Thanks to Jennifer, we have a convention recap again this season. It's always nice to have someone on the outside who can go to the places that you really want to but just cannot.
The 2011 Chicago Blackhawks Convention (or Please Stop Following Us, Patrick Sharp!)
I am very careful with my public image--meaning, I’ve taken a long time to cultivate the inherent cool I strut around with on a daily basis. Everything about going to a convention grates against this persona of mine but back in January when discussing splashing out the $65 to attend my friend Courtney (who, ironically, didn’t end up going) very plainly laid it out to me.
“Jenn,” she said in her usual matter-of-factness, “we already go to their practices. You ARE a geek.”
Indeed, that ship has sailed. After a promise from my hockey partner in crime Jessica that no Blackhawks gear would be worn and we would be wandering through the Hilton half-crocked the entire weekend, I purchased my pass. Much to my surprise, as the date came closer we got more and more excited. Since the Hawks were out of the race so early in the post-season the hunger for anything hockey made the decision more sound. The following are highlights, sights, sounds, adventures and some truly strange and bizarre moments that occurred on a steamy hot Chicago July weekend. All of these panels are available on the Hawks website but believe me...I’m gonna tell ya much better stories from being there.
After registering at noon and receiving our scratch-off supersecret Blackhawk autograph signing cards, we repaired to a local burger and beer joint to plot our weekend. So many panels, so little wiggleroom. The discovery that Carcillo was not attending due to his brother’s wedding/fear of being pummelled in the hallways kind of bummed me out a little--I wanted to see this guy up close and hear what he had to say for himself, how he was going to sell his goods. Four beers later, we decided we should head back for the Opening Ceremonies. To get you up to speed, this is roughly how Jessica and I stack up in order of importance:
Jessica--Toews, Kane, Toews, Stalberg, Leddy, Toews.
Jenn--Hossa, Bolland, Stalberg, Crawford. (and a player to be named later)
You will take note of the distinct absence of the name Patrick Sharp. Remember this.
Opening Ceremonies, emceed by our hometown boy Edzo, was rousing as ever. It’s funny how even an expertly edited clips package of a so-so season makes them look like they won the Cup again twice over. First they introduced the office dudes, then the oldsters, then the farm team kids (Jeremy Morin looking a little bewildered when Ben Smith got all the cheers) and then the new guys. When Eddie announced their names, the absent Dan Carcillo’s mention was greeted by a cascade of boos from the crowd, cracking up the entire team and coaching staff. But to see the miles-long shoulder-to-shoulder wall created by Mayers, O’Donnell and Montador I think gave every Hawks fan chills. The most awe-inspiring pecs had yet to come...somehow strapped onto a youngster named Patrick Kane. For serious. Dude is THICK. I’ve heard the term ‘beer muscles’ before but holy crap Batman...he was just short of a Gary Roberts makeover. Which, of course, in the time honored tradition of bromance the deeply tanned Captain had to make light of in his welcoming remarks. It went something along the lines of:
“People are saying Kaner’s bulked up. I don’t see it. But then again I haven’t seen him on Deadspin lately so maybe it’s true.”
I’m not expert at reading lips at a distance but I distinctly saw the word ‘asshole’ come from young Pat’s mouth. I hope Q takes away his Harry Potter replica light up wand for a week.
We went to our signing, which turned out (to Jessica’s dismay) to be Stan Mikita rather than Taser. Probably for the best cuz I was still buzzing and didn’t know if I had enough beer muscles to carry her when she would inevitably faint at the sight of him. Stosh called me a pretty young lady which of course I found flattering--altho’ if it would’ve come from someone maybe thirty years younger and Swedish would’ve had more of an effect. As we were leaving we hung around the hotel package guest line to see who would be revealed....Hossa. I stared slack-jawed for a few moments before decorum pulled me away. His arms...his tan...his...everygoddamnthing. W. O. W.
Saturday began early--we arrived at 9am to find that Dave Bolland’s autograph line was already to capacity, meaning 315 people got their shit together before we did. Now I generally have no interest in autographs but I do have great interest in Dave Bolland so that was why I wanted to be that close to him. Ah well, not to be. We instead headed up to get good seats for the back-to-back panels we wanted to see, wandering in on the end of Join The Rush, a panel about defensemen starring birthday boy Duncan Keith (sporting a sweet flow that I’m sure his new wife was thrilled about) and a quite obviously still drunk late arrival Brent Seabrook. One of my favorite things in life is when someone surprises you--when you think they are one way and they turn out to be so much more. That being said, you can sometimes judge a book by its cover and Seabs is on the best seller list...exactly the douchey frat guy you think he is. At one point he even belched over the mike. Bless his hairy heart. I hope Q ties him down to a chair in the direct sunlight minus sunscreen then books him three waxing appointments.
The first panel we were stoked for was entitled ‘Life on the Road’--panelists being new kid Bryan Bickell (heretofore knows as Freckles),Shaggy Keith, Drunky Seabrook and Mister Hollywood himself, Patrick Sharp. Before we go any further, here are my feelings on Patrick Sharp. I love the guy, amazing player and yes, ridiculously good looking. But I’m a smart ass (as you will see) and he’s a smart ass and I’m genetically dispositioned to try and take down anyone who thinks they are more of a smart ass than I am. I’m a kid sister. Nuff said. Entertaining is a generic way of putting it for this bunch...Sharpie never letting anyone forget Seabrook’s compromised state, Sharpie’s status as one of Chicago Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People endlessly repeated, Duncs getting in some great jabs in his laconic way, Bicks trying to keep it professional. I’ll link a great video here of the enigma that is Duncan Keith, of how he deals with chirpy fans in Nashville:
A favorite revelation: Sharpie said the best prank that was ever pulled on him was after he had pranked Toews...he and Furry Burrito returned to their rooms and their immaculate looking beds, eager to have a lie down before the game. Surprised not to find any retaliation from Child Captain, they settled in to their beds to find that the sheets had been removed, thoroughly soaked in water and perfectly reapplied to their beds. The culprit? Marian Hossa. My heart skipped a beat, not gonna lie. Mmmm, devious delicious Slovak. Some stupid girl then tried to give Seabrook a beer to which some older woman in the crowd yelled out, ‘Classy!’ Tough town, this is.
We didn’t move because the very next panel was called “Chicago’s Most Wanted”, about how difficult it is to be in the spotlight in a hockey-mad Original Six City. The panel? Patrick Sharp (again), Captain Toews and Viktor ‘Lashes’ Stalberg. The makeup of the room became 500 chicks to about 4 dudes. Those 4 dudes were the fellas old enough to have spawned Toews and Kane and yet parade around in their jerseys. Pittsburgh has Lemangs, we have VV’s....otherwise known as Vince Vaughns and twice as splotchy and corpulent. The subject itself, if handled in a serious manner, is actually rather interesting to me--how do you deal with living in a city when everytime you walk out your door you’re essentially on stage, accessable to the general creepy old guy jersey wearing public and Twitter-clicking hookup barflies?
Instead, this panel became the ‘My Name is Jonathan Toews and Believe It or Not, I Have A Personality!” show. Not that I’m in any way complaining (nor was Jessica, I assure you)...it was refreshing to see Jonny relax a little. Sharpie tried to call his bluff in the very opening salvo, talking about how huge Jonny’s ass is. Cue the girls screaming. Cue the exchanged daring looks between winger and center. And cue the kid taking the challenge, standing up, turning said huge ass to the crowd and slapping it. Jonathan. Toews. Yes. That one. He then accused Sharpie of purposely losing his bucket as often as possible so he can skate around with the rink wind in his luxurious mane.
The dude moderating the panel (a superpricky sports guy from one of the local channels) was trying desperately to regain control of the hour but it was impossible. Again Carcillo’s name came up, this time causing Sharpie to remark that people didn’t know whether to cheer or boo him. (I picked booing.) A question from the audience directed at Jonny asked how he felt about Henrik Sedin saying the Hawks didn’t belong in the playoffs. Immediately his face changed and his French side came out cuz he got all spikey and scowly. “Pfff,” he scoffed, “I don’t know, we’ve beat them 2 out of three times. We’ve got a Cup ring, I don’t think he does.” He took a swig of water as the house came down. BURN. Then a tiny little kid named Wesley went to the mike and in that slow adorable way only kids can told Jonathan that he played hockey and that he picked the same number and would he sign his jersey? Jonny smiled and said ‘Sure Wesley, come on up’....ovaries popped all around me. Another tiny kid asked Toews if Kane ever gets on his nerves, causing the crowd to fall out and Jonny to relate--quite animatedly--a great story about one game this season where Kaner had hogged the puck on consecutive 5 on 3’s, leading to no goals. Taser gave him the fiery business back on the bench to which Kane retailated, to the point where guys had to start pulling them apart. Next shift, an even strength 5 on 5, Kaner delivers a beauty pass through two defenders right onto Taser’s tape and he taps it in...Kaner was so pissed that he didn’t even celebrate the goal but instead yelled ‘FUCK YOU!’ over and over at Taser. Captain knows how to get the best out of his men.
Stalberg was (perhaps wisely) quiet during most of the session, best exemplified by the one time he did speak up, saying that he had two fights last season and he didn’t think anyone else on the panel had any. Without missing a beat, Sharpie said, “Yeah, zero fights but um...I think 34 goals, was it?” Can’t run with the big dogs, pretty boy, you better stay in the kennel.
The panel ended and we opted for food and drink over another session (altho’ the next one was Taser AND Hossa...it might have killed us.) Before leaving though we stood in line for wristbands for the ONLY photo op I wanted all weekend--with Voice of the Hawks the inimitable Pat Foley and color man extraordinaire and local legend Eddie O. The combination of two vodka lemonades and then a pounded Stella Artois in line made for quite a delightful photo session...we were towards the end of the line and we asked if we could take the picture together. “Can you handle two girls at once?” was what I asked, to which Edzo was a little flustered and then came back with, “At one time I could, back in the old days!” I told Pat how the only picture I wanted all weekend was with him and Eddie said that I was one smart lady--I think all four of us laughed for the entire two or so minutes it took. Jessica was getting in some jabs with Eddie and I was telling Pat how much I loved his work...and as we all shook hands and said thanks I turned to Jess. “Now...onto Stalberg!” which cracked Eddie up. It’s a cute pic--we’re thinking of using it as a Christmas card.
So you’re seeing how I get when I’ve had a few drinks, right? Remember this.
The line for photos with Stally was not yet at capacity so we said, eh, what the hell? I didn’t have any desire for a picture with him--I just wanted a legit reason to touch his body. Wristbands affixed, we went to kill time at the bar--one shot, two beers each. Viktor’s session was from 6pm to 7. We returned at 6:19pm. He was gone. Our new pal Charles the moderator of the wristband line consoled us.
“Oh, he just left. You just missed him. He might be in the lobby...he was going to dinner.”
Other fans appeared, disappointed that he took off. I, on the other hand, was pissed. That is BAD FORM, kids. I could understand if we showed up at 6:57. But 6:19? After you’ve given out 150 wristbands? I turned to Jessica.
“We...are going to MAKE THIS RIGHT.”
You see...I’ve been at this game for a while. Or at least a similar one--I’ve hung out with a LOT of bands. So I know if you want something, you have to sometimes take matters into your own hands. We waited for these wristbands. He is employed to--for that HOUR--take pictures with fans. This didn’t happen. Plus, I’m older than him by quite a bit. He needs to learn a little respect. I can’t expect Q to constantly be teaching these boys lessons--there’s only so much grounding he can do on his own. I’m here to help.
We had heard snippets from other people, saying that the guys had been partying in the penthouse the night before (and apparently, in Seabs’ case, that morning as well). So I marched to the elevator bank amidst the swirl of wandering Blackhawk sweaters and punched the button for the penthouse. I kept telling Jessica under my breath, “I don’t give a FUCK, that shit is WRONG.” We went up to the penthouse suite but it was quiet. We then went floor by floor, each time popping out at the executive suites but it was quiet each time. We got to the first regular floor, the 25th (ironic, since we were on a Stalberg mission) and there were two bored older women standing around, obviously the Hilton’s weak attempt at security. They asked were we guests and I said no, we were waiting for our friend and this was her floor, that we were going to dinner and plopped down on the lobby couch. The annoying questioning one left the floor, leaving the ultrabored unquestioning one there. Within ten minutes, Tony Esposito and his wife walked out from the hallway and I threw a look at Jess--we were in the right place. Some people came and went and we charmingly engaged every passer by...they were obviously all Blackhawk related whether it was family members or front office folk or whatever and the more we didn’t appear like we shouldn’t be there, the less likely someone would think we weren’t. I was turned towards Jessica who was checking something on her phone as the elevator doors opened. It was Sharpie. Again. I’m seriously beginning to think he’s stalking us.
“Hey, can I ask you a question?” I tossed off.
“Yeah, sure?” he said, breaking stride on the way to his room.
“Do you have Viktor Stalberg’s number? Cuz he just stood us up for a photo and that ain’t cool, man.”
Sharpie started laughing and then said,
“Oh, I don’t know that guy, I don’t have his number.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I nodded, “not like you’re on a team with him or anything...”
He laughed and went to his room. Jess was a little stunned and asked me what I was going to say if Toews came out. Again, I repeated, “I don’t give a FUCK. This is WRONG.” I was hoping Taser would appear, cuz he woulda done something about it--or at least tortured himself for letting someone down. Jess had to pee and short of knocking on room doors (which I was fully prepared to do) she went downstairs to use the loo. So I’m sitting alone in this lobby, just hanging out waiting for something to happen.
That something...was Hossa. He strode out from the hallway and gave me that “I’m a hot older guy who reeks sex and I’m looking right at you yes you,” look. I know that look. I love that look. I gave it right back to him. Then his (also good looking) Slovak pal came up behind him and they stood--huh--right at the elevator bank behind me speaking Slovak to each other. As I held my breath. Had the dude not been there, I could’ve laid some magic on Hoss but you know...a girl’s gotta have some class. And he’s married. Cuz that matters. Even though he wasn’t wearing a ring and she wasn’t around. Just sayin.
Jess returned and it was my turn for a potty break which I did at a run--when I returned Michel Goulet came into the lobby and asked who we were waiting for, saying if we got stood up we should come down and have drinks with him. In retrospect, that could’ve been a good time. Not five minutes later, everyone’s favorite member of the Addams Family comes into the lobby, all six foot eight inches of John Scott. Say what you will about his on-ice abilities, I have always loved the guy. And he immediately says hi and we say hi...I tell him that I’m glad he’s staying with us and he starts chatting like we’ve known him for fifty years. I give him the Stalberg sob story and tell him to call Viktor to air our grievance and he takes out his phone, then says ‘Oh, but he went to dinner already, he left...’ and I say ‘I know, but that’s bad form dude...’ He shrugs and says, “Well you know, he’s such a womanizer...”
John tells us he’s on his way to a concert and we excitedly ask which one--he says ‘Tim McGraw,’ all jazzed. Of course we rage on him...”Tim McGraw? Really? Tim McGraw???” and he laughs and defends himself, “I’m a rock guy, but it’s free! and I get to meet him! and it’s better than sitting on this couch!” The elevator comes and we say goodnight...and soon after the bitchy security woman hustles us out. So in some ways we come up empty but groundwork has been laid. Plus it’s pretty safe to say that Stally got at least a few texts that night...we found out later Scott went with Kaner and Leddy to that Tim McGraw show so I’m sure they heard about it. Too bad Kaner wasn’t around while we were upstairs or this story coulda been even more interesting. We go out for more drinks before calling it a night.
The Convention was winding down and a lot of attendees had left so it was much quieter--Stalberg’s got a line for autographs and since we are still sporting our wristbands from his FAILED PHOTO OP the night before I consider calling him on the carpet. John Scott is also there so for a moment we weigh using his muscle to right our wrong. But I think partially from apathy and partially not wanting to become ‘Those Girls’ we decided instead to moon over the absolutely fricken adorable Corey Crawford. Oh my god if he was any cuter he’d be a French Canadian basket of puppies. I wanted to see the panel Meet Your New Blackhawks so on the way our worker pal Charles tells us he’s about to get wristbands for the Steve Montador photo op. We sorta shrug it off. I live to regret this when the panel for the new Blackhawks gets announced and Steve Montador hits the stage. Once I get a good look at him and the shirt he’s wearing that is screaming in pain from where he’s threatening to bust out of it Hulk style I suddenly very much want to take a picture with him. He’s got one of those sexy busted noses and I note that he fills everyone’s water glass on the panel so he’s a very suave host as well. Sean O’Donnell I adore and he laughs when someone asks about Carcillo--he says that he’s at his brother’s wedding and wishes he could’ve come to the Convention just so we could all get to know him. “I get it,” O’Donnell said, “He’s one of those guys who when he’s on the other team you hate him but when he’s on yours you love him. He’s a fan favorite in Philly and he will be here too. Hey, you guys would hate Dave Bolland if he was on another team.” Touche, Mister O’Donnell, touche. O’Donnell also said all he wants to do is win one more Cup--about a hundred times. I like his focus. He also thanked a young girl in the audience who asked what he would do when Sharpie inevitably pranks him. "Well, I'd like to thank that young lady for telling me this because I didn't know he did that." LOVE. Mayers, McLean and cutiepie Olesz make good impressions too but honestly I’m too distracted by Monty’s all around deliciousness. I hope no one else noticed him.
Last panel with the missing cog of the weekend, the only suspect we haven’t seen--Top Draft Picks with Kaner. Also starring Eddie O and Denis Savard with a guest appearance by Dave ‘Charlie’ Manson, one of the nicest guys in the sport. I’m impressed with Kaner’s ease in front of the mike and it feels actually so much more natural than Taser’s ‘Look Ma, No Serious!’ routine (tho’ I loved that too)...it is funny that while Taser constantly takes shots at Kaner even when he’s not around the one and only time someone tries to get a rise out of Kaner regarding Jonny they come up empty. Either he’s a student of Zen or the kid’s grown up. Maybe he spent a long night after the Tim McGraw show thinking about how his Harry Potter replica light up wand was in Q’s drawer for the rest of the week and thought better of being catty. It’s hard to get any spotlight when Edzo and Savvy are together--Jess commented that their banter is exactly what Kaner and Taser will be like in ten years. At one point (the oft-cited highlight of the convention) Savard brought up for the fourth or fifth time how cheap Eddie was. Eddie stood up, picked up the pitcher of ice water and dumped it on Savard’s head. Beyond classic. Totally worth the Youtube.
Tuckered out, we called it a weekend after that....and already started making plans for the Training Camp Festival and our own Fantasy Hockey league. I love summer but damn I miss hockey.
And Steve Montador? Watch your back. I’m comin’ for ya. You lucky bastard.