Dec 182011

“Trust me Gar!”

By Rich Lindbloom

Trophies, they’re never easy to come by, are they? While the trophies being held up in the photo above may not rival a toothless Duncan Keith hoisting the Cup two years ago, it’s rather apparent the four knuckleheads are quite proud of their efforts on a rain soaked day of fishing in Canada. Apparently, one of the boys on the fishing trip decided to stay in the cabin and raid the liquor cabinet – that could explain the off center photo. The lad on the left was my baby brother Jim, who passed away around this time last year. A friend who was known as the tenth Lindbloom, Rabbi Voshnewsky, sent the picture and one of my all time favorite stories as a very pleasant reminder of the last of nine Lindblooms to enter this world….

“A couple of childhood fishin buddies were in a boat together.  It was the last day of fishing in the beautiful Canadian wilderness…Dennis had already used all the big leeches.  Huckins was in camp doing his laundry….We had assumed we could catch what fish (5-16 to 18″ walleyes) we would bring home on this day.  Been catchin ’em daily.  No problemo.

For whatever reason, a slow day ensued.  Jim and I met Tom and Dennis early afternoon as we normally did to look in each others beer and leech coolers and equalize said quantities to make ’em last until it was too dark to tie a hook on.  They weren’t “slaying” the slot size “keepers” either…

Long story short…Jimmy says “Lets go up the river”…Gary says “Jim we have fished there earlier today and all week for that matter and not done very well and we only have a couple of hours left (not the exact verbiage used)….”Trust Me Gar”!…Up the river we went…Out of nowhere…Thunder…Lightning…A torrential downpour….”Maybe we should go in Jim”….”NO!…Trust me Gar”…Up the river we continued….

Long story short…Jim and I hop onto a rock in the middle of the river about the size of the Lindbloom Brothers’ bedroom on Lexington (not too big).(note: there were four brothers in that room)..One after another…17-171/2″ walleyes (perfect keepers)…Out of nowhere thru the downpour comes Dennis and Tom…

Long story short…We took turns standing on that rock catching one after another.  It was like the Seinfield “soup nazi”…One angler would cast… hook up.. and step to the left…reel in the waldo…unhook …and repeat… and was followed by another angler who did the same ect etc…The four of us…on a rock the size of the Lindbloom Brothers bedroom in a torrential rain pour…That day, i too, had brothers…Somewhere is a picture of the end result…4 drenched “brothers” and a nice stringer…

Funny thing…Could never find that rock again…looked for it each of the next 6-7 times we were at that lake to no avail…It was a time and place and people i will never ever forget…

May the wind be always at your back…and may the “rock” rise to meet you my friends…

Jimmy and i referred to that day in our last written communication between us…I guess it is OK to share a private conversation between two childhood friends/brothers who shared a rock in a rainstorm?
–Gary Voznak

So, what does this have to do with our surging, 8-1-1 in their last 9 games, Blackhawks? Before I let you in on that little secret, let’s recap a pretty successful week of hockey for the men of the Indian Head. Suffice it to say, rocks like the one those four waterlogged fishermen uncovered that day are few and far in between. Let’s go “up the river,” shall we…

Somewhere in a deep, dark secluded room, Niklas Backstrom is sequestered away in a straight jacket. The move Crazy Eights put on the Wild goaltender may have ruined him for life. There is a remote chance that Backstrom could possibly recover after intense psychoanalysis, but for the moment he’s confined to bed rest and Yanni CD’s. Reportedly he keeps waking up out of a deep sleep, perspiration dripping from every pore in his body, overcome by visions of Kaner creeping towards him from center ice. I couldn’t help but recall the story of The Shadow when I reflected on Kaner’s devilish deception that sealed a scintillating win in the Twin Cities, “Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch…”

I’m not sure if Kaner hollered out “Niagara Falls” or not; but there is no doubt Patrick looked upon Backstrom with utter contempt before he buried the puck in what appeared to be an abandoned net. The way he momentarily hesitated, daring the beleaguered Wild sieve to try to get back in position, seemed to scream out, “You sicken me Backstrom. Really is that all you got.” To make matters worse for Backstrom, undoubtedly the goal will be shown on highlight video’s for weeks and weeks. Someone said Kaner made 14 stick handling moves, accompanied by numerous head and shoulder fakes, in what must have seemed to be a short eternity for Backstrom.

The game against the Wild was being closely watched throughout the NHL as people are starting to wonder if Minnesota, currently tied with the Hawks for the Western Conference lead, is for real. As talk of the new divisional alignments were discussed, memories of one of the most intense rivalries in hockey resurfaced.

The Hawks and North Stars locked horns in many bitter disputes before their departure to Dallas. Clutterbuck (seriously, you’ve had to have given some thought to changing your last name, no?) and Brodziak were two nozzles that really got under my skin last Wednesday, bringing back some fond memories of those battles throughout the 80’s and early 90’s. Most everything I read said Carcillo got hurt in his bout with Staubitz. I’m almost certain it was the result of a vicious elbow Brodziak branded Danny boy with during a goal mouth discussion involving Keith and the Wild hooligan. Look, I realize Carcillo can be caught on the wrong side of the law occasionally. Yet, a no-call on Brodziak’s obvious infraction, coupled with a questionable elbowing penalty to #13, reeked of a flagrant double standard.

Speaking of Keith, his play on Matt Cullen –well you can count on one hand the defenseman in the NHL are capable of that move. In a move reminiscent of when Michael Jordan went back door and stole the ball from Karl “the mailman” Malone against the Utah Jazz, Keith took a huge risk in thwarting Cullen’s breakaway. Rather than trying squeezing himself between Cullen and Emery, Keith went on the left side and knocked the puck away. There may have been some incidental skate contact after the puck was knocked away and the refs, for once, showed remarkable restraint in not calling a penalty on Keith. Just one of those numerous plays by Keith that never show up on the scoresheet – from all appearances though it seems like Norris Keith is back.

As usual, Big Bad John Scott was a center of controversy, especially on the Blackhawk blog sites. There is no doubt in my mind that a voodoo doll of #32 would be a brisk seller outside the United Center. It seemed the negative reaction to Scott’s decision making process on the blown icing call ran about 90% to the negative side of the ledger. I still think both Monty and Big Bad John thought it was icing, and Scott took exception to the Wild forward running into Montador. As one astute blogger noted, if it was so obvious there was a wash off on the icing, what the hell were Stalberg and Frolik doing floating around the blue line? Overlooked in the sea of negativity that Scott always seems to be immersed in, was a pretty solid game which included a couple of nice slappers from the point. Coach Q and I must have been on the same page, as Scott was inserted in the lineup on Friday night against the Ducks. While I still believe O’Donnell or Lepisto are a better option on the blue line, Scott had one of the better games I’ve seen him in against the Wild. (Although the announcers can stop saying Scott has a long stick every time he poke checks a puck whenever their ready now.)

Scott’s presence was “felt” on the ice against the Ducks. Sheldon Brookbank unwisely threw down the mitts and impersonated a punching bag for a few uneasy minutes in the second period. He was the first player in the NHL to ask a pent up John Scott to dance this year. The most brutal blow appeared to be an upper cut to the rib cage that clearly stung the brave Duck defenseman. Scott clearly is the heavyweight champion of the NHL these days. In addition, Big John recorded his first assist of the year. If Scott had been able to corral a long pass from one of our d-men, he would have had a breakaway in the third. Scott banged his stick on the ice a few times, demanding the biscuit from a leery defenseman. If he had gone in and put on some Kaner like moves on Hiller, Sam Fels most likely would have jumped. Despite his continued improvement, it still seems several Hawk players are still reluctant to pass Big John the puck. On a somewhat humorous side note, my 15 year old son thought it was quite humorous that there was a song called Big Bad John, and they played it after his TKO! You know you’re getting old when your kids don’t know a great song from your time in the sun. Somewhere, Johnny Cash is smiling.

Jamal Mayers continues to play inspired hockey, and is quietly becoming this past summers best player acquisition. He plays fearlessly, skates his tail off every shift, and is a good penalty killer. He’s a great teammate to have on your line when opponents try to single out our weak and infirm. He had a sweet goal on a wrap around in the first period off of some hard work by Andrew Brunette and an alleged assist from Scott. I’ll tell you what, if Coach Q keeps the Scott/Mayers/Brunette line intact, Brunette will never have to worry about someone taking a run at him.

Ray Emery in my mind has gone from a “hold your breath” goalie, to one I hope Coach Q rides hard for awhile. The man is hot. Hard to believe that this warrior was once told he might not ever walk normal again, let along play goalie in the NHL. Although he was the recipient of some poor marksmanship by the Ducks, he is absorbing the puck, limiting rebounds and has been fighting through screens to see the shots. A very deserved #1 star of the game. The Stars of the Game were about a strange a list of Hawks that you’ll ever find! It was truly a Call Ripley’s assortment. I loved the exuberance Scott displayed as he skated out almost all the way to the penalty box when he was announced as the number two star. I’m pretty sure that’s the equivalent of seeing a no-hitter in baseball.

As we try to maintain our unbeaten streak tonight against the Flames, some thoughts began infiltrating my mind. There is still a reserved excitement about the 2011/2012 Blackhawks that is obvious when one reads all the great Hawk blogs sites, (or whatever you call them.) Everyone is clamoring for an all-star caliber defenseman and 30 goal scoring left wing. It reminds me of the Cup year when many people began clamoring for Ilya Kovalchuk. “If only we had him, we’d have a legitimate shot at the Cup,” lamented many nervous Nellies. (There was one huge trade made that wouldn’t affect the Hawks that season, but certainly has been favorable this year – the Barker for Leddy deal. In The Wilds defense, who would have thought that a skinny 19 year old kid could have so quickly made his presence felt in the NHL?)

My thoughts; while I’m expecting some sort of move by Stan Bowman, he could add three All stars and it still wouldn’t guarantee winning the Stanley Cup. In addition to having a great team, it requires an inordinate amount of luck to end up hoisting that 35-pound trophy in June. Ask Vancouver fans how elusive that quest can prove to be, despite seemingly having all the pieces. Stanley Cups are not bought by a GM, they are won by Herculean efforts on the ice. It’s truly a matter of attrition and staying, somewhat, healthy is a huge factor. Like that rock in the middle of the river my brother and Voz discovered, the Hawks sort of came out of nowhere in that 09/10 season – supposedly they were a few pieces away from being a true contender.

In Gary’s wonderful memory he wrote about, one of the last sentences bemoans the fact that he’s been back to that area 6 or 7 times and never located “Jim’s Rock” again. It was a place in time, one of those moments in life that are to be cherished. Those moments can’t be bought, or manufactured. It almost seems as if they are a gift, a bit like seeing your son get his first hit in Little League. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that our “best players” are our “best players.” It doesn’t hurt that Tazer is trying to be the best player in the whole league!

Expect some rainy weather as we head up the river this season. Who knows whether we’ll find that elusive rock again?  No matter how it turns out remember…

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by Lord, by and by,
There’s a better “Rock” awaiting
In the sky Lord, in the sky.

Rich Lindbloom

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  2 Responses to “Lindbloom: On Big Bad John, the Kaner Dance and the long journey back to that elusive rock”

  1. Thank for this exceedingly well written and poignent article. Hockey is a great sport and its prize comes only after a sustained litany of grueling heroics that are combined with some luck in the roll of the puck. Your fishing metaphor was spot on as well as a GREAT story. I guess one could (if they were cooler than me) say it ‘rocked’. As a 40 year Hawks fan who has read everything I could about the Hawks during that time, I would say that only Bob Verdi has written articles about hockey/Hawks that I found this delicious. Thanks again.

  2. Ed,

    I had reservations about sending this one to Chris – it was sort of personal, although I did manage to throw in a bit about the Hawks! I’m always amazed , (and thankful), at the liberty Chris gives me.

    But to be mentioned in a sentence with the incomparable Bob Verdi made my day! I had to sort of rush through the ending because my wife and I went Christmas shopping for what seemed to be a short eternity yesterday!

    One other line that I neglected to mention was that my brother and our friend Gary, (who really wrote the good part of the article), used to fish with bobbers in Canada. This used to tick a few of the “good” fisherman off – “No one fishes with a bobber in Canada!!” they would say.

    Again, thanks for the very kind words. it meant a lot to me.

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