We want to thank Jennifer for her write-up of the Blackhawks training camp craziness. One day we will venture out of PGH and go, one of these days. But until then we live vicariously through Jennifer's depiction of these events.
She has also attached a cute picture of the kiddie Hawks fans that were sitting in front of her.
We want to adopt them all. Now.
Hey, here's what happened! For real!
As usual, a little backstory...I'm operating at about a quart low thanks to a brootal work schedule and the change in weather so really the only thing I wanted to do with this weekend was SLEEP. But sure enough, my alarm went off at 6am (which is actually sleeping in for me) and as much as I whined to myself, I thought, "Hey Jenn, you already know what you're going to wear..." Yes, I did because it was FINALLY time to pull on my Hawks sweater again. To say it filled with me with glee would be understating the moment. After a cluster at the Starbucks (really, at 640am on a Saturday? Get it together folks) and a longish wait for the bus, I was on my way down Damen headed to the United Center. Some old dudes got on with their Hawks jackets on and proceeded to talk about how they hoped the Ice Girls would be there. Ew.
Got to the UC about twenty minutes before gates and there was a line down the block. Already. I guess the promise of a Sharpie bobblehead was so enticing for the masses they could barely deal. I had my girls coming from two different directions so the wait in line was tempered by the texts flying back and forth. The Hawks Training Camp is not just watching the team--you can also participate in a 5K run, a 10K rollerblade, some three on three ball hockey, blah blah BLAH. That's for losers who like to do stuff on weekends. Weekend MORNINGS too. Whatevs.
Get into the UC, it's 9am...and beer is being served. Oh, Chicago. Surprisingly I opt out, knowing the day will be long. Team A's practice is at 10am, followed by 2 ninety minute scrimmages and then Team C's practice and we had all planned to eat/drink afterwards so I knew the power of pacing. Since the event is open seating, I had already given up hope of finding sweet spots judging by the crowd but sure enough I see an entire section 118 behind the goal untouched. Say what now?? Even though my bladder is bursting, I walkrun to the seats and spread myself as widely as possible in an attempt to save them. Jessica arrives...and then Courtney not too far behind her as the peewees play under the tutelage of Edzo and Troy Murray (what IS it about peewees that makes me mushily maternal? It passes and quickly but DANG they are so freakin cute). Edzo's a great coach and Troy is playful and full of mischief with the youngsters so it's easy to pass 45 minutes watching them. In between Pat Foley (our legendary Voice of the Blackhawks) is interviewing various Hawks, most notably my Number Two Dave Bolland who looks really really good and is quite loquacious...my fave part is when he says how much he enjoyed watching the Canucks lose. Not very PC but oh, so very popular with the UC crowd.
(The place is sold out, btw--which means 20,000 people are there to see a practice. This town don't play.)
Team A comes on the ice for practice. Forgive me if I can't remember who exactly is on which team but that's because there's three teams and there's about 400 guys on each team. I start to wonder if I lost my invite in the mail. I will say that one word stood out to me, three syllables. MONT-A-DOR. Oh yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Of course when certain names like Crawford and Toews hit the ice, cheers erupt..the practice is similar to the many I've seen before but this time Coach Q is miked so we can actually hear what the plays are called and what he says to them (sometimes *wink*). Toews and Kane are on the same team which kinda bums me out cuz I'd much rather see them play against each other...but I soon find out why. As they're doing a shootaround, girls makes fricken fools of themselves whenever Taser or Kaner are nearby and Sharpie's interviewed from the bench, saying he wishes he was out there with the guys but his recovery is going well. He also takes some potshots at Kaner of course and Kane laughs them off. Can we please get these guys a 24/7 already?
Practice for Team A ends and Team B comes out for a warmup skate--first scrimmage is A against B. Kane skates off and is interviewed, saying he's just not quite ready for scrimmages yet but he's feeling good and his wrist is healing quickly. And we all notice a familiar name on Team B...yep, it's Baby Toews. Brother versus brother. This is gonna be good.
Because the Hawks always do it right, after the pregame montage but before the singing of the anthem (yep, the best in sports, don't hate--even at 10:30 on a Saturday morning in preseason), they have a moment of silence for Team Yaroslav Lokomotiv--and with 20,000 people, a majority of which are little kids, the place is entirely silent. Like hold-your-breath silent. So moving.
Ray Emery is in goal for Team B and right off the bat muffles some intense Duncan Keith slappers so we are all very encouraged. Not long after though a Taser breakaway leads to a top shelfer and we theorize you don't want to stop your (potential) captain. There's a missing element of hunger or scrappiness because after all these guys are all on the same team so in a way, ninety minutes can feel pretty long even when you've missed hockey for months and months. We amuse ourselves by wondering if anyone's told Taser this is actually a practice (but does Jonny ever really 'practice'?) and if he and his bro are chirping at each other in French. Q is smart/savvy and keeps putting them head to head so anytime Baby Toews gets the puck Toews the Elder is on him like maple on a leaf. They end the practice with a 5 on 5 shootout--Bolland scores as does Seabrook but Taser does not. I'm sure he immediately went into the locker room and punished himself by not hydrating. They flood the ice and we get ready for Team B versus Team C by trying to name all the guys we haven't seen yet.
When Team C comes out in the black jerseys, we all slap our foreheads in unison. Well, of course with jerseys like that Carcillo would be on Team C. During the warmup skate he's looping around like a vulture and there's a murmur in the crowd...do we like him? Do we hate him? Are we sure? I notice Stan The Man sitting in a box above us and I kinda want to go up to him and say 'Really, Stan, WTF?' Also on Team C are Stalberg, Ben Smith (the Hawks version of Jeff Skinner, we've decided), Jamal Mayers, and 65 other dudes. On Carcillo's first shift he's labelling the rookies into the boards and the crowd is beginning to make up their mind. On his second shift, he rams the rookie Bellig so hard and often that they nearly drop and go--and the UC is energized. Say what you will, this kid ain't stupid. I can feel the tide turning and I'm resisting until....I spot him singing along to Led Zep in the faceoff circle. Okay, dude, I think you've got me. You really got me. We do laugh that whenever he comes near Seabrook on the boards he gives him the most gentle shoulderbump we've ever seen--I hit strangers on the street harder. And curiously Billig and Carcillo are no longer on the ice at the same time. (As I write this the second day of Training Camp is done and according to the live Tweeting by my ESPN guy Carcillo did drop the gloves with some kid who clobbered Stalberg today. Awww, protecting the pretty. All accounts say he pounded the guy into next week.) The good thing about this is it makes the second scrimmage a bit more enjoyable because guys are hitting now--the scoring is a little waa-waa except Nick Leddy has a fantastic screened slapper from the hashmarks. During this shootout, the game gets tied at 2-2 and then there's a bit of hubbub on the benches and a pause...the PA announcer comes on and says, "There's been a late addition to Team C as the final shooter....PATRICK KANE!!" Predictably, the place is on its feet as he FLIES off the bench--like quite literally I don't think his skates touched the ground from the runway. And he hits center ice and is GONE...textbook perfect shootout goal. The UC erupts, Chelsea Dagger begins and Kaner celebrates like he won the Cup all over again. Not gonna lie, it was pretty sweet. (Also just in from today's scrimmage--Kaner on the ice, scored twice, totally and completely BACK and on FIRE.)
Due to headaches caused by starvation, we take a pass on Team C's anticlimactic practice and go off in search of beers and food. A good way to waste an afternoon and five bucks? Definitely. But it just makes me want the season NOW. NOOOOOWWW!!!!!
Hope you enjoyed this tale of training camp and wonderfulness!