Apr 202012


The Nature of Love

Well, now, he was really stupid with love; there wasn’t a bit of fun left in him. He was good for nothing on earth but sitting under bushes, smoking tobacco and sighing till you’d wonder where he got the wind for it all. Now you may as well be persuading the birds against flying, or striving to coax the stars out of the sky into your hat, as to be talking commonsense to them that’s fairly bothered and bursting with love. There’s nothing like it. The toothache and colic together would compose you better for an argument; it leaves you fitted for nothing but nonsense. It’s stronger than whiskey, for one good drop of it will leave you drunk for a year, and sick, begorra, for ten; it’s stronger than the sea, for it will carry you around the world, and never let you sink in sunshine or in storm; and, begorra, it’s stronger than Death himself, for it is not afeared of him, but dares him in every shape. But lovers do have their quarrels sometimes; and, begorra, when they do, you’d almost think they hated one another like man and wife.

By Rich Lindbloom

The passage on love I’ve recorded for your enlightenment can be found in an excellent book entitled “A Treasury of Irish Folklore,” by Padraic Colum. Obviously the passage is a reflection on love; what better time to share this than in the amorous high tides of spring. However, one can substitute in place of the word love just about anything we become passionate about in life. For the sake of clarity in this article though, substitute the word hockey for love-as in “he was really stupid with hockey.”

When I visit the various websites throughout the league, perusing the plethora of columns and the concomitant responses, I’m somewhat startled by the sheer volume of information/scathing diatribes that the game of hockey evokes from its ardent followers. As we all know, hell hath no fury like a Canuck fan scorned. Fans ratchet up their hatred for the fire breathing, three headed monsters on the opposition to dizzying heights. The line in the above passage, “He was good for nothing on earth but sitting under bushes, smoking tobacco and sighing to till you’d wonder when he got the wind for it all,” is so prevalent among the various team’s blog sites. Just as lovers seem to become intensely focused on each other, hockey fans become obsessed to varying degrees of dysfunction as they ardently support their heroes.

Just in case you’re unclear on the word hatred, try visiting a website like “Winging it in Motown” and asking them if they think Niklas Kronwall is a headhunter. (I’ll never make that mistake again!) Reason is not a word closely associated with diehard hockey fans. It’s a “Us, us, us, us, us, and Them, them, them, them, them…” mindset for certain. Personally, I like to visit the enemy’s web sites, it’s always enlightening to get another perspective. (You may not believe this, but most sites think Kaner is a light weight panty waist. Some have accused The Rat of storing frozen body parts in his freezer.)

There’s a writer at the Edmonton Journal’s “The Cult of Hockey” that I like to check in on occasionally named Bruce McCurdy. What is it about the words “Cult” and “Hockey” cause me to pause and reflect on diehard hockey fans? (Truly, up until the Raffi Torres assassination attempt of Big Hoss, I hadn’t screamed “Kill him!” in a long time.)   McCurdy wrote a knowledgeable piece on “Public Enemy Number One,” recently. In a calm and professional manner, he just stated the facts pertaining to Torres’ truculent career.

Before I go any further, let me make it perfectly clear that hard hitting is an integral part of hockey. Take the hitting out, and you get soccer- not trying to diminish that great sport, just stating a fact. And there are obvious exceptions like Zidane of France;

However, McCurdy used two words that I think separate hard hitting from the type of thuggery that is increasingly sending the NHL stars to the mysterious dark room. He stated Torres hits are often against “unsuspecting and vulnerable opponents.” In other words, “Torres runs at opponents who don’t see him coming.” He also went over Torres two recent suspensions, involving Jordan Eberle in 2011, (four games) and Nate Prosser in 2012 (two games). In addition to those incidents, his questionable “hit” list includes Brent Seabrook, Milan Michalek, Jason Williams, Jan Hejda and Andrew Ferrence. My guess is this list would be larger if a few players hadn’t seen this human bowling ball barreling down on them at the last second.

To summarize; Targeting head – check. Leaving feet – check. Hitting a player without the puck – check. Prior convictions – check. A long history of vicious high hits – check. Predatory hockey – check. As he assembles his defense team spearheaded by Don Cherry for Friday’s chit-chat with NHL Disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, the deck appears to be stacked against him. Inside sources say “Grapes” intends to use The Golden Calf defense.

Some of you may recall the story of Moses confronting Aaron after the construction of a false idol, the golden calf. In Exodus 32:34 Aaron gives one of the weakest defenses ever muttered by a man; “I told them ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.” They gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” Do you really think “I thought it was a hockey play” is any better? With the record of Shanahan’s decisions this year, there is a good possibility he just might make Raffi write the Sixth Commandment 1,000 times.

Another possibility is to make him listen to the children’s troubadour, Raffi for 72 straight hours. I used to drop Taylor off at the babysitter’s in the morning when she was young and we’d have one of those, “Everything grows and grows” or “Down by the Bay” type songs on every morning. One day after dropping her off, as I pulled into my works parking lot I realized I had just listened to, and even sung, Raffi songs for over 15 minutes, without any kids in the car. I feel better now, I’ve wanted to confess that for 14 years! A few days with the real Raffi, could prove to be just what the doctor ordered for Torres.

To say the air was taken out of the building after Torres blatant cheap shot would be an understatement. There seemed to be such a gaping hole in our lineup the rest of the night. I know some fans, perhaps justifiably so; have bemoaned the lack of offensive production from Hossa thus far in the playoffs. I’m pretty sure they’ve stopped complaining. Some of you have probably seen that commercial where “The Hound” hits on another guys girlfriend and is saved by “The Fixer.” I can’t get that song out of my head at the end of the commercial; “How you like me now,” I even bob my head and move my shoulders while I sing it. A different perspective has a way of changing how we view things, no? Hossa is a game changer, plain and simple. I’m not sure how we plug that hole?

In my view, the referee’s had started losing control of the game before the Hossa incident. When the fans derisively cheer the linesmen for getting an icing call right, you know they’re having issues. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Coach Q come right out and say, “The officiating was a disgrace tonight,” before?  He’s usually very diplomatic in his criticism of the zebra’s. Not only did they blow the call on Torres, the Hawks were assessed a penalty when Brandon Bollig tried to pound some sense into Torres. In typical fashion, Torre’s quickly turtled, not like the warrior he normally is, but like a yellowbellied sap sucker.

The fans were understandably livid, and swear words, middle fingers and banging on the plexi-glass were a bit out of control. I thought a few panels of the plexi-glass were going to shatter, they were being struck that hard. It reminded me of a story a co-worker told me about when he got to sit along the glass as a child. The Hawks were playing Montreal and Eric was watching the warm ups. As Yvan “The Roadrunner” Cournoyer skated by, Eric banged on the glass to intimidate the fleet footed Canadian. The next time around, Cournoyer skated up and punched the glass as hard as he could, scaring the living daylights out of the 9 year old. Cournoyer immediately started laughing, along with several other of the Habs, when they saw Eric’s startled reaction. I think the story ended with Yvan giving him a puck. Eric says to this day, Cournoyer remains his favorite player.

If you watched the game on television, you probably didn’t see or feel the wrath of the fans. You also might to have noticed how well Michael Frolik played in the disappointing loss. So often in hockey, unless we win, we leave with heads down and our tails between our legs. Don’t get me wrong, I like to win as much as the next guy, but there is so much to appreciate even in a loss, if you have eyes to see. Watching Frolik literally fly around the ice was an absolute joy. He constantly chased down loose pucks, back checked and eventually tallied the Hawks second goal, banging home a juicy rebound.

He came very close to blowing the roof off the United Center in the second period when he put some Kaner like moves on Smith, getting him to drop down into butterfly. That exposed the area above Smith’s left shoulder which Frobo missed with a high backhand. I know, I know-typical Frolik. However, no one on the Hawks skated harder or played with more determination than # 67. Keep plugging away-we need you now more than ever. One could easily make the case that 67/36/29 has been our most effective line in the playoffs.

In contrast to Frolik’s throwing all caution to the wind, I felt one of our shortcomings on Tuesday was our defensemen playing overly conservative. As ChicagoNativeSon mentioned “The Hawks are not built to play defense in their zone for long periods of time.” There were a few instances where I thought we should have pinched, sealing the Coyotes in their end. Instead it seemed like our d-men were in constant foot races with the Coyote forwards, chasing down loose pucks behind Crow’s nest all night. Say what you will about the Yotes, but they don’t give you a lot of time to think when you have the puck.  I realize, no one wants to make a crucial mistake that could lead to an odd man rush, but it just seemed we were playing not to lose. Based on our successes in Game One and Two, and to offset the damn Bear prevent defense mindset, I would like to suggest he following. Pull the goalie in the final minute of every period. Think General George Patton hockey; let’s go into Russia, now!

Taylor Pyatt has been a particularly annoying force for the Dark Side. Looks like Gordon and Brule will fill out the Yotes third line. Nothing flashy, but players who apparently have not, or are incapable of, reading our Core’s press clippings. All three players are former first round draft choices. In a strange but true revelation, I noticed the Yotes have 14 first round draft choices on their roster. Is it any wonder they aren’t going away easy? Their highest paid forward is Langkow at $4.5 mildo/year. Yandle is the highest paid Coyote at $5.2. A quick glance at our roster shows 7 former first round picks. We definitely win the salary contest though, hands down.

Without Dan Carcillo or Scott, Phoenix definitely has an edge in the nozzle category. (Where did all our sandpaper go?) Although the Hossa/Torres tradeoff is a definite loss as far as the Hawks are concerned, losing a player of Torre’s “hockey” ability is no small thing. And Phoenix might still be without Hanzal and dat surprisingly effective Korpedo guy. In order to fill those vacant spots on the wings, perhaps Coach Q and Coach Tippet should pay a visit to Alice’s Restaurant. Let me explain…

I worked as a janitor at Oak Forest H.S. in the 70’s. I was stripping the cafeteria floor one Saturday morning, listening to WXRT DJ Leslie Witt spin records. Leslie had impeccable taste, (i.e. she liked what I liked), and I had the Ghetto Blaster cranked up. Oddly, a song that you’ll probably never hear again on the radio because it’s way too long, (over 18 minutes), came through the speakers. Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie was a peculiar choice, but given Leslie’s track record, I decided to give her a pass and not toss in a Deep Purple 8-track. If you’ve never heard this song you might want to Google the lyrics, just to get a flavor for it. I think it’s almost comparable to War and Peace in length.

As the song progressed, (it’s quite hysterical), I became a bit mesmerized by Arlo’s preposterous story. There is one segment I need to share, because I think it’s how teams in the NHL get a Torres or Carcillo or Burrows or Carkner or Shaw in their lineup.

“Kid, see the psychiatrist, Room 604.” (from here on substitute coach for the shrink) “And I went up there, I said, Shrink, I want to kill. I mean I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean Kill, Kill, Kill, Kill. And I started jumping up and down yelling ‘Kill, Kill,’ and he started jumping up and down with me yelling “Kill, Kill,” and the sergeant came over, pinned a medallion on me, sent me down the hall, said, you’re our boy.”

The song goes on and on, finally ending with the catchy chorus,

“You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in, it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.”

When the song finished, Leslie said “I could hear you singing out there.” I had to laugh. Indeed I had sung it with gusto. Unfortunately, not many Hawk fans are smiling right now. The other team’s blog sites are smiling and aren’t they having a time of it at our expense. Most of us feel intense shame. There doesn’t appear to be “a bit of fun left in us.” However, other than Academy Award nominee Mike Smith, can you think of any reason we can’t crawl out of the hole we find ourselves in? This is no time to be “afeared of death.” The important thing is to remember “we win as a team and we lose as a team.”

Alice’s Restaurant; you don’t think we could find a Blackhawk victory there, do you? Anyone got any friends living in Massachusetts?

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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