Blackhawks

Blackhawks say goodbye to Johnny’s IceHouse West

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AP

Blackhawks say goodbye to Johnny’s IceHouse West

The Blackhawks finished practice with their usual huddle at center ice at Johnny’s IceHouse West and then collectively looked toward the Zamboni entrance. A few moments player players huddled around the Zamboni for a farewell-to-Johnny’s photo.

The West Side rink will still host adult and youth hockey but the Blackhawks’ time there is over. When the Blackhawks next meet for practice it will be at their shiny new facility, MB Ice Arena. Still, Johnny’s will always have its place in Blackhawks history. For us writers, it was working from the Stanley Club perch and flinching whenever a puck flew in our direction, sturdy glass be damned. The Blackhawks have their fond memories, too.

“I think it started with the lockout when we weren’t allowed to go to the NHL rinks,” Patrick Sharp said. “We set up shop in one of these locker rooms and had a good group of guys skating every day and talking about when we were going to get back in the league. That was kind of the start of it. Two championships later we’re [still] practicing here, so some good memories.”

The Blackhawks’ first practices at Johnny’s were during the 2009-10 season. Ironically the players last Johnny’s practice resembled some of their first ones there: “dress-and-drives” from the United Center to Johnny’s and back. As Sharp said it was Johnny’s where he, several Blackhawks and a few Chicago-area NHLers practiced in the fall of 2012, waiting for the lockout to end. It’s at Johnny’s where, that same fall, Marian Hossa skated and worked his way back from the concussion that ended his postseason a few months prior.

Not long after the Bulls opened their practice facility near the United Center the Blackhawks looked into getting one for themselves. Now, it’s a reality. Coach Joel Quenneville and company toured the new facility after Tuesday’s practice. The new place is gorgeous and it will soon be the Blackhawks’ home. But Johnny’s will always have its memories.

“Yeah, a farewell. A lot of good memories over the years here, seven years of good moments,” Quenneville said. “We’re looking forward to going to the new facility. I think everyone’s excited about it but a lot of good things happened here.”

Anthem singer Wayne Messmer talks 1991 NHL All-Star Game rendition

Anthem singer Wayne Messmer talks 1991 NHL All-Star Game rendition

Wayne Messmer, the National Anthem singer from the 1991 NHL All-Star Game, chatted with NBC Sports Chicago on the Blackhawks Talk podcast about one of the most iconic moments in Chicago sports history.

On Jan. 19, 1991 the NHL All-Star Game was held at Chicago Stadium. The celebration of the league's best players commenced just two days after Operation Desert Storm began the Gulf War. 

Messmer has sung the National Anthem around Chicago for 30 years and was the Blackhawks anthem singer for 13. He notes the tradition of Hawks fans cheering the anthem began ahead of a 1985 playoff contest, with Chicago down 2-0 in the series to the Edmonton Oilers.

"It had been a little noisy when Hawks had played Vancouver," Messmer said. "Perhaps the year before or even in '83, but it was really games 3 and 4 of that series, the conference finals against Gretzky and the gang from Edmonton, where it began."

Messmer believes the '91 All-Star anthem was the hockey universe's introduction to Chicago's way of enjoying the Star Spangled Banner.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "Because it was a few weeks earlier there was a game on that was televised nationally from the stadium and the decision was, 'Do not carry the anthem.' There was kind of a pushback, especially from the fans. 

"So when they announced NBC was going to cover both anthems, it was like a challenge to the fans, 'Let's show them how it's done here.' And the signs and the flares and the sparklers and all of that, it was Twilight Zone surreal. You had to pinch yourself because it was really happening.

"And trying to get through that as a vocalist isn't easy because you got a huge, emotional lump in your throat. You want to be a part of that, but you're the guy that's got to light the wick."

The singer was able to take in the moment despite his monumental duty that day.

"I was certainly soaking it in," Messmer said. "I've always, as I will describe it, 'lived life with my eyes open.' But, I will tell you, it took enormous concentration. And I'm not saying, 'Hey, how swell I am,' but it's a technique of concentrating on technique, on breathing, on supporting and not shouting, not screaming and not trying to get louder because the crowd is getting louder." 

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Patrick Kane views booing in St. Louis as 'a sign of respect'

Patrick Kane views booing in St. Louis as 'a sign of respect'

ST. LOUIS — Of the 11 NHL All-Stars from the Central Division this season, four of them are Blues: Jordan Binnington, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo. And deservedly so.

The other seven were all booed by Blues fans on Friday, but none were louder than the ones Patrick Kane drew.

Kane steps on the ice for warmups? Boos.

Kane’s name announced as a Central Division representative? Boos.

Kane touches the puck for one of the skills challenges? Boos.

Heck, even during Thursday’s media session, when seven other skaters were talking at the same time as Kane, he was interrupted by boos.

So when the nine-time Blackhawks All-Star won the Shooting Stars challenge at the Skills Competition on Friday, Blues fans weren’t afraid to show how they felt about it. It didn’t help that it was the final event of the night, either.

After the competition, Kane was asked about the crowd reception in St. Louis. And he responded in terrific fashion.

"The boys were asking me why I was getting booed," Kane said. "And I said I shouldn't have scored those overtime playoff goals against them and maybe they wouldn't have booed me."

Over the last decade, Kane helped lead the Blackhawks to nine consecutive playoff appearances, five Conference Finals and three Stanley Cup runs. He was a thorn in the side of every Central Division team over that span, including the Blues.

In 64 career games against the Blues, Kane has 25 goals and 38 assists for 63 points. He also has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 13 postseasons contests, with two of those goals being game winners.

As they say, fans don’t boo nobodies.

"I remember me and my dad, we went to watch the Flyers and Sabres fans were booing [Eric] Lindros the whole game," Kane recalled. "I think he got kicked out with like 10 minutes left in the game or something, and then the game was no fun anymore because there was no one left to boo or watch. 

“You kind of view it as, obviously it’s somewhat a sign of hatred, but somewhat a sign of respect too. It’s fun when you play in Nashville or Winnipeg or places like that, and you hold onto the puck and they’re booing you and you want to hold onto it longer. [Duncan Keith] get booed in Vancouver, which is always pretty funny to see him up his game a little bit and hold onto the puck as well. It’s somewhat a sign of respect.”

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