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.

 

 

Everything Else

Right at the top, let me say that the Hawks and the United Center handled Saturday night’s stupidity and ugliness about the way you’d ask. They ejected the fans, banned them, and their statement hit all the notes you’d require. Getting their players in on it is a good idea as well, to try and be thorough. While I would suspect these four fucksticks were probably saying ugly shit far longer than when Devante Smith-Pelly had had enough, that’s dependent on the fans around them calling them out before then. The United Center or Hawks can’t force people to do that, and when it became obvious to everyone they did what they should.

If I could lend one quibble, it would be to release their names publicly, and give the other four teams in town the option of banning them from their games as well. This kind of ugliness should result at least in public shaming and in reality, loss of job and a few other things. You may say it’s thought police, but there are few companies and agencies and whatever else that wants to be associated with that kind of prejudice and hatred. And that’s what it is.

The problem for the Hawks here is that it’s started a ball rolling that I don’t think they’re in any way prepared for.

Because if the policy in the United Center and for the Hawks is that racism will not be tolerated in the stands,  then those who show up in full headdresses can’t be allowed on the concourses. Those two jackwagons who used to paint themselves red (and demanded free programs from me once because they painted themselves red in one of the funniest moments during my eight years standing outside Gate 3) can’t be allowed in the arena. Otherwise, what you’re saying isn’t “racism won’t be tolerated in the United Center,’ but “racism that gets caught on camera and marked out by players so that we can no longer put our head in the sand and have to act is prohibited.” That’s not taking a step, that’s not promoting tolerance. That’s just hoping you don’t have to talk about these things ever again. That’s not the way forward.

Ah, but then if you do take that step of not allowing the headdress wearers and face-painters, then you’ve basically admitted your logo has to go. Maybe the name, too. While a professional team has yet to change its name away from a Native-American connotation, you have to feel like it’s not going to be too long now. Marquette and North Dakota have, of course. While the Hawks do keep a constant line of communication and work with local groups and tribes, we could probably easily find tons that are insulted by the imagery.

The Hawks can point to Cleveland or Atlanta or Washington and say they’re waiting on them, and that Washington should have to go first because their name is an actual slur. But the “Well they’re doing it!” is not an acceptable defense. Someone is going to take the first step, and if you’re as progressive and “on the cusp” as the Hawks are desperate for you to believe they are, it should be them. We here know that’s bullshit, but hey, I’ll play their game for a minute.

Of course, what the Hawks are really terrified of is the backlash from the unwashed section of their fanbase. And for a team that’s already seeing empty seats pop up at their games, they’re probably petrified of more. But what we know is that those fans aren’t really going anywhere and will be the first to buy the new jerseys and two, they’re probably the types to spout racist shit and are the exact type of people you just said won’t be tolerated in the arena.

And yes, I’m well aware of what this blog was called for nine years, and the reaction I’ve had in the past to those who suggested I should change it. Not all lessons are learned quickly.

Basically, the Hawks have painted themselves to a corner to where they can’t half-ass this. If racism isn’t allowed in any way in your arena, and you take those steps, then they’re going to have to take all the steps. Otherwise they’re not trying to eradicate that element out of their fandom. They’re just trying to not end up in headlines and online videos.

And that’s not enough.

Everything Else

As most people know by now, I’m not a huge fan of “Kiss Cam.” But then again, I’m not really a fan of all the timeout entertainment, given how shrill and downright stupid it can be. And seeing as how I follow the Zappa school of “Love Is For Assholes,” Kiss Cam is particularly bothersome. But I accept it’s part of the American sports scene and isn’t going anywhere, and mostly just treat it as noise.

However, last night I was struck by yet another instance of the Hawks, or more to the point their gameday staff, unable to even get a finger in the wind. I don’t make every game like I used to, so I don’t know how long this has been going on. But now, Kiss Cam has an introduction from a young woman who has become something of the in-game, in-building host for all of their promotions. I can’t seem to find her name anywhere so if someone can help me via Twitter or email I’ll change this. Anyway, before Kiss Cam starts she approaches Tommy Hawk in a “Kissing Booth,” and well, you can pretty much figure out where it goes from there (he fixes the cable?). It’s nothing lurid, but it’s uncomfortable to watch this woman kiss a mascot.

I’m not sure what exactly the payoff here is supposed to be. Kiss Cam itself can be seen weird and somewhat creepy. And one day every arena is going to have to actually put a gay couple up there, but let’s save that discussion for another time.

In this current atmosphere, what exactly is gained by having this woman, clearly a little uncomfortable, kiss a mascot? And really, what is gained by having a mascot meant to entertain kids sexualized in any or slightest way? At best, it’s just awkward and weird. It could be viewed as something worse, and again there’s just no gain from it. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, it’s not anything but bad.

You’d think the NHL itself would want to put a stop to this, given that the Kings mascot is currently being sued for groping a woman, and we certainly don’t need to get into the litany of charges hurled at Benny the Bull for the bullshit he perpetrated in the very same building. You’d think someone in the Hawks organization would be aware of any of this, but then again we gave up on the Hawks have any kind of awareness long ago.

This clearly isn’t the first time the Hawks have tried to place their logo as the definition of “tone-deaf .”  (and boy could you examine that sentence for a while) And we don’t need to rehash all those instances that came before. But you’d have to be either incredibly stupid, naive, or worse uncaring to see all the stories and men in high places crashing down because of acting in an inappropriate or downright dangerous fashion toward female coworkers and think it’s all right to have this on camera in front of your home crowd. Again, what are the Hawks gaining from it? As silly as it might sound, the United Center is a workplace and on some level, those two are coworkers. Does anyone read or see the news in that place?

Usually, this is the part where I say it doesn’t matter because the Hawks are selling every seat. And that’s still true, but there are a lot more unfilled ones than there used to be. And I can’t help but notice that the t-shirt giveaways have tripled or more during timeouts, and I can’t help but wonder why that might be. Sure, the Hawks right now are only losing out on parking and concessions and merchandise sales when there’s only 18-19K in the building. But I’m willing to bet they’ve noticed. So why take a risk on anyone being offended, and rightly so, by this dumb sketch? Is it as bad as Ryan Kesler’s naked walk through the Ducks’ offices? No. But is it in the same genus? Yeah, sure is.

This really isn’t all that hard, and it’s hard to believe that no one anywhere in the building went to the gameday presentation staff and was like, “Uh, that’s not a good idea.” Hell, run it by us. We’ll do it for a beer (HA! A Wirtz giving away free booze! Let’s all sit on that one for a sec!) Why risk it? I really don’t know if the wave of disclosure of sexual harassment and assault is going to come to the sports world, I’m kind of skeptical it will given the different parameters and loyalty from the public. But if it does, why would you want this on your record? Why make this something of a gateway to what we know (or highly suspect) are a fuckton darker and worse actions that have happened from members of that organization?

As we know, the Hawks put the Ice Crew back in the mini-skirts after a season of trying to duck that controversy after it was brought up to them at the convention and they had them in pants for the following season. The Hawks and most of their fans may think things like this are hardly a risk or don’t put them anywhere near the line. They’re closer than they think and the wave might be coming. As my father used to say, “Mighty oaks from little acorns.”

Everything Else

JerryLawler_crop_exact vs. Hawk Wrestler

GAMETIME: 6pm

TV: CSN

NOBODY’S WALKIN’: The Royal Half

RECORDS: Kings 4-4-0  Hawks 4-3-1

Projected Lineups

kings-lineup-card

blackhawks-lineup-card

SCORE ADJUSTED CF%: Kings – 56.0 (1st)  Hawks – 51.4 (10th)

POWER PLAY: Kings – 17.5% (20th)  Hawks – 22.6% (13th)

PENALTY KILL: Kings –  77.8% (21st)  Hawks – Let’s not even

TRENDS: Kings have five players with a CF% of 60.0+… Zatkoff gave up five goals on 16 shots his last outing

It used to be this would raise everyone’s eyebrows when seen on the calendar. But these days, it only takes one first-round exit for both at the same time, the first West final to not feature either in five years, and suddenly it feels like we’re harkening back to something in the past to feel the rivalry between these two teams. Both getting off to somewhat wonky starts probably doesn’t help either.

Everything Else

Last night, during the 3rd period I tweeted that I wondered if the “GET LOUD!” graphic that runs every game at that time would insult real Blackhawks fans, and whether or not there were any of them in the building. This angered a few people, and after taking a night to think about it I totally understand why.

The term “real fans” was a poor choice, especially coming from me who has spent a good portion of my seven plus years doing this writing about how newer fans, or ones derided as “bandwagon” were nothing to be feared or loathed, and were also a byproduct of a successful team. You can’t really have the latter without the former. And I don’t recall any of the 5,000 of us who were there in 2006 and talking amongst ourselves particularly enjoying it, except for maybe the shorter lines in the bathrooms. It was hypocritical of me for sure.

Everything Else

spacecoyote vs. AltLogo_medium

FACEOFF: 7:30pm Cenral

TV/RADIO: CSN round here, NBCSN not round here, WGN 720

SOUL MATE DETECTOR: Five For Howling

It’s been 20 days since we put the word “Hawks” after the “at” in the title, and now we’re going to do it eight straight times over a span of 15 days. No one can seem to remember a stretch of homes games like this happening in these parts, so it’s a new experience for all. And it’s a real chance for the Hawks to still be counted in the race for the Central Division, or at least home ice in the first round. Eight points is a ton to make up, but then again you rarely get eight straight home games and 11 of 13, and 12 of 16 to do so.