his face-offs. Defensive responsibility baffles him. Playmaking ability taunts him from just beyond his grasp. [STET]
Tonight was different. [SHUTOUT] The Blackhawks dominated the Canadiens in every respect. [Well, Except the 1st Period.] Brad Richards opened the scored [!!!!] , putting in a rebound on his eighth attempt. Patrick Kane tallied a natural hat-trick, including the game winner. Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad also joined in the fun. [Sigh. But Versteeg scored twice! My son’s faith is rewarded! Rundblad had TWO assists!]
Looking at those relaxed, happy faces in the visitor’s dressing room tonight, it seems that Crawford [SHUTOUT] was right. This team needed a few hours nestled in the supportive bosom of les mères de Châteauguay.
Captain Jonathan Toews™ [Who did score] told the press scrum that Les Mères “helped us remember why we play the game.” Captain Jonathan Toews™ channeled those memories into four points, all assists. He went on, saying “We needed to remember our love of this game, to play with our heart, not our heads. We needed to relax. Try not to force things. Canada. Moms. Hockey moms. Hockey moms Canada this game is in our blood it is character we have character goals will come goals heart.”
Patrick Kane tallied a hat trick, including the game winner. He paid Les Mères their due respect. “I think every kid growing up playing hockey . . .” he began, then trailed off. Captain Jonathan Toews™ leaned over and finished his sentence: “remembers those van rides to games, how your Hockey Mom would center you.”
“Yeah,” Kane continued. “I also watched my favorite highlights of myself, but Canada Hockey Moms.”
Asked what inspired his life coaching breakthrough, Crawford [SHUTOUT] told the press corps it was “empathy.” After the Winnipeg loss, Corey sensed the rising tide of self-doubt in his teammates. He remembered all the times growing up that he doubted his own ability. He thought about the off-season following the Blackhawks’ first round exit against Phoenix. What did he do then? He called his mom. [SHUTOUT]
[Go fuck yourself, Emelin.]
I was not prepared for this shit. I didn’t bring my golf shoes. I wanted to tell you what the Hawks did wrong, did right, and what piled up into the great big heap of action we fork over to the Hockey Gods.
But I can’t. The game was a fucking mess. Oduya scored early; Andrew Shaw waved his stick over the dot because he is supposed to do that, not because he could win a draw; Weber did a Weber on a 4 on 3; the clock tick-tocked while I muttered “What the fuck?” under my breath into some very nice cask conditioned ale; an obsequious Florida State fan cheered at the TV behind me; Toews forced a turn-over, created a break away, and potted a short-handed game winner in OT that I had to watch six times to understand; then I walked home trying to figure out why that was my reward for spending the day excited about this game.
The Hawks got away with this one. They won. They dominated possession (58.18% Fenwick For at 5v5). But they still went to OT. They still gave up a point in Conference III. You can’t do that in this division. You can’t do that with the Kings.
And that’s the thing. That’s what’s burning me, even after a long walk in the cold tonight. I still feel that puck knocking off Leddy and knuckling past Crow. I still see Drew Doughty’s chinless face in my dreams. I want the Hawks to read “It’s a marathon” op eds for losers and sneer and put on that sweater and knock the shit out of every team in the league.
I don’t want perspective. We kept our perspective all last year. Look what it got us.
If tonight’s game was the Hawk’s response to Q’s “let’s not be cute” speech, get fucking cute again right now.
And get Shaw off the dot.
Welcome to the FIRST EVER Cheer the Anthem Cartoon Recap, where we’ll delve into the slimy contours of last night’s “hockey” “game” between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild.
I was really hoping to have an exciting victory to start this. But, as I’ve said many times:
The relationship between Q and Blackhawks media (bloggers, twitter, and beats alike) has turned into the Oracle of Delphi. I’ve given up trying to understand these things ahead of time; just take them as they come and hope for the best. Yesterday’s killed me, though: Leddy out; Beat Hero Zus still in; and welcome back, Bollig.
Have you looked at last night’s Fenwick chart? Do you remember who was in net for the Wild? I know the CNBC crew fully committed to making sure Bryzgalov’s confidence stayed topped up throughout the game, but he was not doing anything crazy good. The Hawks were just toothless.
And then Bollig got his moment.
This is why he’s the Whack-a-Can constant, people. I know, I know, his passing lane to Kane was shut down but god dammit Bollig! How do you have a 2 on 1 and not put the shot on net.
Thank you, Boys, for slamming the door shut and setting fire to the place on your way out of that series. I know that many Hawks fans are already turning their eyes to the Avs-Wild series and our eventual Second Round match-up, but let us take this Blackhawks Sabbath Day. Savor the victory: we dispatched the Blues with four straight wins. In the First Round. That feels goooooood . . .
We should also take a moment to remember what losing that series would have meant. Sure, we’ve all been there before – a first-round exit after winning the Cup is bad, no matter what. Losing to the Blooooooos, though? During this entire series, the potential to lose bubbled up inside me, crowding out any rational thought, any notion that I should keep this game in perspective. How could I? These people eat kittens. They traded for Steve Ott.
But we didn’t lose. We defeated them. Those cretinous pretenders-to-the-throne return to their rightful place, complete with Mr. Big Time Deadline Acquisition. The Spirit of Chicago flies on.
These are the dark times. The Hawks trail St. Louis in the series, 2-0. They lost both games during the final minutes. Seabs is out for three games after trying to end Backes. Bickell somehow escaped sanction after doing his best Dustin Brown impression. If you want a counter-argument to all the Meatball Hawks fans out there always going on about how the Hawks need to be harder, Saturday’s loss is your retort (and you don’t even need shiny stats to make it).