Mar 022012

“I’ll never watch the Hawks again”

By Rich Lindbloom 

“What do you get when you fall in love?
A guy with a pin to burst your bubble
That’s what you get for all your trouble
I’ll never fall in love again”
 – Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Have you thrown in the towel on the Hawks this season? Had enough of third period meltdowns, awful rebounds and uninspired play from the core? Are Frolik and Bickell driving you up a wall? Have you found yourself asking, “Why did Stalberg do that?” Are you fed up with a defense that couldn’t clean their plate, let alone a crease? Do you lie awake in bed at night wondering, “Why can’t I quit you?” In short, what do we actually get ‘for all our trouble?’ Hell, at least my wife gets flowers on occasion.

Actually, hockey and love have a lot in common. Both arouse intense emotions that tend to be worn on our sleeves. While glancing at the lyrics of the smash hit, (yet another apt hockey parallel), “I’ll never fall in love again,” I was amazed at how applicable they were to diehard Blackhawk fans. As unpredictable as our spouses, you’ll have to admit- there are just some times you sit and wonder what you’ve got yourself into.

For those of you who have recently become enamored with the Hawks, (re – when we won the Stanley Cup), I urge you to find a better way to while away your time. The Hawks will leave you downtrodden and heartbroken – your bubble will be burst. Despite hoping against hope, another 9 game losing streak will rear its ugly head; it’s only a matter of time. Even in victory, you’ll find a way to cling to defeat. It won’t take long and you’ll be asking yourself, “Baby, why you treat me like you do?” Unless you’re a masochist, my advice is to run for the hills. Forget that nonsense that e.e. cummings muttered; “lovers alone wear sunlight.”

Wednesday’s game against the Leafs was a perfect example of the mental torment we inflict upon ourselves. Even after a hard fought victory, I knew that negativity would ooze, like pus from a lingering sore. Most of the reports I perused were unimpressed with the win over the lowly Maples. This reminded me of a time we were in Rome on vacation. We were strolling down the boulevard when a young man noticed my Blackhawk sweatshirt; “Blackhawks, they’re worse than the Maples,” was all he said. While he didn’t come right out and say, obviously his definition of ‘rock bottom’ included the Blackhawks.

My daughter, who was at the game, texted me as the Maples went up 3-1 and typed one painful word, “Why?” As you may realize by now, I tend to view things through rose colored glasses. I received the text moments after, Bruno, Bolland and Sharp all blew prime opportunities. I immediately shot her a note back, “Don’t worry, we got them right where we want them. This is going to be a high scoring game.”

“In my eyes,” (Peter Gabriel got nothing on me), it was a highly entertaining game. Both teams were flying in a wide open affair. Phil Kessel should have been incarcerated for reckless skating. That cat is fast-both Seabs and Duncs had to quit skating backwards a couple of times and give chase to the Leafs star who has 32 goals and 36 assists this year. Truth be known, both teams could have easily had tallied another 2 or 3 goals. Yet, instead of just enjoying this exciting, fast paced game, most Hawk fans found more darkness than light in our triumph. These, for the most part, are the hardened fans, inured to the Hawks false promises over the years. Like a damsel waiting for the telephone call that never comes, they refused to be duped; again. Indeed…

“What do you get when you kiss a guy?
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
After you do, he’ll never phone ya
Dontcha know that I’ll never fall in love again”

Don’t ask me why, but the above verse reminded me of Crazy 88 and all his suitors who have had their heart crushed. Kaner, momentarily at least, silenced his critics (?) with a superlative performance against the Leafs. (As some Hawk fan who must be an English teacher pointed out though, shouldn’t it be “Leaves?”) His goal that tied the game was greatly abetted by a tremendous play by the Engine Who Thought he Could, Andrew Brunette. The whole play actually made me smile because of an earlier conversation I had with Chris Block, (ironically the editor in chief of website,) on Bruno before the game. I said I liked Bruno parked in front of the crease on our power play. Chris made a sagacious observation though when he stated, “Actually, I like to see him be the second man in around the crease area.” What is it Chris, the third man in or the second man in?!

On this particular play, Bruno was raising havoc deep in Gustafson’s crease when he saw Kaner crash the net after Lepisto’s shot from the point. All he did was put his stick out to stop the puck, teeing it up for perhaps the only Hawk who could have scored from that severe of an angle. I can’t begin to describe how intelligent this play was by the wily veteran. Plays like that excite me.

Actually, the chemistry of The Burger King Line (Bruno, Kaner and Hossa – have it my way), really clicked. Kaner and Hossa had 10 shots between them, many prime opportunities. Now I’m not one to generally complain about the refs, but the call on Kane for high sticking reeked of the refs wanting to decide the outcome. If you watch the play, The Maples Franson, hangs a knee on Kane causing the ensuing high stick. I’m still not quite over Cogliano’s goal when we played Anaheim. There has to be conclusive proof to overturn a ref’s call on the ice. Far as I could tell, based on the 10 minute delay, the only thing that was conclusive about this spurious goal was that it was inconclusive. Even the avowed Hawk hater, Mike Milbury agreed. This late first period tally totally turned the game around.

Another terrible call was the swan dive Toronto’s Gustafson executed when Shaw brushed him. I thought I was watching the Sedins dressed in goalie equipment for a moment. Not to mention, Gustafson was totally out of his crease, in my opinion trying to prevent Chicken Hawk from retrieving the puck behind the net. My daughter was sitting next to Toronto fans and even they said it was a dive. Not to get off subject, but did you notice how many Toronto fans were in the United Center? Their team loses 10 games in February and they still support the struggling team-pretty impressive, eh? Apparently they’ve never escaped those chains that bind them…

“Don’t tell me what it’s all about
‘cause I’ve been there and I’m glad I’m out
Out of those chains, those chains that bind you
That is why I’m here to remind you”

The Shaw/Bolland/Bickell line looked decent enough to keep together for another game. Who am I kidding – another shift at best!  Somebody, please take the Random Line Generator away from Coach Q. With all the call ups from the Big R, we may have to change the name of the team to the Chicago Black Hogs. By the way, with the addition of Oduya, along with Emery and Mayers, “Black” Hawks takes on an entirely new meaning. Is this Stan’s master plan? Are Joel Ward and Wayne Simmonds in his eyesight? (another friend insists on calling this year’s Hawks the “Blechh Hoax.”)

Despite being on the ice for the first two goals Toronto scored, I was largely impressed with the player Chris Block termed “The poor man’s Brian Campbell.” Oduya got some time on the #1 PP unit and does not seem to panic with the puck in his own end. It did appear he has a fondness for the home run pass, (also known as the instant turnover), but all in all I have to give Bowman a little credit for this acquisition. Two last things about him that I liked. First he said it was going to be hard leaving teammates he went to battle with – sounds like a team player. Secondly he stated “I’m looking forward, as I go down there, to get to know some of the guys and “Put on that jersey.”

Be honest with me a moment; have any of you ever felt as jilted by a sweetheart as you have by the Hawks goaltenders? Corey, as Tom Petty sings, “Stop dragging my heart around.” There’s not a much more empty feeling in the world than letting in three goals in the first period. It appeared on two of them, Crow had no chance. Kessel’s pass to Lupul that he feathered through Seabrook’s five hole, was a brilliant assist. Sometimes the other guy just beats you. As he skated to the bench at the end of the first, it was noticeable that he was hanging his head. As I spotted him on the bench in the second you could see the dreaded 3 W’s on his face, watching, wondering and worrying.

One man gathers what another man spills however, and Emery did his best Tony-O impersonation to stave off a Maples team that wouldn’t quit. He made a brilliant play, stopping a cross ice pass in front of his crease in the waning moments of the third. I’m really surprised, given his bellicose nature, that Grabovski didn’t leave his crease with a goalie stick impaled somewhere on his body. (Let your imagination run wild.) How did Grabovski not get a penalty for bowling over Razor? It wasn’t all Sugar Ray though. Both Keith and Shaw made great defensive plays to keep the puck out of our twine.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sami Lepisto’s kick save that saved a certain tally. It does remind me of a story of a volleyball game at Oak Forest HS many moons ago. This one girl made a diving save on a spike and kept it alive by knocking it into the net where the setter managed to take control. After the game I told the coach, “That was a great play by the girl on that diving save.” She sort of nodded and said, “If she had been in the right position, she wouldn’t have had to dive.” I’m wondering if Coach Q asked Sami where his stick was when he returned to the bench!

So it’s onward and upward to Ottawa tonight for a contest with the team that has made the most dramatic turnaround in the NHL this year. Be honest, no one circled this game as a must see on their calendars before the season began. Another nail biter, no doubt. Wouldn’t it be grand if the Hawks just saved us a lot of time and aggravation and went 62-20 every year, waltzing into the Stanley Cup Finals? (It’s not like we’re asking them to win it all, just get to the damn Finals.) Instead, no doubt, we will remain on that emotional roller coaster hanging on for dear life the next 18 games. Think we might have our bubble busted a few games along the way? As Joe Jackson so tersely put it, “Is you is, or is you ain’t my baby? Lately, I’ve begun to have my doubts.”

Is true love watching our heroes hoisting the cup above their heads; or is it fans like those from Toronto who came to the United Center last Wednesday to cheer their faltering team on? For me, the best definition of love ever recorded was in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, the great love chapter.

“Love is longsuffering, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

When we win an exciting game like last Wednesday and can find little to be joyful about, perhaps we need a rest. Like it or lump it, as the J Geils band sang, “Love stinks.” It reminds me of a memo sent out to my son’s hockey team to remove all their equipment from the locker room this week. The lady in charge quite hysterically stated, “We’re going to try to get the smell out of the room!” I’m pretty sure the Hawks have a better chance at winning the Stanley cup this year that accomplishing that feat.

What do you get when you fall in love
You only get lies and pain and sorrow
So for at least until tomorrow
No, no I’ll never fall in love again”

Burst, chains, pain, sorrow, trouble, germs, unreturned phone calls and lies? Whoever it was that said love is a many splendid thing should be shot!

For those of you who haven’t reached the end of your ropes, game time is 6pm tonight. Despite the ongoing difficulties in this tenuous relationship, I suspect you’ll be watching.

Rich Lindbloom

Rich Lindbloom is the author of the book War Drums in the Distance, a collection of articles Rich authored on the Blackhawks in their path to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

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