”Every block of stone has a statue inside it
and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. – Michelangelo
By Rich Lindbloom
In 1501, Michelangelo was commissioned to sculpt a statue of the famous biblical figure David. He was given a block of damaged marble 19 feet tall, chiseling away at it for almost three years. The finished sculpture was over 17 feet tall! Purportedly, when Michelangelo finished his masterpiece, it was so life like he shouted, “Speak!” I thought about the difficulties a sculptor might encounter when detailing his creation. As I packed the snow to form Frosty on Saturday, chunks would fall out and I’d have to start all over. Can you imagine if Michelangelo hit down a little too hard with that chisel – I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to a lot of the sculptures that have missing arms.
Well, as you may have guessed by now, I love winter. If you live in Chicago, life can get pretty miserable if can’t go outside and embrace the cold and snow. (not too sure I’ll be embracing anything Sunday night when the temps drop down to around minus 15! – make sure you tip the hawkers peddling The Committed Indian.) I think I’ve built a snowman, or two, for the last 53 years of my life. I’m declaring the one pictured above my masterpiece, my David. What took Michelangelo three years to complete, I was able to knock out in three hours. I’m not bragging, it’s just a fact.
The point is though, rather than sitting inside watching movies, or worse yet cleaning the house, I stepped outside into the cold. What you find, whether skating, playing pond hockey, skiing, tossing snowballs, shoveling driveways or restocking the bird feeders is that winter and her icy blasts aren’t half as bad as there made up to be. In fact, I actually feel sorry for people in Florida or California. While replenishing the bird feeder on Saturday, I noticed the 70 or so birds pecking away at seed on the ground were not as afraid of me. I actually got within 5 feet of a woodpecker who was feasting on suet. After admiring its beauty, and realizing he wasn’t going to move, I finally went to the feeder. He finally flew into a bush about 8 feet away, waiting to get back to his lunch.
In short, some people look at a pile of snow and see back breaking work. I look at a pile of snow and see a Frosty in his incipient stages.
Putting together an NHL hockey team is no less daunting a task than sculpting a statue or building a 7 foot snowman. I was thinking while I toiled away on Saturday, who’s the sculptor of the 2013/14 Blackhawks. Is it Stan Bowman, or Coach Q? I came to the conclusion that Stan merely supplies the marble, Coach Q is the artist. He takes the raw substrate and tinkers, and tinkers and tinkers. Fortunately, no arms have been severed, but it would be a small price to pay for Q’s artistic genius. Although there are times when many of us have thought that Coach Q has lost his marbles.
I thought I’d take a moment to see how some of the pieces of marble who got away last year are faring. Dave Bolland was off to one of the best starts in his career before severing his tendon. In 15 games, he tallied 6 goals – 4 assists and was a +4. Michael Frolik has flourished, playing 42 games for The Jets, tallying 9 goals and 14 assists with an even +/-; he’s currently on the Jets 2nd line, although he’s not seeing much power play time. It’s a toss up in my mind on who the Hawks miss most between King David and the Eyebrows That Ate Chicago.
Ray Emery has not fared as well as would be expected, however I believe the team in front of him has a little to do with that. Razor has a 3.03 GAA and a .890 SV%. He does have one shutout and one knockout to his credit this year. Viktor Stalberg who carried the “can’t finish and has no hands” moniker for the three seasons he played for the Hawks, has five goals and 7 assists in 35 games. He’s currently been bumped up to the Predators 2nd line, although he too is not seeing power play time. He’s a minus 13, but I’ll credit some of that total to Pekka Rinne missing the whole season so far. Everybody’s +/- on Nashville would be lower if Pekka Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers were playing. Regardless, I miss seeing Viktor flying up the wing with a full head of steam. The cat had wheels. Go Stals, Go!
Three players in Rockford who were projected to join the big club eventually, are now skating on enemy ice. The one that I’ll miss the most is Dylan Olsen. Olsen sort of reminded me of former Hawk, Dave Manson. Tough as nails, Olsen seemed to be an element the Hawk defense corps is currently missing – someone who would physically punish an opponent for standing near the Hawks crease. For all of us meatballs in the 300 Section hollering “Hit Someone,” he was a promising player. Google his mug shot and you’ll see he’s not a pretty boy. In fact, his hair-doo inspired the hair on the snowman I created today-they are strikingly similar. Unfortunately for Dylan, he’s now on injured reserve after a great start for Dale Tallon’s Florida Panthers. In 17 games Dylan racked up 3 goals and 6 assists while playing 16 to 18 minutes a game. Tallon just can’t seem to buy a break.
Jimmy Hayes is on the Panthers 4th line, tallying 4 goals, 1 assist and a minus 1 rating. I’m not sure that the Versteeg/Hayes-Olsen trade had a clear cut winner. Before Olsen’s injury, it seemed to be a win/win situation for both teams. Both Olsen and Hayes could turn out to be good looking pieces of marble before their careers are over. The last IceHog who left the team this season is Ryan Stanton. He played 36 games for the Canucks, scoring 1 goal while adding 10 assists before getting injured. In addition, he helped to add a little class the bunch of hooligans in Vancouver, no small feat.
Another small feat worth mentioning is Patrick Sharp’s second hat trick in the last five games. Since this is becoming a more frequent occurrence for Hawk players, I decided to look up the origin of the term “Hat Trick.” Sammy Taft owned a hat store outside of Toronto, and would give a hat to anyone who scored a “natural” hat trick – three goals in succession. (Sorry Sharpie, you’ll need to return those caps) Another origin source was attributed to Guelph Biltmore who sponsored a team in Ontario called the Biltmore Mad Hatters. He is said to have thrown the first hat onto the ice, an expensive top hat. At the rate Sharp is going, he’ll soon have a big enough collection to open his own hat store.
Sharp currently has 45 points and is seventh in the league in scoring, just two points from 3rd place. He has scored the second most goals in the league behind Ovechkin, lighting the lamp 25 times. Is it just me though, or does the handsome one have a weird goal celebration. He moves his hands up and down like he’s controlling a puppet. I prefer a celebration more along the lines of Antti Raanta after his first career shutout – now that’s a celebration kid! He looked like one of the Rockettes out there.
We Hawk fans should count our blessings when it comes to are goal tending situation. A very big bright spot in the 3-2 OT loss to the Islanders was the return of Mr. Big, Corey Crawford. It looked like he never missed a beat. Welcome back Corey! What a game to get tossed into after a three and a half week hiatus. The Islanders have a very fast team and from all appearances love to run and gun. Tavares probably could have a couple of goals to go along with his assist on the game winner. However, Kyle Okposo impressed me even more. He gave us fits all night. Currently, he is 13th in the league in scoring, tied with Ovechkin and some guy named Keith. All three have 42 points.
The game was exciting as hell too watch. Neither team seemed to be focused on the defense first mindset. It was a horse race from the get go. Both goalies were at the top of their game, or this one could have rapidly gotten out of hand. Ben Smith was named 3rd star of the game with some great penalty killing and scoring the Hawks second goal after an assiduous battle along the boards to free the puck up to Sharp.
Well, Jumbo Joe Thornton and the boys skate into to town Sunday night. Heading down to the United Center in the frigid weather always a special moment. It just seems like everyone is more alive, the players and the fans. If you’re at the game, I think you’ll notice an increased buzz in the place. In closing, I thought I’d pass along a few anecdotes on Chicago Winter humor;
60 degrees F – Arizonans shiver uncontrollably; people in Chicago are still sunbathing.
40 degrees F – Italian sports cars won’t star; people in Chicago drive with the windows down.
20 degrees – Floridians don coats, thermal underwear and wool hats; people in Chicago throw on a light jacket.
0 degrees F – All the people in Phoenix die; Chicagoans close their windows.
460 degrees below zero – All atomic motion stops (Abosolute zero on the Kelvin scale); people in Chicago start saying, “cold enough for ya?”
500 degrees below zero – Hell freezes over. The Cubs win the World Series.
Seriously though, take care the next few days; remember to feed the birds. Especially the Hawks. “Skate!”