Chicago Blackhawks’ riches– Prospects making the grade at NJEC

redprospect bench Chicago, IL – This past week or so USA hockey held it’s annual evaluation camp in Lake Placid, NY. Every August approximately 45 or so prospects from around the country are invited to attend and compete. The purpose is it is part of a process that selects US National Junior Team to represent Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championships that takes place in December. Not only does it aide coaches in their selection of the final team that will represent Team USA it also exposes and prepares the prospects to international competition.

This year Teams from Finland, Sweden & the Czech Republic were also at the camp. It is practice scrimmages along with games to get these young prospects ready. The prospects invited represent most of the NHL teams or will be NHL draft eligible in 2015 draft.

The Chicago Blackhawks had six prospects in attendance this year. Four of whom were on Team USA and two were on Team Sweden. Sorry team Sweden I did not get a chance to take in one of your games to check out the Hawks prospects on team Sweden.

The Hawks prospects in attendance for Team USA were 2014 1st round pick forward Nick Schmaltz, who also is a local kid from Verona, WI. Another local boy was 2013 6th round pick forward Anthony Louis from Winfield, IL. Another Midwest boy Tyler Motte from St. Clair, MI, who had an outstanding tournament, was also there. Tyler is the Blackhawks’ 2013 4th round draft selection and is a forward as well. The lone Hawk prospect not from the Midwest was John Hayden who was selected by the Blackhawks in 2013 in the 3rd round.

The Hawks prospects from Team Sweden were Robin Norell and Carl Dahlstrom. If you were recently in attendance at the Blackhawks own prospect camp all of these players were there with the exception of Tyler Motte so you got a glimpse at the talent waiting in the wings in the Hawks prospect system. Tyler Motte and John Hayden had a very good showing at the NJEC.

Motte eventually was on top Team USA line and his production showed with 5G, 3A for a total of 8 points in six games. Motte had a hat trick in Team USA’s game against Finland in a 9-1 romp. Credit must also be given to his line mates Jack Eichel (top draft prospect for 2015) & Alex Tuch ( 2014 1st rounder for Minnesota Wild).

Hawks fans will be very happy with big physical forward John Hayden who knows how to get to the front a net and make his presence felt. Hayden ended the tourney with 3G, 1A for 4 points in 5 games. In the last game against the Czech Republic it was his big imposing body that deflected a shot from the point past the Czech goalie on a power play. Hayden scored another power play goal against Finland in that 9-1 game and another power play goal against Sweden with a helper from Nick Schmaltz.

Local Boys Nick Schmaltz and Anthony Louis for most of the tournament were linemates. Nick Schmaltz only played in 4 games but managed to tally 3 assists while Louis played in 6 games with 1G & 1A. The chemistry is there between the two as they have played together back on the Chicago Mission.

Anthony Louis’ goal came on the power play against a Team White game against Sweden. Who got one of the assists his buddy Schmaltzie. Louis’ assist was on power play goal by Will Butcher in the Team White vs Finland game.

The good news is, it looks like all these Hawks prospects know what to do with a puck on the power play something that the Blackhawks could use on the big club.

I did not attend the games in Lake Placid but I did watch the intra team scrimmage between team blue which had Motte & Hayden on them and team white which had Schmaltz and Louis and the final game of Team USA vs Czech Republic. Schmaltz did not play in the last game vs Czechs.

The one thing that is very apparent is these kids all have solid offensive games and know how to score and make plays. Work on the defensive side of the puck and putting together a solid two-way game, get bigger and faster and these kids will be making the leap soon.

Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs fans will be very happy when these kids get there. For the time being though they are all are heading off to college. If you get the chance to see them go catch them, Nick Schmaltz will be heading to the Univ of North Dakota, you know that school where a Mr. Jonathan Toews attended. Anthony Louis will be attending Miami University, John Hayden will be at Yale University and Tyler Motte will be at big 10 school – University of Michigan.

If you can’t get out to the games then maybe catch them on the College sports channels if you have a sports tv package. Otherwise you will have to wait to catch them at Blackhawks prospect camps. The pipeline the Hawks have going is impressive indeed or as one of the announcers said in a recent game when speaking of the Blackhawks prospects “the rich are only getting richer”.

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NFL – a League of their own

Chicago, IL — Now normally this blog does not talk NFL football but after last week here are some rants. The NFL underwent a rough week last week from a PR standpoint. They managed in one week to insult two minorities the LGBT community and women. Good going NFL. The rather alarming thing is that those inside the NFL or closely associated with the NFL see absolutely nothing wrong with either of these incidents and their overall stance as a league.

Why this is alarming is it is beginning to signal that the NFL along with their players and coaches are beginning to think they are above laws and are reverting to 1950’s thinking which should now be antiquated and more enlightened one would think.

I will go in the order of how the events happened as to not indicate one topic is more important than the other. Early in the week highly respected coach Tony Dungy made the statement that he would not want openly gay football player Michael Sam on his team because of “distractions” that would surround Sam with media attention. Luckily for the NFL there are still some enlightened and smart individuals in their couching fraternity and St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher does not share Tony Dungy’s tunnel vision.

What was particularly ironic about Dungy’s comments was he was the first one to forgive Michael Vick’s indiscretions and welcome him back and offer to help Vick with open arms. I’m sure when Vick returned to the NFL it was a media circus but that was alright in Dungy’s book. Correct me too if I’m not wrong but Vick spent time in jail for his attention getting story whereas Sam’s is not only not criminal it is who he was born to be. It is part of Michael Sam as is his ethnicity.

So what is the difference other than one coming to the conclusion Tony Dungy does not like LGBT persons. This is fine not everyone has to like everyone. But of all people Dungy should know prejudice is prejudice and someone who I’m sure had many doors closed to him due to the color of his skin should see how wrong prejudices can be and how permanently damaging it can be.

I know people who have certain religious beliefs think this type of prejudice is valid and even justified like to use the bible as their shield. Well are we not supposed to separate church and state or there is no place for an individual’s church or religious beliefs in the workplace either.

Last I looked none of us were absolved of sins. Not that being gay is a sin but those people believe that it is. No one is free of brining “distractions” into the locker room, boardroom or wherever. Sorry Tony anyway you cut it your statements are prejudice, antiquated and quite frankly anything but religious. But I’m not here to change your opinion. Your entitled to it, I’m just happy to know in your own beliefs you’ll have to answer for this when meeting your maker in the meantime however please keep your short sighted thoughts to yourself.

What is sad this is a league that was founded and run by some truly visionary men. Vince Lombardi must be turning over in coach heaven with this. Lombardi stood for what coaching is all about if you can play football better than the next guy then you suit up and play regardless of skin color, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.

Now if that was not bad enough the NFL went on to really damage themselves when they handed out only a two game suspension for Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice for beating his then girlfriend which was caught on video unconscious.

What makes this really damming for the league is it is an affront to women who comprise a large portion of their fan base and have a significant amount of purchasing power. Unlike the Michael Sam/Tony Dungy incident which was a comment by a former coach this was a action that was handed down by the league itself.

The league by handing out such a light penalty infers that it condones the beating of women. I don’t care what the girlfriend did or didn’t do there is no way to justify the hitting and abuse of women. Even if she hit Rice I’m sure there was a way either he could have gotten away from her or restrained her without knocking her unconscious.

Also for those justifying the actions because she has subsequently married Rice is lame. Obviously she has some issues herself but that is really not the issue the issue is Rice’s behavior and lack of control. What is even more disturbing and frankly very disappointing was Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh’s dismissal of the entire situation. I’m sure he just wants the situation to go away and meant that when he said it was no big deal rather than hitting women was not big deal but Coach Harbaugh you really should clarify this.

The league can try and sweep this away as quickly as possible but what all of this has opened is time and time again the NFL whether it is with Vick, Lewis, Burris or now Rice that some of the NFL quote unquote superstars think they are above the laws of this country and seem to think they can get away with almost everything and that is acceptable.

The League is beginning to have the same line of thinking but some of us fans do not find this acceptable, Mr. Goodell you are responsible for the image the league projects. When a less severe punishment is handed down for the beating of women than for smoking pot which by the way is legal in some states and only a matter of time til the majority of states follow suit one has to wonder if this is not a league that has become so bloated on it’s own arrogance and power that it can no longer self-adjudicate itself.

NFL maybe king for now but that may not always be the case. Remember when boxing & baseball were king? Yeah most people don’t. One day that may become the case with football. I am a fan of football and the NFL which is why these events are so disappointing and distressing. NFL clean it up or you may find people moving on.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Renewable Energy source from Rockford

Imported Photos 00001

Chicago, Il – Amateur Scouting has always been a key for the Blackhawks and never has it been more important in the current salary cap era to have a plethora of young talent waiting in the wings. The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate has never been more center stage than in the upcoming years.

The next wave of Blackhawks is currently sitting on the IceHogs’ roster. It will be a year for the IceHogs coaching staff to get the next wave ready not only for the Blackhawks but for the rigors of the NHL. If there is a criticism of the IceHogs it maybe they have not reached their playoffs for the past 4 years. This is something they should look to right this year.

Young players can never learn to early the pressures and rigors of playoff hockey and how to cope. The sooner they experience this in the minors the better prepped they will be in the NHL. As we all know there is nothing quite like playoff hockey at any level.

Look at the LA Kings AHL affiliate the Manchester Monarchs or the Dallas Stars affiliate the Texas Stars both of these AHL teams have steadily made the playoffs the last four years. This past playoff series we saw the Kings’ players that came up through their farm team were NHL playoff ready. Players like Tyler Tofoli, Jake Muzzin & Tanner Pearson had their AHL playoff experience to help them deal with this year’s NHL playoffs.

I’m pointing this out only with the aim to make both the Rockford IceHogs better and the Blackhawks better. Plus the Rockford fan base deserves a winner. The IceHogs were just given an award for having the most increased ticket sales. It’s time to give back to the fans and get these young men ready for playoff hockey, as we all know the Chicago Blackhawks will be in the playoff hunt for years to come.

Blackhawks fans there are plenty of reasons for making the trip to Rockford. This year there will be a virtual buffet of talents there on the ice. The next wave of Blackhawks like Teuvo Teravainen, Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, Garrett Ross, Ryan Hartman and Dennis Rasmussen up front and on the blue line, Stephen Johns, Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck & Victor Svedberg all waiting to take the next step to the big city.

Personally I can’t wait to see a line of Phillip Danault, Ryan Hartman and Andrew Shaw at the UC. That is a whole lot of speed, grit, work ethic and skill all together and Danault and Hartman already have chemistry. I make myself dizzy with the thought of Teuvo Teravainen centering Patrick Kane. Oh the spin-o-rama delights and slick passing is endless or Teuvo on a line with Marian Hossa who just does everything well. I’d love to see Mark McNeill opposite either Ben Smith or Bryan Bickell with a whole lot of Mac truck crash, bang, boom deliveries along the boards but hey that’s just me.

TT back


This year at most there will be two, yes only two spots, as I see it open on the Blackhawks if that and one of them will be a defenseman. That leaves only one open possible spot or these players who must otherwise battle a current NHL player for a spot which in order to do that you have to really impress the coaches. I’m not saying that can’t be done but its tough.

These kids are going to have to work their, you know what off, but it is possible even on a talented team like the Hawks. Preparing these kids is imperative. Most of those players will stay in Rockford for now so get out and see them folks these kids are good really really good.

As for the players don’t get frustrated or discouraged which is easy to do. Bid your time, improve, listen to your coaches and keep working you will make the Hawks when you are ready. The Hawks saw something in you otherwise you would not have been drafted. Hint mind your defensive responsibilities first that is the surest way to get to the next level.

Centers become flawless faceoff masters, Wingers become board battlers, All forwards hone that two way game, Defenseman play the body as well as the stick and learn to block shots and close gaps, goalies watch your rebound control and positioning. Get these things down and you’ll be in the NHL soon.

On the horizon, there are so many talents. For those that went to the prospect camp this year you know what I mean. The line of 1st rounder Nick Schmaltz, Anthony Louis and John Hayden was just sick and these are still college kids wait until they get more experience. The skill in the hands of these three players is unreal and they already click. Hayden is just a physical beast. That kid has some serious size and skill. Louis and Schmaltz have history with playing with each other on the Chicago Mission and both have great hands and on ice vision.

John Hayden bench

Schmaltz- Hinostroza

Local boy Vincent Hinostroza who has been to previous camps has so much speed and battle in the corners and knows how to score and get to the net. He may not be big but boy this kid never gives up.

On the defensive side Nick Mattson & Michael Paliotta stood out and are returners to the Blackhawks prospect camps. Their defensive positioning and puck movement was very good. All of these kids can skate.

All of these players will be returning to school for the most part. The Hawks now have a healthy pipeline of prospects so look to them in the future to draft more college prospects and possibly more young Europeans. The Hawks have the luxury of letting them have time to grow and develop which makes both of these options ideal for the Hawks.

Whether you’re an IceHogs fan or a Blackhawks fan the future for both of these organizations is very bright indeed and for the fans get out and see some incredibly fast, skilled players either at the UC or in Rockford I guarantee you will like what you see.

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Chicago Blackhawks- 2014 Prospect camp opens tomorrow

Chicago, IL — This is my favorite time of the off season. Yes even more than NHL free agency. This is the time when dreams and hopes are transcended into NHL realities and destinies are forged. All that sacrifice and dedication is on the brink of paying dividends for these young men and their families.

Never has it been more imperative for the Chicago Blackhawks to have a strong amateur pipeline as it is now in the cap era and to develop young players into NHLers who one day maybe have their names engraved on a Stanley Cup. There is plenty of work to be done though first.

There are some coming in undrafted and unsigned, some currently on the Hawks’ AHL affiliated Rockford IceHogs, some still in college and some coming from overseas. Wherever their origins, they all have one common goal, that their destination will ultimately be the same-the NHL.

on the knee

Returning are 2011 prospects, Phillip Danault, Mark McNeill, Adam Clendening, Garrett Ross, Alex Broadhurst, Kent Simpson & 2010 draft goalie Mac Carruth along with a prospect that needs no introduction 2012 first round pick Teuvo Teravainen.

All have made the jump to the professional level whether at the AHL level or abroad which would lead one to the logical conclusion that they are the next to make the jump to the big club if not this year than very soon but they are all young with some learning yet to do which is the point of these camps. Lets take a look at the Hawks near future.

Phillip Danault – Forward – There is no question about his leadership and work ethic it is way up the charts if not off the charts. He is also flexible in that he can play either wing or center. Danault’s defensive play and penalty kill abilities may very well be NHL ready right now where Danault needs work is in the offensive zone. This year the IceHogs coaching staff needs to put Danault in all situations to get him ready including power plays. Danault needs to learn to get to the net and shoot from any angle if passes are not available. I mean it works for someone wearing 88 and if it’s good enough for him. This year in Rockford will be crucial for Danault who could project to be either a 2nd or 3rd line center.


Mark McNeill – Forward – no question McNeill is physically ready for the NHL and projects to be a power forward that can crush you along the boards. Like Danault, McNeill can play both wing and center. Where McNeill needs work is in his on ice focus which will be important in making the Hawks as coach Quenneville is always looking for his club to skate with a purpose. When in the offensive zone McNeill just needs to open up ice for himself and teammates in the defensive zone put the body on someone and close gaps. McNeill could very well make the Hawks this year.

Adam Clendening – Defensman – Clendening is an offensive defenseman that is a great skater and puck mover and we all know how much the Hawks value those attributes. He also is very good at quarterbacking power plays. The weakness of Clendening is in the defensive zone he can sometimes get knocked off the puck which if he is to make the Hawks needs to be addressed. It will be interesting to see him battle it out with Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns for a spot on the Hawks blue line and which one will get the call first.

Teuvo Teravainen – forward – It has been well documented all of Teuvo’s talents and skills of which there are many. Teuvo has a maturity beyond his years and skills wise is NHL ready the only thing holding him back is getting used to the North American hockey game and his physical stamina. Most do however expect that Teuvo will be on the Hawks roster by the end of the regular season and I’m in that camp as well. Like Danault and McNeill he can play either wing or center. I still can’t even fathom a line with him, Kane and Saad on it but if Teuvo develops the way he is projected that is a definite possible reality.

Mac Carruth – goalie – Carruth physically reminds one of Corey Crawford. He is a big athletic goalie. Carruth also has some bite to his game and is not opposed to moving out forwards. He is feisty which should endear him to the IceHog faithful. I will be keeping an eye on him to see about his positioning and angles. Carruth could be a hidden diamond in the rough.


Eyes ON

Who I’m going to keep eyes on as well in camp are first round forward picks from 2013 & 2014 Illinois native Ryan Hartman and Wisconsin native Nick Schmaltz. Stephen Johns, Vinny Hinostroza, Trevor Van Riemsdyk & Dillion Fournier.

Vinny Hinstroza like Teravainen will surely wow the crowd with his offensive playmaking skills. He is a hard worker and battles hard. Ryan Hartman came on last year in Rockford and seemed to click with Phillip Danault late in the season. Hartman has bite to his game ala Andrew Shaw.

Stephen Johns is a defensive defenseman ala Brent Seabrook, complete with the size and physical game. He like Seabrook also has a great outlet pass to his teammates and does not mind delivering big time hits to the opposition. He also has a wicked shot from the point. Since the Hawks lack size it will be interesting to see if Johns in fact makes the Hawks this year. His weakness is sometimes he gets out of defensive positioning in trying to deliver big hits so I will be focusing on this in camp.

Trevor Van Riemsdyk is an interesting case. Yes he is one of those Van Riemsdyks, brother to JVR he was picked up by the Hawks and signed. Van Riemsdyk only played in 26 games with the Univ of NH due to an ankle injury but tallied 23 points and was a +13. This kid could be a steal for the Hawks. His skating like JVR’s is very good.

How Swede it is

We wouldn’t be at a Blackhawks camp if we did not have a great skating compliment of Swedes and this year is no different. I’m keeping a look out for Dennis Rasmussen, Carl Dahlstom, Robin Norell, Fredrik Olofsson.

I mainly though will be looking at Dennis Rasmussen who the Hawks signed as a free agent from the Sweden pro team Växjö of the Swedish Hockey League. He is 24 years old and should be NHL ready. He just needs to get used to the North American style hockey game. He is a big center at 6’3” and has good skating skills.

Youth is the hope of us seeing a better humanity reflected. The Blackhawks are hoping that they have talents waiting to explode and hidden gems waiting to be polished by the right instruction. The Blackhawks are looking to these youths as their future. These prospects are looking to make their futures now.

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Chicago Blackhawks’ Monument men – Toews and Kane

Chicago, IL – Well for eight more years Chicago gets to eat it’s steak and crème brulee too when the Chicago Blackhawks inked Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to long term contracts that will keep the Blackhawks as Stanley Cup contenders for years to come and Hawks fans are very happy.

There is no question that both of them deserved their contracts after turning the franchise around and bringing multiple championships to Chicago. Stan Bowman had probably one of the simplest decisions he will ever have to make. Both are beloved in Chicago and the face of the franchise and sports legends in this city.

They fill the seats at the United Center. One could argue that the Hawks actually got off cheap. It’s not to hard to sell even non-hockey fans when you have fresh young skilled talent that play a brand of hockey that is exciting and competitive. The Hawks did what they had to do yesterday.
NHL network analyst Kevin Weekes tweeted what best sums up the situation:

Kevin Weekes @KevinWeekes • Jul 9
@NHLBlackhawks Reward their players.No moving the ‘Goal Line’ the way some other teams have.Draft,develop,perform,win and Reward players.

That formula is how it should be for all NHL teams but it is not and that is what separates the Blackhawks from other organizations and why Kane & Toews remain in the red, black & white.

It’s hard to believe that both Toews and Kane are just coming into their prime and probably already qualify for the Hall of Fame. There is no question there will one day be statues of these two players along with the current ones of Hull and Mikita outside the United Center.

Now normally you don’t want to hand out bouquets to 25/26 year olds even after all of the achievements that they have made to date for risking them resting on their laurels. There is no such fear with these two.


They are cut slightly different but from the same cloth and that cloth is named – competitive. I know everyone thinks Jonathan Toews is the serious one but make no mistake Kane is equally competitive and they have a healthy rivalry with each other that pushes them and probably the team to succeed. If one of them scores a goal then the other one scores a goal ect.

You can tell also that both of them love the game of hockey and really enjoy playing. You can also tell that they also enjoy playing with each other and respect each other’s games and skill sets even if they do occasionally get on each others nerves. Neither of them lose focus on what is most important – winning.

On the subject of seriousness, Toews is not quite as serious as everyone thinks except maybe about hockey and that is a good thing. I say own your seriousness Jonny Chicago loves you for it and how can anyone not love Patrick Kane who is dipped in charm.

We here in Chicago have literally seen these two grow up before our eyes and we are fortunate enough to get to see them continue on here in Chicago as they do enter their primes.

Their temperaments give the team balance. You can have two highly skilled players but the chemistry and balance isn’t always there. Yes they are also surrounded by other skilled players on the core but it is these two that drive the bus just in different ways.


Does anyone think that either of these players likes to lose? They both realize they have a rare opportunity to do something here that maybe cannot be done in the salary cap era. Speaking of the salary cap there is no question that the Hawks future was also set in stone with the signings.

Managing the cap has never become more imperative and prospecting both on the amateur and professional side for years to come. Stan Bowman and his staff are up to the task. Will it be easy? No but nothing worth having or doing is.

Here is where the Blackhawks fans can help want to make the cap go up, want to see exciting hockey at the UC then get out there and go to the games, buy Blackhawks items tune into the games if you can’t afford a ticket as it will increase rating which increase sponsorship and advertisers.

Will the core be able to stay together after the 2014-15 season? That is the only question that remains. So far Stan Bowman has treated his players fairly and honestly so we have to assume that will continue. Will all of the core be here after next season? Who knows, but there are two players on that core that we all know are irreplaceable and Bowman now has them signed til 2022-23.

Captain Everything and Showtime will be gracing the ice on Madison for years to come which makes this Hawks fan very happy.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Leading the Western Hustle

Chicago, IL — If you followed the 2013-14 NHL season at all you are well aware of the vast difference between the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference. Everyone knows all the powerhouses are in the West with possibly the exception of the Boston Bruins but, with the loss of Jerome Iginla they may be weaker than they once were.

The NHL has a cap ceiling and floor to impart equality among all the NHL teams and give the league competitive parity in theory, but the theory seems tilted to the left or west if you will. There is parity in the league however it is all amongst the Western Conference teams.

It’s no secret that the LA Kings knew they had to be better to win the Stanley Cup their benchmarker – the Chicago Blackhawks. Hell Coach Darryl Sutter still says the road to the Stanley Cup goes through Chicago. Which maybe true in the Central but the road also goes through Los Angeles in the Pacific make no mistake. Unfortunately for everybody else, both of these teams are young and this is their time and they are built to last and going no where.

The Western Conference also just got that much tougher with the recent free agency and trading that took place this past week. Sports Center call it an “arms race” in the West and that is what is becoming.

The Anaheim Ducks, St.Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild & Dallas Stars all got better and improved their teams to challenge the Kings and the Blackhawks. Let’s not forget that other California team the San Jose Sharks who nearly tko’ed the champs in round one.

There were some big names that came to the west from the east like Spezza, Iginla, Vanek, Hemsky,Neal, Briere & Richards and some big name free agents that stayed like Stastny and Kesler. Great just what they needed more talent.

The competition in the west next year will be at a fever pitch just to make it into the playoffs it will require a hustle if you will, all year long. Again in the end this will only make the west stronger due to playing better competition throughout the regular season. You can better believe the Kings and Hawks will be keeping eyes on each other.

The Western Conference teams also play a different style of hockey. The west is bigger, faster and stronger. They have better goalies, better defenseman and more speed and power up front. The Western Conference teams can play many different styles from wide open run and gun to close goalie matches and lock-down style.

During the regular season the western teams do more traveling which in the end you would think would wear them down come playoff time, but maybe it has the opposite effect. Due to all the miles logged and traveled the western teams are in better condition and have more stamina because they understand the long grind and the need for pacing. Look what happened to Boston they fizzled out in the end.

There is no question that the East is the mecca of finance, fashion, culture and the media but it is the West and the Midwest that have shifted the hockey landscapes. The east coast bias in the media is amusing to all fans of western hockey teams and highlights the medias hockey intellect or lack thereof.

The best hockey is being played out West and in the Midwest without question. It’s a shame that the national media isn’t picking up on this and highlighting for the league.

That WCF series between Chicago and LA was one you just didn’t want to end ever and one audiences loved whether you were a die-hard fan of your team or an in general hockey fan. Everyone knew that the real Stanley Cup Final was played in the Western Conference Final and if the landscape doesn’t change that will be the scenario going forward as well.

So where does this leave the Eastern Conference or the NHL for that matter? Well there have been rumblings out of Pittsburgh from that hockey player there that is somewhat ok, joking, remember Sidney Crosby? Isn’t there a talented team in Florida that has a young exciting superstar on it called the Tampa Bay Lightning?

If Crosby, Malkin and company can start setting the pace in the East like the Blackhawks and the LA Kings are doing in the West we may get a balance here and wouldn’t that be interesting. For once one would like to go into a Stanley Cup Final without knowing the outcome. Although the same thing happens in the NFL the SuperBowl rarely lives up to the hype or play of the conference finals.

Even in the Boston/Chicago SCF did anyone outside of Boston really think after the dominating performance that the Blackhawks had in the regular season that Boston would win? Before the Kings even played game 1 of SCF against the Rangers didn’t we all know the Kings would hoist the Cup?

The East needs to keep up if they ever want to see hardware on the eastern seaboard again.Do we need to move the Chicago Blackhawks to the East to get some competition going and elevate the level of play? Where is that eastern cockiness?

Hustle is defined in several ways. It can be a scheme like Ponzi where something appears to be something it’s not. It can be chaotic speed like the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It can be ambition or drive like when you’re hustling to complete a task. Whatever way you slice hustle the west does all of these at a much higher level than the east.

Don’t the western teams play rope- a-dope the best, ah hem Phoenix, Anaheim? Who possess speed better than Colorado and Dallas? And for sheer ambition and drive can anyone master Chicago or Los Angeles?

It’s time for the East to learn the battle cry from the 70’s “DO THE HUSTLE” or as one great fictitious hustler said “Did you ever have to find a way to survive and you knew your choices were bad, but, you had to survive?” 1

1 Irving Rosenfeld played by Christian Bale from 2013 film American Hustle distributed By Columbia Pictures.

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Chicago Blackhawks – The future of the NHL’s brand?

Chicago, IL – This week it was reported that the 2015 Winter Classic will be held somewhere in our nation’s capital between the Washington Capitals and surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising, the Chicago Blackhawks.

The reason it is somewhat surprising is because the Blackhawks are not a rival of the Capitals in fact they are not even a conference foe and that maybe what was the deciding factor in selecting a Western Conference team.

There is no question there is a disparity between the two conferences. The West has all the big boys with the exception of the Boston Bruins. There is no better way than to bridge this gap than to have the East start playing the West. The Hawks are even opening up their home opener against the lowly Buffalo Sabres and we all know with the Hawks the game will still be sold out which probably is not true with other markets.

Why the Hawks over the Kings? The Hawks bring with them a bigger fan base and a sexier brand of hockey that translates to bigger audiences. Even the casual fan can appreciate the skill they bring and their youthful team draws in children.

The Winter Classic also will have the two teams participating spotlighted by HBO following the teams 24/7 and capturing the teams’ essence. In order to interest HBO you need to have market interest and teams that are easily marketed and the Chicago Blackhawks fit both of these criteria. They have big stars, characters on the team and they have a passionate and dedicated following not only countrywide but internationally as well due to so many European players on the team.

While the Stanley Cup Final did alright with television ratings there is no question that they would have done better had the Chicago Blackhawks been in the Final instead of the Kings. This year’s ratings did not beat last year Boston/Chicago series.

Actually the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks have done the best in SCF ratings. I have nothing against the LA Kings I’m just stating the facts here. We all know that the East and more specifically the Northeast is where all the media power is and the Chicago Blackhawks are an easier sell. The Boston Bruins would be the only east team that can command as much fan base in the US.

Don’t believe me go to 1

Now it is also no secret that the biggest sports network ESPN does not even show hockey. Deadspin did a study that shows only 2.7% of their time is dedicated to hockey. 2

However in Chicago on ESPN1000 AM radio because of the success and demand of the Blackhawks fan base the Blackhawks are discussed and talked about on the radio by both the morning shows Carmen & Jurko and the afternoon show Waddle and Silvy on a regular basis. It still isn’t up there with the NFL or NBA but its better than in other cities.

While it is no secret ESPN champions the NBA as they carry their games, was it not the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane that also bridged that gap with tweeting and befriending Miami Heat star Lebron James. He along with Patrick Sharp even attended a Miami Heat/Chicago Bulls game in Chicago to see Lebron. So what you say? Ever heard of Public Relations? If the NHL can interest even some NBA fans then that is a win.

It is also known that sponsors/advertisers where not thrilled that it was LA instead of the Chicago Blackhawks that made the Final. Now is a chance for the NHL to right this and make it up to them as one of the partners that give the league exposure and power. The other huge contributor to the NHL’s success – the fans and their fiscal input drives the league.

Chicago Blackhawk fans bring purchasing power with them. Blackhawks fans spend not only on tickets and apparel but they also travel and bring in revenue to other cities. No sooner was it announced that it would be the Hawks people on twitter were already asking about when sweaters would be available for sale and also making arrangements for trips to DC. If you don’t believe this ask the St. Louis Blues and the Nashville Predators who are constantly being invaded in their own stadiums with Blackhawks fans.

By the way, Blues and Predators you are doing an injustice to your cities and fan bases if you think you can keep out the Hawks fans it simply won’t happen. Hawks fans bring with them revenue for your cities and your franchises which means more HRR that only benefits your franchises and all NHL clubs.

The Chicago Blackhawks also represents the audience they are trying to cater to young people who want to be entertained by a team with speed and skill. It is no surprise that in Illinois the rise of youth enrolling in hockey classes is up 8.7% and entering top 5 in the United States thanks to the success of the Blackhawks. 3

If the NHL is smart they will continue to cash in on the ROMI (return on marketing investment) of the Chicago Blackhawks. It costs the league virtually nothing as John McDonough and his team with the Chicago Blackhawks has already done most of the marketing and packaging leg work.

Every single Blackhawks player is well spoken and has an ease with cameras and the spotlight even the shy soft spoken ones. It is something the Blackhawks have prepared these young men for. This is a good team of highly skilled exciting players that just happen to be character individuals who also happen to look like movie stars. Now if that is not a marketing PR persons dream I don’t know what is.

The Blackhawks brand carries with it significant weight. For one thing it doesn’t hurt that they are also an Original Six franchise and have longevity on their side and an established fan base. We are talking generational here which understands hockey and the NHL well. Asking the Blackhawks fan base to carry other teams really isn’t stretching them because they are passionate fans.

The NHL tried to make Sidney Crosby the face of the NHL in the United States and while I like Crosby the better face now would be Mr. Showtime, Patrick Kane in the United States for several reasons. First he is American that has its own built in patriotic pluses. Second he is charismatic and he is not afraid of the spotlight. Third he is plain old exciting to watch on the ice and dynamic. You just need to see his sick cellys.

Patrick Kane understands that hockey is show business and it is all about entertainment. I know someone; somewhere is going to bring up his past indiscretions. In all honesty that he is slightly flawed as we all are, makes him human and someone we can relate to. You can not tell me even as a foe he does not entertain you.

Crosby may in fact no longer be the face you want to market in Canada. Captain Canada Jonathan Toews fits the bill better but I leave that discussion for Canadians. Canada doesn’t need the game sold to them it’s the United States that the NHL needs to work on.

If other fan bases don’t want prosperity and more HRR because they are sick of seeing the Chicago Blackhawks then I would propose to those fans get out and support your teams. Purchase more than one sweater, travel with your team, follow your teams AHL affiliate, get involved. I can think of several markets that have excellent teams that just need a push. In the meantime Chicago can carry you after all it is the city of big shoulders.

1.TV by the numbers website
2 Dedspin website article by Patrick Burns 7/26/13
3. United States of hockey posted by Chris Peters on 6/17/14

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