We’re big fans of Chicago’s ‘other’ hockey team. Sure, the Chicago Wolves have a track record of aligning with two of the Blackhawks’ biggest rivals, but how can you deny great hockey, a hardworking organization, and the hot and humble men that make up their impressive roster?
We had the chance to get up-close-and-very personal with a few of the fine men from the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday night at the “Brews & Bites” team fundraiser held at the Hofbrauhaus Chicago in Rosemont, with proceeds benefitting Chicago Wolves Charities.
Wolves Michael Davies, Mark Mancari, Brent Regner, Matt Climie, Christian Hanson and Jake Allen were all in attendance and conveniently (and creatively) staged around the large, open room at different food stations that were paired with the appropriate German beer. Fans from all walks of life were present. The set-up and concept was brilliant: fans had the opportunity to sample authentic German food, enjoy selected beer tastings, circle around the silent auction items in the center of the room, and chat up members of the Chicago Wolves.
Monica Gostkiewicz and I worked the circuit eager to learn more about this impressive, approachable and incredibly attractive bunch of men, while enjoying a beer or two along the way. We made it a mission to really dig deep and go beyond the game, which meant finding out what these guys like to do in their down time, and what makes them tick off the ice.
Our first stop was with Christian Hanson, the 6’4” center and Fighting Irish alum who was selling raffle tickets and rallying fans to enter the stein lifting contest later in the evening.
The self-acclaimed movie buff, who has been to the Canne Film Festival, told us he was betting on About a Slave to nab the Oscar for Best Picture. Hansen is in his first full season with the Wolves after being picked up by the St. Louis Blues as a free agent in August. He spent the last two seasons in Providence and Hershey. After five minutes with this guy, we were hooked. He was so likable and friendly, he almost convinced us to enter the stein lifting contest, almost.
Next, we worked our way over to Brent Regner’s station that included some type of schnitzel and sliders with a light Lager beer pairing. Regner has been on our radar for some time as he’s one of the four Wolves that has agreed to shave his head at the end of February to help out buddy, and fellow Chicago Wolf, Nathan Longpre, in his mission to raise money for cancer.
Already impressed before the shaggy defensemen opened his mouth, we quickly learned that he likes the big city, after being raised on a farm in Alberta, Canada (his family is in the beef business). As one of the Wolves’ key defensemen, Regner will have his hands full when Abbotsford, the best and highest scoring team in the league pay the Wolves a visit for back-to-back games this weekend.
Our next stop was with the Wolves’ starting goalie, Jake Allen and the Dunkel, a tasty Bavarian beer. Clearly a fan favorite, Allen had a steady line of fans (many of them women) eager to chat up the handsome net minder and we did our best to work in a few questions without pissing off other fans eager for a picture or an autograph.
Allen’s having one of the best seasons of his career with the Wolves with 902 saves, posting a .921 save percentage. He was called up to the Blues earlier this year when Blues’ backup goalie Jaroslav Halak was sick, but was sent back down to the Wolves shortly after.
In his thick Canadian accent he politely answered all of our questions as we grilled him about his love of country music (George Strait is still his favorite artist, that’s cool), and heading out to the driving range. As one of the brightest stars on the roster, this guy couldn’t have been more humble and easy to talk to.
By the time we made it over to Matt Climie and the Premium Lager the place was buzzing, as the beer had been flowing for about an hour and half at that point. Backup goalie Matt Climie has been an SDI favorite since we had the opportunity to interview him last year at the Wolves’ Hockey For Her event.
We immediately gave him some hell about the “Benchwarmers” comment that we had no choice but to poke fun at. Matt told us that there is in fact a Benchwarmers in Chicago, and he has been to it, claiming it’s a different crowd than the popular joint in Old Town. We love this guy.
We had the pleasure of meeting right wing Mark Mancari at the Hallodri tasting station (that’s a full body lager). Appropriately paired, this 6’4″ looker was the only married one of the group and also boasts the second best record on the roster with nine goals, 20 assists and 29 points.
Incredibly nice and so tall, dark, and handsome, (Mark won the Mr. Movember fundraiser back in November) Mark mentioned that his wife and him are expecting their second child any day now which made us admire him even more.
Our final stop was with right winger Mike Davies, who we were excited to grill about his Bachelor blogging that he’s been known to do, as well as sample the Hefe Weizen at his station. However, Davies told us that there is no blogging this season, not only due to lack of time, but because he thinks Juan Pablo is cheesy (agreed).
He swore his blogging days are not over and that maybe next season he’ll pick it up again, that is, depending on the bachelor.
We couldn’t believe how much solid, non-hockey intel we got out of these guys, and how willing they were to dish it. Not only were they incredibly approachable, but they were genuine, fun and interesting.
Ever since these guy let us in their locker room last year, we just can’t get enough of the Wolves, yet they often do not receive the same love and attention as the ‘other’ AHL boys down in Rockford.
And that NHL affiliation is a tough one. This past fall, the Chicago Wolves entered a three-year deal to be the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate, this of course, was after their two-year affiliation with the Vancouver Canucks. With as strong of a lock that the Blackhawks have on the city of Chicago, it’s easy to see why some fans might not be as open to making a trip to the All State or turning on the U-Too or WCIU (the two local channels you can find Wolves games).
The Wolves currently sit in fifth place with 65 points, conveniently right in front of their arch-rivals the Rockford IceHogs (the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate) who they’ll face down in Rockford for a Friday night showdown that’s guaranteed to draw some bites.
If you’re in the market for great hockey, and shelling out $150.00 for one decent Blackhawks seat is not an option, then do yourself a favor and head to the All State Arena and check these guys out. Just a quick search on the Wolves ticket page, and I found seats on the glass for $38.00 for this Saturday night’s matchup versus Abbotsford Heat, the best team in the league.
While we can’t guarantee that you’ll have the chance to personally give Matt Climie hell about not being on Twitter (yep, we did that) or run your fingers through Brent Regner’s locks (we didn’t do that, but were tempted), if you want a truly up-close-and-personal experience with these guys like we had last night, grab your gals and head to the next Wolves Fundraiser, one that was made with us ladies in mind: Wine Tasting at Harry Caray’s in Rosemont on Thursday, March 13. Tickets are $55 and include wine tastings, heavy apps, raffle prizes, silent auction, and of course, meet-and-greet with the players. Wine and Wolves? How can you not bite on that one? We’ll see you there.
Editor’s note: Editorial contributions by Monica Gostkiewicz