Hockey

At last, the long national nightmare is over.

No, the pandemic is still running rampant, and the personal and economic devastation still remain to be dealt with, but after about 8 months of searching in total secrecy, the Hawks finally have their executive structure ironed out, and it’s basically what everyone speculated in the immediate aftermath of John McDonough’s ouster.

According to a press release from the team earlier today, as well as an exclusive interview granted to the Sun-Times’ Ben Pope, Stan Bowman has been promoted to President of Hockey Operations along with his General Manager responsibilities, with Rocky Wirtz’s son Danny remaining on as CEO of the organ-i-zation, but with the business responsibilities now siloed off and entrusted to Jaime Faulkner, who has an extensive resume in dealing with sports related business in her time with E15, a company she founded and was acquired by Chicago-based Levy Restaurants, who have extensive partnerships in arenas across the country including the United Center, and are the parent group of places like Spiaggia, Jake Melnick’s, and of course, Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse.

Based on the interview with Pope, it seems as though Danny Boy at least correctly recognized his limitations in this aspect of the Wirtz family’s multiple business ventures, and correctly decided to delegate the responsibilities into two areas that shouldn’t have much to do with one another. Based on Faulkner’s career to this point, there doesn’t seem to be much worry about her meddling much on the hockey side of things like it was often suspected that McDonough had done. Her background is strictly in business development as well as being somewhat of an outsider to what’s been an insular franchise before McDonough’s born-on-third arrival. It’s worth noting that Faulkner’s husband Colin is a Marketing & Sales VP for the Cubs, so of course there is brand synergy in their household given their current occupations, but neither seems to have delusions of grandeur with regard to crossing over to the sporting side. Faulkner also becomes the second woman in the NHL to be named President of a team, joining Kim Pegula of the Sabres.

It should be worth noting that Faulkner is coming into this role during a period where the calls to address the team name and logo have never been louder, and as many of the other offending pro franchises such as Washington and Cleveland have at least announced plans to abandon their Native name and iconography. It was a Wirtz family decision to publicly double-down on the name and toss a few placating initiatives and platitudes out to the masses with regard to donations, education, etc to Native causes, but this issue isn’t going away, and it will likely never be known how Faulkner would have handled that had she been hired only a few months ago. But calls like these are ultimately up to Rocky, and he’s made his stance pretty clear. And given the blowback from the logo issue, it’s easy to suspect the Wirtz family of cynicism when it comes to this hire along with last month’s hiring of Kendall Coyne-Schofield in player development if they (incorrectly) think that hiring a prominent woman on the hockey side and a woman for a prominent position on the business side lowers the temperature just a little bit. This is of course, to take nothing away from either Faulkner or Coyne-Schofield’s qualifications – they are both clearly immensely qualified, and their appointments are long overdue. But it’s fully reasonable to question the business practices  of an ownership family that backwardly believed until 12 years ago that NOT airing games on TV would be better for the bottom line. Just because Marian Hossa actually had a debilitating auto-immune skin disorder that caused him to need to effectively retire doesn’t mean that a critical eye couldn’t be turned at its timing. But make no mistake, this is a very positive thing.

All of this leaves Stan to his own devices on the hockey side of things, which isn’t necessarily the best thing based on the last 5 years and counting. But this is first real opportunity at having a direct and unobstructed line to his boss in Danny, as there were many rumblings over the spring and summer that McDonough’s right hand man Al MacIsaac may have had some differing hockey thoughts from Bowman, and steered McDonough in his direction. If nothing else now, Stan will sink or swim fully on his own merits as Danny appears to be going completely hands off, which is a bafflingly odd thing to say about the 4th longest currently tenured GM who has three Cups to his name and will certainly end up in the Hall of Fame, but these are strange times everywhere.

Hockey

Well now.

Despite the silent scream of COVID-19 keeping us all locked up, pissed off, and stir crazy, Rocky Wirtz made a stunning albeit welcome-around-these-parts move in firing longtime President and professional autofellatio guru John McDonough today.

First, the good. McDonough was here for 13 years. He ushered in an era where Blackhawks fans could not only watch hockey on the goddamn television in 2007 but also enjoy it. After squeezing as much blood out of the Loveable Loser stone as he could for the North Side Nine, he oversaw a renaissance of Chicago hockey.

Nine straight playoff appearances. Five Conference Finals appearances. Three Stanley Cups. And whether you like it or not, he had a hand in making the game an experience that 20,000+ could enjoy night in and night out. But we won’t go too far into that, because we’re sure if you hold your ear close enough to the ground, you can hear McDonough himself pucker up to kiss his own ass about it.

For all the good McDonough bestowed upon this team during his tenure, it’ll always be hard, if not impossible, to forgive the 2015 Notre Dame debacle. Of all the contributions we at FFUD will remember him for the most, it’s his vile effort to turn a horrifying rape allegation against his star player into a fucking marketing push.

You might remember him calling the Hawks’s three Cups in six years a “Camelot” era for the Hawks. In the same place where he and his spineless GM tucked tail and ran when pressed on what they would do with their alleged rapist of a star. For a guy who has a gas mask connected to his asshole 24/7 when it comes to talking about what a great marketing campaign looks like, he couldn’t have dreamed of a better way to fuck the optics of that one up. Then again, perhaps in true Galaxy Brain form, he just knew that the troglodytes would bury any earnest concern in the name of winning.

But that was always McDonough’s MO when it came to doing things that didn’t involve sucking his own farts: When in doubt, run, deny, or reroute.

When Andrew Shaw got caught using a homophobic slur, it was the NHL, not McDonough et al., who punished him. McDonough was nowhere to be found during the Garret Ross revenge porn disaster. When something other than the sellout streak came up—something that would have required a semblance of sac or true, honest to God leadership—you better believe McDonough had something else better to do.

And though you can’t discount how much more visible he made the team, it would have been challenging for anyone not named Bill Wirtz to not succeed in the spot McDonough fell into. Putting an up-and-coming hockey team on television and then marketing it even a little bit does not require the genius that John McDonough wants you to believe it does, unless your opening act is the Bill Wirtz and Bob Pulford “Wet bag of human shit covered in burnt hair” routine.

McDonough certainly wasn’t the worst Hockey Man, but he certainly wasn’t the best either. He came on at a time where all he had to do was ride the wave and capitalize. The foundation of hope had been laid with Toews and Kane. All he had to do was sell it, which wasn’t terribly hard after the organ-I-zation spent the better part of a decade literally hiding the team under a rock (although in the late 90s and early 00s, you sort of get it).

If you want to give him credit for building this team, you should also place blame for where it is now. A team that’s grown fat on its throne with little urgency to do anything outside of chastise a fanbase with its eyesore of a scoreboard and no effort to make this team faster and better. Recall that in the last two years, Dennis Gilbert, Brandon Manning, Nick Seeler, John Hayden, and Chris Kunitz all played meaningful minutes for a team that McDonough himself wanted you to believe was a playoff team.

He will go down in the Hawks annals as a legend, despite the fact that we still aren’t sure what he’d say he did here that was revolutionary or forward thinking. Fortunately, we no longer have to figure it out.

What this means for the future is anyone’s guess, especially since Rocky went out of his way to assure everyone that Bowman and Colliton are his guys. Then again, now that McDonough is gone, so too could those two. If we had to guess, we’d say that Stan Bowman pulls a Shel Silverstein while Rocky goes out and looks for a GM whose greatest asset isn’t his consistent ability to look like he’s holding in hard gas.

What it DOES mean is that someone up there is seeing the shit we’ve been seeing down here and finally said “enough.” You can’t imagine that Daniel Wirtz, Rocky’s little brother (or son, whichever), will be anything other than an interim President.

It took a literal act of God to get us to this point, with Rocky saying that COVID-19 gave him some time to reassess the team’s direction. But given the suddenness of the firing, you shouldn’t be surprised if something unsavory slithers out of the front office as cause for the firing.

Better late than never.

Hockey

Fair warning, everything that comes next in this post is almost certainly fantasy. It’s what the Hawks should do, but almost certainly what they won’t. You know the truth, I know the truth, but the truth hasn’t found purchase in the barren wasteland of the Hawks’ braintrust in a long time. While the Hawks have lost five straight, they will use their effort last night–which was very good–and the unlucky nature of the defeats to Boston and arguably Minnesota as justification that the results will turn around sharpish and they’ll be back in it.

And on the surface, the Hawks can make that argument. They’re six points back with two games in hand on the Yotes and one on the Flames, who just happen to be next up on the schedule. And with as bad as the West is, and with the amount of teams in this jumble, it’s kind of hard to just fall out of it. It’s also nearly impossible to climb into it.

But you don’t need an archeological team to get beneath the surface to see the truth. The Hawks are in last, and they’re two points behind the Wild who very well may be giving up in that they’ve already traded Jason Zucker. This is a team that had to go 12-6-0 just get to get back into the bottom of the conversation of the playoffs. But this isn’t a team that wins 12 of 18. This is a team that wins 12 of 23, as they now have done. That’s who they are.

Right now, the Coyotes are on pace for 89 points. The Hawks are on pace for 83 (EIGHTY-THREE). The Hawks would have to play at a 101-point pace to get to 89, which might not be enough. And I guess, if you were the most cock-eyed of cock-eyed optimist, you could say they already played at a 101-point once for six weeks there. Do you honestly think they have it in them again?

And by every metric, the Hawks are where they should be. They’re one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They’ve outscored what they have created, though they’re built to do that. What’s going to get better here? Certainly not the goaltending. It can’t. Maybe DeBrincat has a two- to three-week binge in him. Maybe the power play binges for no reason other than the sense of humor of the gods. But how much can that rise above the horrific defense? How is this team going to leap over four teams?

So here’s the question the Hawks’ front office has to answer, though we know how they will: While there is value for the younger players to play in games that matter and have stakes, does that matter more than what they can gather long term by selling at the deadline? It’s clear it would not. Long-term, the Hawks are still at least a winger short (likely two) and two d-men short. If they want to say Ian Mitchell is one of those d-men, I’ll take it, but you still need one more. And none of those answers are in the system. The pipeline…she be dry.

So what can the Hawks do here? If you were to separate out Erik Gustafsson, Robin Lehner, possibly Corey Crawford, maybe Drake Caggiula, maybe Olli Maatta and think what you could collectively for all of them…maybe a 1st round pick, a 3rd or 4th round pick, and a prospect or two. The last of which probably won’t amount to more than a couple lottery tickets, but you need lottery tickets. And an additional 1st rounder could be combined with the Hawks’ 1st rounder to acquire an actual piece at the draft. You never know how that will shake out. Or you just use your two first rounders and maybe you get something for 2021-2022. Or maybe you package your first rounders to get into the top five. I don’t know, but what I do know is it gives you options you need.

Because if one summer trade and one free agent signing get you another winger and d-man, and you can solve your goaltending without breaking the bank (i.e. some combo of Talbot, Markstrom, Crawford, Halak, Murray, Greiss, Khudobin, who are all free agents and not all will be ewxpensive), now you’re ready to do more than just scrape in as a wildcard and get your brains beaten in by the Blues.

Maybe if Colliton finally has the mobile blue line–which it would be with Boqvist, Mitchell, Murphy, Keith, and acquisition to come–his high-pressure system has a chance, if you’re determined to stick with it. That’s a discussion for another time.

The biggest frustration with the Hawks over the past couple seasons, distilled down to its essence, is a complete lack of vision. Everything is made up on the fly. In the summer of 2017 it was we have to get younger and faster. So in came Saad and Murphy, out went Panarin and Hjalmarsson. And then that just stopped. Strome isn’t fast. de Haan isn’t fast. Maatta isn’t fast. Gustafsson isn’t fast. Koekkoek isn’t fast. And suddenly it was about blocking shots and being gritty. And all of it has left the Hawks spinning their wheels.

Now’s the time to show you have vision. Yeah, the playoff spot is visible, if you squint. But trust your fans to see the big picture, because they do. They’re dying for the Hawks to see it as well.

If Keith gets pissed off at another lost season, so be it. Is he really going to be a part of your next very good team at 38? Would Kane? Well, there’s your chance to really reset everything. There is opportunity here, if you only see it that way instead of the end.

Where does the vision come from, though? Do you trust Stan to do the sell-off much less the final touches of a rebuild which he hasn’t gotten right yet? Does McDonough know this? Does he have the balls to fire Stan now and get someone in to do this job? Is it too late? Will Stan follow instruction? Will he even get it?

This is the frustration, because we’re pretty damn sure these questions aren’t even being asked in those offices, much less being answered. But it’s time now. You’re done.

Or you can continue to chase this playoff spot you won’t get. Lehner and Crawford can both walk. Seabrook wants back in. You have no prospects. Maybe Mitchell doesn’t want any part of this. Where are you then?

The answer is clear to us. It’s time they see it.

Hockey

One of the more confounding things about the Hawks, and there’s plenty, is not only that we can’t get a sense of what the plan is (especially when they tell you they don’t have one), but it’s hard to separate their marketing and promotions department from their actual hockey operations. John McDonough will tell you he doesn’t get involved in hockey decisions, but we all know that’s probably horseshit. The two are definitely jumbled.

We’ve discussed somewhat regularly on the podcast that the Hawks pretty much operate in terror of their fanbase, feeling that any half misstep will cause a return to the dark old days instantly. And it’s understandable in a way, because it really wasn’t that long ago. It’s only 12 years in the rearview. And all the people in charge now were either part of the organization when they drew 4,000 a game or were taking over right then. It’s not exactly in the deep recesses of their or our memories. And no one wants to go back to that.

Still, there’s a desperation that seems palpable with the announcement of a “One More Shift” for Kris Versteeg today for Sunday. Look, we all love Kris Versteeg around here. In his first stint as a Hawk, he was incredible if infuriating fun. His second stint was brutal for the most part, but that’s before we knew reacquiring old members of the band was going to be the extent of their pro scouting. And the whole “One More Shift” thing probably isn’t worth spilling that much ink over, but I don’t have much else to do.

But Kris Versteeg hasn’t been gone all that long. He played preseason games this year. He was playing games for the Flames less than two years ago. He hasn’t been “out of the scene” for very long, if at all. And it was the same when they did this for Brian Campbell or Patrick Sharp or whoever else of recent vintage.

When they’ve used it for other players from the 80s or early 90s who haven’t gotten their due, that was pretty cool. It’s part of the history, and guys like Steve Larmer, Eddie Belfour, Al Secord, they haven’t really gotten their due from the organization in the past for as important as they were to those teams. They’re not good enough to have their numbers retired (though Larmer might be) but certainly meant enough to the organization for recognition. Same goes for Roenick, who got his own night in 2010 and another shift.

But when you’re doing this for players who have been retired for like five minutes, it feels like a desperate attention-grab, a frantic clinging on to what came before that’s now gone. And it’s not about Versteeg on Sunday night. It’s about how the whole team is run on both sides of the coin.

The Hawks still think they can only sell tickets if they convince everyone that it’s the same era as when everything was so fun and perfect. They have to convince you that this is all just an extension of 2010-2015, a temporary blip before they return to that. It’s all one thing. But you know it’s not. And I know it’s not. And somewhere in those office, they know it’s not. And they have to start acting like it.

Because it’s hard to argue they haven’t managed the actual team like it’s still that time. Don’t tell me that their handling of Brent Seabrook has at least a little to do with clinging on to the past. Fear of a backlash. And perhaps their absolute refusal to kick tires on the market for Keith or Kane is the same. Or maybe those two have no interest in going, and that’s fine. We don’t really know, but it’s felt like they’ve felt that getting back to the mountain top is only a reach for them instead of a hefty climb.

But that’s gone now. It’s in the past, even if five of the major faces are still here and even if they remain the most recognizable players on the team. Some of that is marketing, and some of that is the front office’s failure to bring anyone in to join them and eventually usurp them at the top of the card. Maybe DeBrincat will soon, and Dach and Boqvist are supposed to.

Either way, the whole team needs a reboot. Drop the slogan, change the goal song, vary up your presentation. We all know that day is over, and maybe it would be refreshing for both customer and business to start over. Everyone could use an attitude reset on this team. And maybe with a fresh coat of paint and a new outlook, the organization could actually see itself for what it is and run accordingly. You can’t get that far forwards if you’re always looking backwards.

If McDonough is so talented of a marketer, and if you don’t believe he is just ask him, he can probably pay someone to come up with another motto/tag line that he can take credit for. The Hawks need to move into a new era in both their branding and how they’re run. Maybe if you change the labels, you can change the whole thing under them too.

Hockey

Ok, so as if the Hawks week can’t get any better as they get routinely thwacked by real-ass teams in their own division (oh, and they see a potential 60-goal scorer Thursday), evidence that they actually have no idea what they’re doing in the front office continues to mount. And I don’t mean getting capped out last night to the extreme of 17 skaters.

At the top, we should say that the Hawks are just in the same net with the rest of hockey, and their actions or behavior is more just a symptom of the whole damn culture than they being unique. What it does do is tear down this idea, that they are the biggest promoters of, that they are somehow the gold standard organization.

It started last week or so, when Akim Aliu said that he had been racially abused by Bill Peters while both were in Rockford. Now we know pretty much the whole story, and it involves team captain at the time Jake Dowell having a sit-down with Peters over what he had said to Aliu.

This is hockey, and if there is any sport where this kind of thing can somehow not make its way up the food chain, it’s here. Players are afraid to cause waves, organizations are terrified of media distractions, everyone else is in the middle. However, your AHL captain meeting with your AHL coach over this, it’s nearly impossible to think that this doesn’t set off alarm bells for everyone both in Rockford and Chicago.

And as friend of the program Chris Block has pointed out, there are other people in and out of AHL dressing rooms all the time. Agents, families, team personnel, some media, so the idea that this was completely contained in the dressing room and the coach’s office, there’s just no way to buy that. Peters was gone a year later to join Mike Babcock’s staff, so maybe the Hawks just thought everything was taken care of with that. Maybe they thought the gloss of a newly contending team washed away all. Maybe they were afraid of dulling that in any way. Whatever the answer, it isn’t enough.

And now they have to investigate their own assistant coach, one they brought in to babysit their struggling young coach/take over when that young coach finally drowned. Again, I wasn’t really aware of Marc Crawford’s past, but it wasn’t really my job to be. When doing due diligence on a new hire, you’d have to believe if you scraped anywhere beneath the surface you’d find his record of abuse. Y’know, because it was in a former player’s book and all? I didn’t read O’Sullivan’s book, but someone somewhere did and might have mentioned this kind of thing. Call me crazy.

It’s kind of amazing how recently this shit has gone on. We are 40 year beyond Woody Hayes punching an opposing player, which ended his famous career, and that’s in football which is the only sport that has a bigger attitude amongst its coaches of how tough they are due to how saggy their balls are and whatnot. We’re over 20 years since Bobby Knight was kicking and choking his own players (and son) at Indiana. All this in hockey is in the last five to ten years. Amazing what happens in this dark corner.

Again, on the other side, some would tell you that hockey’s culture of “just take it and shut up” handicaps them from acting. But we know that the Hurricanes went up the chain to Ron Francis. We know the Red Wings did the same to Ken Holland about Babcock. We know Dowell confronted Peters at the very least. So while there’s certainly an element of players afraid to speak up, it’s not like they’ve been totally silent either. The problem is that when they have spoken up, they’ve faced an indifferent or callous organization looking in the opposite direction.

If you’ve paid any attention, you know the way the Hawks paint themselves isn’t anywhere near reality. Any crisis they’ve faced they’ve royally fucked up, and combined with their current fucking up the on-ice product (what only anyone really cares about at the end of the day) they’ve been revealed to be one of the more balloon-handed organizations around.

But to restrict this as a Hawks problem would be unfair and silly. I’ve thought a lot about this lately and why hockey is so far behind everything else. And it’s mostly that it operated in the dark for so long, anything could go on because no one knew except for those in it. There was no one around to point out all the things wrong, because the only ones who knew were the ones in the culture and they could behave however they saw fit. Hell, the reason some of us became fans was because no one else was. So it’s not that hockey is upset that it’s being scrutinized now, it’s upset that anyone is looking at all. It doesn’t want to jibe with the wider world because the wider world was never aware of its existence for so long. But that’s not a justification, and far from it.

I don’t know why these GMs like Holland or Treveling or Francis or whoever knew here or whoever was Crawford’s boss just tried to shoo it away. The easy answer is callousness, and that might be it. I think it’s at least part laziness too. Because if they had taken action, that would only lead to more questions they would have to answer. Questions they aren’t equipped to handle. And we know how much they hate the media and questions. It’s just easier to say “man up” even though we’ve eliminated that term as a qualified answer years ago. It’s easier to hope that things just go away, which they did.

Well, they won’t now, and it’s a bigger mess. Who’s around who is actually equipped to deal with it?

Hockey

Y’know, I thought we were done with this kind of story about the Hawks. It had at least been a while since the Hawks came out to proclaim they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to analytics, even though I’m fairly sure they can’t even spell “analytics.” And then everyone would lap that up while they continue to run their team in almost purposeful spite of what analytics would say. And then we would spend the season screaming until your eyes bled about how what they’re doing makes no sense. Then they would come out and say they’re ahead of the curve on analytics and just trust them, and the whole cycle would start again.

I guess I missed it.

First of all, if you were so “ahead of the curve,” you would boast about how big your analytics department is. That you had a team of people working on this and presenting it to the GM and coach. You would show off your computer room or something. Fuck, look at the Cubs and all the bleating and boasting they did about their “pitching lab,” which still has produced dick when it comes to pitchers but hey, they’re at least showing you they’re working on it.

The best part of this article, a deep focus on the Hawks trying to blow themselves, is that the counterpoint to it is right in the goddamn middle. The Hawks have one guy, ONE, listed under “Hockey Analytics” on their website. Their department that’s so fucking cutting edge has one dude, and like, maybe an intern or two. Al MacIsaac, who’s basically been a fucking plague in this front office for a decade, mentions “young people.” You know what that means, right? Kids they don’t pay who also get lunch and help the marketing people stuff the blimps that drop t-shirts or whatever. This is not a department. It’s a dude in a dark room with some students sentenced to go visit him once a week for credit.

“Everybody is at a certain place right now,” MacIsaac said, “but they don’t know if they’re in front or they’re way behind.”

They sure don’t, Al.

If the Hawks paid any attention to analytics, they wouldn’t have traded for Olli Maatta. They wouldn’t have thrown in Teuvo Teravainen merely to get Bryan Bickell off the books. They wouldn’t have traded for Andrew Ladd. As mentioned in the article, they wouldn’t have given Brent Seabrook a million years on a contract. They wouldn’t have spiked Q with Brandon Manning (well, knowing the dysfunction in this front office, that still might have happened). They wouldn’t have traded Henri Jokiharju. Good god do you know how long this list could go on? I’m not going to do that you with so little summer left.

Still, the Hawks were one of the worst expected goal teams in the league last year, and the year before that, and yet all they’ve tried to do to turn that around is acquire road-graters on the blue line to block more shots. They just traded one of their d-men who can, supposedly, transition the team from defense to offense, which is what they don’t do well at all and the analytics tell you that. Their hopes to turn that around are pinned to Adam Boqvist and basically Adam Boqvist alone. They will try and sell you that Duncan Keith can still do it, even though he has been declining in possession for a while now. And you expect us to believe they actually pay attention this?

Of course, all this is topped by MacIsaac pretty much dismissing player-tracking. Now, he can get away with this, barely, for now because no one is quite sure when player tracking is actually going to be ready. And when it does roll out, it of course will have some kinks.

But if you’re so far ahead of the game, as the Hawks want you to believe without actually doing anything to back it up, why wouldn’t you gobble up all the data you can? Try and get out ahead and figure out where the kinks are first, but more importantly glean what is viable from it before anyone else? Wouldn’t that be your attitude instead of waving your grandpappy hand and dismissing it at gobbledygook, as MacIsaac does here? How can you be that advanced when you’re not even paying attention?

Once again, the best thing the Hawks front office does is telling you how great they are at something, without actually doing it. They’ve been doing Trump’s act longer than he has. “Oh we’re the best at this, you can’t believe how good we are at it and we really are the envy of the league when it comes to this.” And then you don’t actually do that thing.

McDonough is going to be president in like 2024.

 

Hockey

I had a good hearty laugh and mock at John McDonough’s claims that the Hawks were on the cutting edge in-game experience at the United Center. After all, everything about their arena experience is lifted from other places. But they’re hardly alone in that, as you most hockey/basketball arenas look exactly the same, and aside from base coloring in the seats and scoreboards you could virtually switch them all and you wouldn’t know which is which. That doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to tailor what goes on at the United Center in a way you don’t see too many other places.

Now, it would be easy to sit here and just suggest all wrestling themes to eliminate my jealousy of Verizon Center in DC using Becky Lynch’s theme for power plays or Nashville and their constant playing of various ones. But I can do better than that, so let’s try. And full disclosure, none of these are terribly original, but expansions on other places’ ideas or at least something new for Chicago. And none of it will happen.

“Ultras” Section: I spent a good portion of my editorials in the old CI program lamenting that almost all American sports do not sound like soccer, and if you think that doesn’t matter you need to know the unique noise and atmosphere of soccer, even just bleeding through a TV, is what drew us to the sport in the first place.

Nashville somewhat has this with Cellblock 303, and the Canes do with Section 328, though the latter is more of a tailgate thing. The former lead the Bridgestone Arena crowd in all those chants you hear that are variations of “you suck.” Again, it’s not exactly the terraces of Bilbao here, but it’s a start.

You can’t get more generic than the Hawks at the UC, at least after the anthem. It’s either the scoreboard coercing everyone or Tommy Hawk and his tambourine into a “Let’s Go Hawks!” chant. We can do better.

Take one section of the 300 Level, preferably behind the goal the Hawks attack twice. Dedicate it to your biggest fans, a la supporters sections you see in MLS. Charge a certain few with coming up with unique chants and songs tailored to the Hawks and their players specifically. Give them a couple months to get everyone in the arena to learn them and get on board.

Yes, you’ll have a problem with season ticket holders there. Give them the option to stay or move them to better seats. But constant noise and songs throughout a hockey game would be different that most every arena in the league.

Local artists: At this point, if you’ve had season tickets you can recall the UC playlist from heart. The Hawks have come out from intermission to Foo Fighters and “Riding The Storm Out” for all 11 seasons I’ve had seasons. Just put a modicum of effort into this one.

Music during stoppages and TV timeouts should slant, though not be entirely, from local bands and musicians. There should be more Chance, Lala Lala, Vic Mensa, Pelican, Lupe Fiasco…fuck this list could go on forever.

And it’s not just music. Though it might be next to impossible considering any available wallspace in the concourses is gobbled up by ads, you could probably make space for local painters and sculptors pretty easily. Just a few on the 100 and 300 Levels. Make it a Chicago experience, not one you can just drop in anywhere around the country.

Have a sense of humor: Look, I love that Denver plays the Mario Bros. power up sound when a penalty to the Avs is over. Stuff like that really plays. Right now you the most amount of personality the UC shows is a look-a-like thing with the crowd during a TV timeout. Or “Oblivious Cam” which is really stretching. Also the Kiss Cam is played out and we’ve seen that old couple make out enough. Try something else. Play Mutombo waving his finger after a great save (or Jordan waving his finger at Mutomob0). Flash “HEAVY METAL” after a post-shot. Give me the EA Sports checking sound after a big hit. Something quick, something memorable. Hell, I could have a list of 50 of these if they asked. Also the power play dance is evil because you took it from St. Louis and is pretty funny when the Hawks power play sucks, which it usually has over the past decade. When it’s a particular dead spot, have fun with that.

Italian Beef Gun: Need I say more?

Red Lights In The Partitions: This is the land of the exploding scoreboard, after all. Everything should go off when the Hawks score. This is lifted from Vancouver, but you know, fuck Vancouver.

Scoreboard Info: I’ll reserve judgement on this one to see what they do with the new one. But it used to be after the first period you couldn’t see who was on the ice for the opposition, replaced by in-game stats for whoever was currently on the ice for the Hawks. With greater space you can probably do both, and hopefully they won’t be afraid to include an analytic tint to it, listing each players attempts and shots for and against while on the ice as well as individually. It wouldn’t be that hard to do, honestly.

This is all off the top of my head. Feel free to tweet us your suggestions, and we’ll round up some of the best ideas next week.