The 5th Annual Blackhawks Convention rolled into town this weekend alluring thousands of avid Hawks fans anxious to snag an autograph, take photos and to get an up close look at the members and operations of the Blackhawks. As hard core Hawks fans with a mission to bring the hottest sports news to women, we felt compelled to report on the weekend extravaganza that engulfed the massive Hilton Chicago. With last minute passes in hand, we adventured into the Convention on Saturday with an agenda and little expectations. Here’s what we discovered.
1. An eclectic mix of convention-goers. This is an understatement. You name it – they were there. Hockey dads, tons of young kids, cougars, old men, infants, suits, teenage girls…we were impressed and shocked with the diversity the convention brought. Not surprisingly, families and men seemed to dominate the audience but we give the ladies credit for showing up in large numbers.
Curious as to who these other women were, we introduced ourselves to a few groups of women, all of them from the Chicago suburbs. While waiting for the Heavy Hitters panel discussion, we met Sarah O’Connor from Plainfield and Kristin Wolf from Orland Park. These girls are regular convention goers and take their Hawks very seriously. Rocking jerseys and looking fabulous, we chatted with them about the Hawks’ offensive strategy heading into the new season and about their favorite players – Brandon Bolig and Andrew Shaw.
Minutes later Bolig walked onto the stage looking fit and fabulous wearing a Burberry short sleeved polo – cut just short enough to show his ink. Dan “Car Bomb” Carcillo and Jamal Mayers were also on the “Heavy Hitters” panel that discussed the impact playing and fighting that occurs on the ice.
2. Good visuals and pseudo-access to players. I say pseudo because you don’t really get access to the players, that is unless you sit in line for what looked like hours at a designated time to wait for an autograph (we didn’t) – but you could definitely get up close to the players by sitting in the first few rows of the panel discussions. This is as close as you’ll ever get to many of the big guns and allows you to notice the subtleties of what makes these guys amazing – off the ice that is. We already know what these guys are capable of on the rink, but being 20 feet from Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toewes sends your senses into overdrive – you notice how they speak, their mannerisms, how they dress, style their hair, their physiques in designer clothes…I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
3. Decent discussions. Nothing too ground-breaking, shocking or scandalous coming out of the panel discussions. Before each panel started, the moderator made it clear that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that will decide if there is another lock-out, would not be discussed and was off-limits when fans asked questions. We sat in on 3 different panels, and while nothing too provoking or scandalous was revealed, the content was entertaining and offered fans a mix of operations and developmental discussions to lighter fare like “Chicago’s Most Wanted” and “Heavy Hitters”.
4. All Business: The players that represented the Hawks were on their best behavior providing PR-friendly answers, offering little emotion and leaving a lot to the imagination. We’re not surprised though considering the amount of money that is invested in each of them. For example, Patrick Kane’s remarks on the first night of the convention. When asked about his PR-nightmare booze-filled weekend in Madison that resulted in pictures of him passed out in bars and getting trashed with co-eds, Kane gave the expected corporate cooked-up apologetic and remorseful response that we all anticipated. While not surprised, half of me wanted to see him tell everyone to lay-off and ease-up.
5. They’re just normal guys living the dream. This was most obvious at the “Life on the Road” panel that included two of our favorites: Brent Seabrook and Viktor Stalberg as well as defenseman, Niklas Hjalmarsson (the H is silent) and Hawks legend, Tony Esposito. Esposito stole the show offering the most candid answers to questions about what really goes on while traveling and bonding with teammates. Stalberg and Seabrook were pretty bland offering expected responses with little emotion. If they hadn’t looked so damn hot, we would’ve been disappointed. We’re guessing these guys are more or less told not to give too much away all while presenting a professional image.
But the underlying theme of the convention is that these are normal guys playing hard and trying to win. As fans, we cook up ideas of what their lives must be like, and although glamorous and no-doubt full of ridiculous perks and cash that you and I can only imagine, in the end, they are just normal guys with one of the best jobs in the world. The convention does a great job of humanizing these players to a level that cannot be achieved at the Madhouse or on the tube. We became bigger fans from the weekend, and that’s really the goal of the Hawk’s Convention. Because when you love a team and empathize with the players, it’s easier to let them off the hook when they get bounced in the first round of the Playoffs – like the Hawks have the last two years in a row. But, it’s a burning type of love when they win.