By Jon Fromi
With Stan Mikita gracing the Forest City (more specifically the BMO Center) Saturday, my pal and I made it our goal to be among the first go-getters to cue up in the signing line. I’ve found myself waiting outside the season-ticket entrance on occasion, most notably an extended wait on Tony Esposito last February. Three hours? No problem. Yeah, right.
Mother Nature provided an optimal day on that February afternoon, with sunny skies and spring-like temperatures. I didn’t expect to be so lucky Saturday, and of course the weather told a different tale.
Did we have to be there at 1:45 p.m. to wait for the doors to open at 5:45? Of course not, but think of all the conversation I would have missed.
The odyssey (or not, since we stood in the same place for the bulk of it) began with our arrival to find that five individuals had beaten us to the front of the line. As the line began to lengthen over the course of the afternoon, conversation naturally fixated on the IceHogs.
The nice part about new folks joining the line is that you can recycle all your rants and find a new, captive audience who has little choice but to listen to similar theories on Rockford’s lockout roster. Among the revolving topics:
- What’s wrong with Nick Leddy?
- Martin St. Pierre was a great pickup.
- Kyle Beach is coming around/horrible. (depended on who was in on the conversation)
- The thought of Alec Richards starting multiple games scares me to death.
- “Blank” is a really nice guy.
- …so that’s where the players park!
- A slew of jokes about Jack Nicholson frozen solid at the end of The Shining.
We also came to a consensus on a number of things:
1. The IceHogs’ Christmas video was pretty funny in places. However, why the team hasn’t recreated the tongue-to-the-flagpole scene from A Christmas Story when they have Rob Flick on the roster boggles our minds. I mean, the kid’s name was Flick! Why hasn’t this been done? Copyright issues? Rob hates the movie?
Get Flick and 5-6 teammates (I don’t care who) on the ice if you want and have him get his tongue stuck on the goal post. Let Marcus Kruger double-dog dare him in Swedish. I’ll bet the team would rather have such a video go viral over the “Los IceHogs” flap.
2. It seems odd that for a team whose parent organization hides any injury like the CIA would point out via the player facts on the big screen that Ryan Stanton has limited vision in one eye. Yet that’s just what Rockford did all last season.
3. With the IceHogs playing pretty well in comparison to the holes they dug for themselves the last two seasons and featuring a cast of NHL-caliber players, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been a spike in attendance.
4. If you’re going to be waiting outside somewhere in late December (or any cold temperature situation, really), make sure your hands and feet stay warm. Everything else will take care of itself.
Anyway, around 5:30 or so, the first 15-20 people in line got ushered into the VIP meet and greet in the Dental Dimensions Lounge. We were told that Mr. Mikita was signing a single item, though we all did get an autographed photo so in essence we were getting two items.
In line outside, the word developed that Mr. Mikita could get a little crotchety in the face of autograph requests. Add that to his recent health issues and I have to say a kind of ‘Soup Nazi” vibe began to develop as we neared the Blackhawks legend.
It was at that time that I dissuaded my friend from inquiring about Mr. Mikita’s doughnut shop in Aurora. “Just put your item down and move on,” I warned. “Don’t blow this for us; we’ve been waiting three and a half hours.”
All kidding aside, Mr. Mikita proved to be quite accommodating and friendly. He did, however, look pretty gaunt (not surprising as his is 72 and has recently battled cancer). He surprised me by posing for a photo after he had signed my puck.
Rockford even came back to win the game they put on after Mr. Mikita dropped the puck, so that was a definite capper to the night. Was it worth the frigid wait? I think so, though I may alter my stance if I lose any digits to frostbite.