Tuesday, October 13, 2015
The Season begins-2015-2016 NHL
The Chicago Black Hawks opened the 2015-2016 regular season last Wednesday night in Chicago. Due to the fact that they were celebrating their third Stanley Cup win in six years that evening, they did it with style. The United Center, also known as the Madhouse on Madison Avenue, was filled to the brim, and it was a little bit difficult to hear a pin drop.
Before the opening faceoff, the Hawks were re-introduced to their fans. A very loyal group. All players walk a red carpet, veterans and rookies, as well as the club ambassadors. Denis Savard, Tony Esposito, and Bobby Hull walked the gauntlet to the accolades of the fans. Later in the evening, Stan Mikita was also recognized, and he was represented by his wife and grandson.
Our great hosts, Jody and Steve
We arrived on the scene just as the first player exited from the arena to greet the fans. There was a great “swoosh” from an air gun as confetti showered down on the player. Commentators on a platform above the crowd chatted about each player as he greeted as many fans as possible in his trip down the carpet. Plenty of ‘High Fives” and “Selfies”. A nice greeting from the fans, almost all clad in Hawks jerseys.
Also on hand was Gary Bettman and the rest of the brass from the NHL. I cornered Donald Fehr. I told him that I was impressed with his work. I then asked him why he left baseball as the head of the players, and moved to hockey. "I had heard that hockey players were quality individuals. And it has proven to be true."
Following the warmup, the players and team personnel lined up for the unveiling of the Stanley Cup banner. It was an impressive ceremony, lasting more than half an hour. Former Hawk Ed Olczyk is the Hawks television colour analyst. He handled the introductions from the podium. As is often the case, the cheers are louder for favourites. Robert Marvin Hull received a rousing reception, as did Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz. His family has been in the hockey business since 1954, when his grandfather bought the team.
Once the banner was raised, and the anthem sung, the teams got down to business. With less than two minutes gone, the Rangers struck first. They also added two more markers in the first period, and the Hawks could not dig themselves out of that hole. They replied with one goal in the first period. Rookie Artemi Panarin scored with assists going to Patrick Kane and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Panarin was a free agent signing this past May. He is 23 years old. I am certain he will be asked for his birth certificate to prove his age for the next 20 years. He looks about sixteen years old. He began playing in the KHL, Russia’s top league when he was 16. Last year he had 62 points in 54 games in the KHL. I suspect he will do very well in the NHL.
Teuvo Teravainen played on the same line with Panarin. Only 21, he is also going to be a bright star for the Hawks. After the game, I spoke with him about the young Russian. “He is going to be really good for us. He adds to the depth on the team.” Many scribes felt that the opening ceremonies dragged on too long, affecting the Hawks’ game. The young Finn commented: “It may have slowed us a little bit. But it was really awesome! It was great to be part of it. So many great memories.” He added that it doesn’t help when you lose, and the Rangers ended up on top 3-2.
Andrew Shaw also enjoyed the pre game festivities. After the game he told me that he felt the Hawks had a slow start. “I just think we did not play our systems the way we are used to playing.” Naturally, the Rangers and their goalie Henrik Lundqvist worked hard to keep the Hawks off balance. The puck did go in the Ranger net with one minute left in the third period. Shaw was serving a minor penalty at the time, along with the Rangers Keith Yandle. They had been battling in front of the Ranger net. Andrew was slightly miffed at the call. “I thought they might have let that one go. They hadn’t called it all night.”
Alas, the ice is broken on another season. More than 80 games to go in the regular season. Last year the Hawks also had 23 playoff games. Win enough, you get to hoist the Cup! Game on!
October 13, 2015