Blogging the 2014 Blackhawks Convention: Day 2
|Jeremy Morin poses with a fan. (Chase Agnello-Dean/Chicago Blackhawks)|
As the Seventh Annual Blackhawks Convention continued on Saturday, fans gained access to 12 panels conducted throughout the day. These panels consisted of current players, team management, alumni and broadcasters associated with the team.
Chicagoblackhawks.com complied the best moments from these panels, highlighting the quotes and candid moments that that stood out.
Hall of fame Broadcaster Pat Foley
In one of the first events of the day, Comcast SportsNet’s Pat Boyle moderated a panel featuring recent NHL Hall of Fame inductee and voice of the Chicago Blackhawks, Pat Foley, his partner Eddie Olczyk, former Blackhawks goaltender Murray Bannerman and Blackhawks Ambassador Denis Savard. As Boyle made his introductions, he stepped aside and allowed Foley to introduce the next member with his patented “BAAANNNERMAN!” call.
Topics discussed included Foley getting into the Hall of Fame, Harry Caray impressions, how Foley got into broadcasting and the process of being a broadcaster, with some friendly banter between Olczyk and Savard livening things up.
- Boyle opened by asking Foley how it felt when he got the call about getting into the Hall of Fame. Foley said, “I really couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t ask anyone else?”
- Denis Savard discussed his favorite Pat Foley story, mentioning the day that Foley coined his nickname, “Savoir-Faire.” He then joked, "There were many times [Foley] called us something.” When Savard was asked about Foley’s broadcasting style, Olczyk interrupted and said, “You watched tree games in ta last tree years!”
- Olczyk commented on the role Foley played in the Blackhawks' resurgence: “He is responsible for the connecting of our older Blackhawk fans to our younger fans. They have him in common…He is a Chicago guy on top of everything else.”
- When the subject changed to how Foley came up with his calls, he said, “You see it, you say it, and you try to be equal to the moment…I don’t know what is going to come out.”
- Apparently, Foley learned that his “Savardian Spin-o-Rama” was coined 30 years earlier by Danny Gallivan regarding Serge Savard of the dynastic Montreal Canadiens.
- The best question from the fans came from a young boy named Anthony who asked Foley to say, “Great save by Crawford!” Foley made the call with his normal gusto, even including Anthony’s name as the faux-shooter.
- The panel concluded with the entire crowd giving Pat Foley and the rest of the panel a standing ovation.
In a panel featuring Chairman Rocky Wirtz, President & CEO John McDonough, Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman, Executive Vice President Jay Blunk, Vice President of Hockey Operations Al MacIssac and Vice President of Ticket Operations and Customer Relations Chris Werner, topics ranged from how to keep the team competitive to how fan services will continue to grow.
Here are the top five takeaways:
- McDonough wanted to make sure that fans thought of the previous season as a success. “Ideally, every deep run ends with a Stanley Cup; however that is not always going to be the case. Even though we lost this year, it still meant that we had a good season.”
- MacIssac spoke about the huge commitment the organization has made to the development of young prospects. He said that when he first arrived, their farm system had one head coach and a trainer. Now there is a head coach, a video coach and a mental strength coach, along with other important auxiliary positions.
- The extensions for captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were priceless, according to Blunk, because it demonstrate a dedication to the fans that this team wants to continue to win and compete.
- While the organization is happy with where the tickets sales are at (a 99 percent season tickets renewal rate), there is a need to make sure fans can keep getting involved. Werner reiterated that the organization is always looking for more ways for fans to get a chance to see players and feel connected to the Blackhawks.
- On the recent trend towards drafting college players, Bowman said that there is not necessarily a trend towards college players. However, college hockey gives the organization four years of control over contracts, while juniors only allows two years. It cuts down on the risk associated with drafting players.
Blackhawks Baby Boom!
This panel consisted of some of the fathers on the squad who have young or newborn children. Marian Hossa, Michal Rozsival and Niklas Hjalmarsson sat down with CBS 2’s Rob Johnson to discuss the challenges associated with being both a hockey player and a dad. Johnson also took questions from both Twitter and the audience.
Topic discussed included the locker-room dynamic, difficulties of being on the road, changing diapers when home and whether their kids will play hockey.
Here are the highlights:
- In recent years, the locker room has gone from a bachelor pad to more of a playground.
- Hjalmarsson told a story about how his son, Theo, was due right around playoff time. The doctors ended up inducing pregnancy, and Theo was born before they started; thus, he didn’t have to worry during the games.
- A fan asked Hossa what the best part of being a dad was. He said, “[My daughter Mia] will come up to me after a bad game and give me a big smile, like nothing was wrong.”
- Hjalmarsson told the audience that whenever he is home, he takes over diaper duty.
- A fan tweeted the panel asking who the most childlike teammate is. Andrew Shaw was the quick consensus.
- Hossa was asked how he came up with his babies’ names. He said, “Simple, we went on the internet and looked.”
- Finally, Hjalmarsson bragged about his 3-month-old boy. “He is really smart,” he said. “He already can speak two languages.”
Coach Q and His Crew
Head Coach Joel Quenneville, Assistant Coaches Mike Kitchen and Kevin Dineen and new Goaltending Coach Jimmy Waite sat on a panel moderated by Eddie Olczyk, and discussed topics ranging from how responsibilities will be doled out to reflecting on Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.
When it comes to moving past the last game of the season, Quenneville says he still has not watched the tape, while Kitchen said he had two or three vivid dreams in the aftermath of the game that haunted him, but that it is time to start over with the new season.
- Waite explained his style of working with goalies; that he will not always talk to them between periods unless something absolutely has to be addressed. He is looking forward to working with Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta and figuring out how their dynamic will play out.
- Transitioning from head coaching positions with the Florida Panthers and Team Canada to an assistant coach may be a struggle for Dineen, who has never served as an assistant coach, but he said that he knew what he expected from his assistants and looks to fulfill whatever role will help the Blackhawks win. Quenneville said he expects Dineen to focus on offense and the power play.
- Kitchen provided insight about the kind of coaching that he does during the span of a game. He said, it's important to not always be in one player’s ear and that yelling is not always the best solution, and that it helps to know when to make a comment and when it should be addressed to entire group and not just one player.
|Antti Raanta blocks a shot from a fan. (Chase Agnello-Dean/Chicago Blackhawks)|
What It Takes
Conn Smythe winners Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brad Richards got together to talk about a variety of topics, such as what it takes to be the MVP of a playoff run and answering questions about what they are looking for in the upcoming season.
Top five takeaways:
- Kane recalled that last year, during the Western Conference Final, Toews had a dream that Kane would win the Conn Smythe.
- Richards said that he was excited to have another chance to win a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks. “In the late 1990s and early 2000s, guys would go to Detroit to try and win a Stanley Cup; now the place to go is Chicago.”
- Toews said that he was happy with his season, but that there is always something to improve upon. “I believe I found my game in the playoffs this year, even more than last season. Things did not work out the way we wanted this year, but we can learn from that and get better.”
- When asked what it meant to be on the ice during the national anthem before Game 3 of the St. Louis series, Toews said that it was amazing and that the fans were able to jumpstart the team before what they knew was a do-or-die situation. Richards went on to say that the anthem is something he is excited to experience as a Chicago player—to not be intimated like he was as a visitor.
- Of course, there was a rematch of the Kane-Toews dance-off that occurred at the last Convention. Toews stuck to his moonwalk, while Kane did the patented “Kaner Shuffle.” Richards declined the invite to get in on the action, citing lack of preparation.
The Swedish Invasion
During this panel, the Blackhawks’ Swedish players invaded the stage, with WGN’s David Eanet leading the discussion. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, Johnny Oduya, Joakim Nordstrom and David Rundblad shared how fortunate it is to have a good amount of Swedes playing for the Blackhawks.
Other topics included the characterizations of a Swedish player, nationalism in the locker room, accents and adapting to the English language.
Here are the highlights:
- Near the beginning of the discussion, the panel opened up about what is the trait that marks a Swedish player. After some conversation, the group identified that Swedes are known for their engrained team mentality and that players play very unselfishly.
- All the players were asked to identify their Swedish hockey heroes.
- Nordstrom: Peter Forsberg and Daniel Alfredsson
- Oduya: Nicklas Lidstrom
- Kruger: Mats Sundin
- Hjalmarsson: Nicklas Lindstrom and Niklas Kronwall
- Rundblad: Daniel Alfredsson
- The group talked about how the American and Canadian players got frustrated when the Swedes would talk in their native tongue around them.
- Hjalmarsson is from the countryside of Sweden, and apparently has a “hillbilly” Swedish accent. To compare, all five players were told to say, “Chicago is the best city in the world” in Swedish, to see if the fans could tell the difference.
- Hjamarsson also talked about an English expression that took him along time to understand. For two years, he would get a confused look on his face when some said “bless you” after he sneezed.
Top five takeaways:
- Hossa and Kane both disclosed that they often go into video shoots with no idea of what they are going to be used for, but they all think it is cool to see footage from a video (that could have been shot years ago) come together into a complete package.
- Hossa said he got unbelievable feedback from the Holiday Album video from two seasons ago. It became such a sensation in Europe that friends told him it was making the local news overseas.
- Ben Smith revealed that even though he had never seen a Captain America film, the costume that he wore in a video was indeed his own. It was his Halloween costume from when he was in Rockford.
- After watching a video cut from last season’s banner-raising ceremony, Shaw remarked that it was amazing to see again and that the experience was very memorable. Standing with his teammates along the blueline while all those lights were going off is something he will never forget.
- Kane said it is great to be able to see video from games or the playoffs because during the game they are too focused to take it the whole scene. “It's awesome to see how Joel [Quenneville] is acting or how the fans are reacting in certain situations.”
The staff in charge of developing future Blackhawks talent took time to sit down with Radio Voice John Wiedeman and share insights into what goes into the development process for the team. VP/GM Stan Bowman, VP of Hockey Operations Al MacIsaac, Assistant GM Norm Maciver, Director of Hockey Administration/GM of Minor League Affiliations Mark Bernard, Rockford IceHogs Head Coach Ted Dent, Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations Scotty Bowman and Senior Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley went in-depth on their roles with the team and what the team looks for as talent develops in the system.
- Scotty Bowman impressed upon the audience the role that character plays when deciding whether to draft a player.
- Kelley explained how the next draft season starts a week after the previous draft ends. However, it is not until about two weeks before the draft that the team has a firm grasp on who they want to select.
- The group explained that with the team’s improved system and new technology, it gives team personnel a better ability to see and develop talent that may not have made it in the past.
- A fan asked if there was a preference for a player going to college or juniors. Scotty Bowman said, “I can answer that quickly. Toews and Kane—one went to college, and the other juniors. It is whatever the player feels is best for himself."
Old Rivalries Renewed
Top five takeaways:
- Troy Murray spoke about how the old rivalries with Minnesota and St. Louis are poised to reignite because the fans are a big part of keeping those up; the history goes back to the 1980s.
- Both Seabrook and Saad stated that the more they a play a team, especially in the playoffs, the more likely they are to develop a feud with them and want to to beat them. Seabrook made sure to point out that the rivalries between players stay on the ice and do not carry over into personal relationships.
- When asked about teams he loved to play against, Steve Larmer pointed to Toronto, because he always seemed to have his best games against them. “Without Toronto, I probably would not have had a career in the NHL, but I scored a lot of goals against them, which helped my career.”
- While talking about the differences in stadiums and the eccentricities of each, Seabrook mentioned that guys around the league hate “Chelsea Dagger,” which the players do not mind because it is playing a lot, which means a lot of scoring and wins are happening.
- Steve Larmer mentioned that a lot of rivalries developed because games against teams like Minnesota and St. Louis seemed to always be back-to-backs on Saturday and Sunday, and so there were a lot of sleepless weekends because we knew there was six tough periods against rough hockey teams.
|Tommy Hawk rests his feet during the Kids Only Press Conference. (Chase Agnello-Dean/Chicago Blackhawks)|
Kids-only Press Conference
These were the top five questions and answers from the session:
Q. Leah (5 years old) asked Ben Smith whether he loved cats more than dogs.
A. Smith said that it's true because he had cats growing up.
Q. Jackson (9) asked Corey Crawford what he said to Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick during the playoffs.
A. Crawford said that he asked Quick to stop beating up Shaw.
Q. Samantha (11) asked Brian Bickell who on the team he would least want dating his daughter.
A. Bickell looked over to Crawford and said, “This guy.”
Q. Anna (9) asked Ben Smith what job they would do if they didn’t play hockey.
A. Smith said that he would want to be a teacher, while the others mentioned that they would want to be different professional athletes.
Q. Amanda also asked the panel what their favorite part of playing their position is.
A. Morin said scoring goals. Smith said playing both offense and defense. Bickell said chipping the puck into the corner and hammering somebody. Crawford said he liked when guys got mad that they couldn’t score on him.
Raising a Pro
In this panel, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, along with their fathers, Doug and George (respectively), talked about what it was like during all the years of getting kids to practices and balancing hockey with other aspects of life.
Here are the top five takeaways:
- Doug Shaw wanted parents to understand that they need to make sure not to push their children too much, and that if they lose interest in a sport, it's okay to move on. At the end of the day, hockey is about passion, and if the child loses that passion, they should not have it forced upon them.
- Andrew Shaw said that the best piece of advice that he received from his father was that he always needs to be having fun and that he will play his best hockey when he is having fun. Shaw says to this day that he notices his best games come when he is having a good time.
- Both Saad and Shaw offered recollections about the outdoor rinks they had as children and how that really helped them grow to love hockey. Shaw said that they were important because more ice time leads to being more comfortable, and once that happens, an emphasis can be placed on learning skills.
- Doug Shaw said that he is proud of Andrew because he always had to fight for everything. Nothing came easy for him and it was all an uphill battle, but he overcame it all.
- At the end of the day, Saad and Shaw were both grateful to all the efforts their parents put into their sport. Saad said that he can now fully appreciate all the time, resources and travel his parents put into his passion for hockey, and he knows he would not have made it without them.
Life on the Road
In the last panel of the night, TV announcer Pat Foley led a discussion with Bryan Bickell, Peter Regin and Jonathan Toews on what it is like to constantly be on the road. Most of the discussion revolved around the camaraderie and pranks that the players play on each other.
- The panel got off to a joking mood quickly, when asked about the biggest pranks and pranksters on the team. Toews told a story about Shaw and Saad removing a pipe in his hotel toilet and water exploding everywhere when he flushed. However, he went on to say that it's Sharp who is the biggest prankster on the team.
- Toews also talked about the transition to new roommates during the Olympics. He said that it took some time for people to warm up, but soon everyone was just as goofy as they are used to being.
- A fan asked them about their Mario Kart tournaments and who each of their favorite characters are. Bickell plays with Luigi, Toews plays with Waluigi, and Regin only played once—it was not a good experience for him.
- Bickell told the crowd a story about how he fell asleep on the bus. His teammates got off the bus and told the driver to drive a way for a while. Bickell woke up and freaked out because everyone was gone.
- They all agreed that Leddy and Saad have the biggest bromance on the team.
- Finally, the panel was asked who the best away fans are in the NHL. Toews responded, “Nashville, Phoenix and St. Louis all have good away fans…because the stadiums are filled with Blackhawks fans!”