Previously, the Chicago Blackhawks Fan Convention had been a place to celebrate the franchise's rocket-powered journey from irrelevance back to Original Six prestige ... and for young boys to fulfill their hockey fantasies.
But in case you haven't noticed, things have been a little weird for the Hawks lately. This year's convention came after GM Dale Tallon was reassigned, assistant GM Stan Bowman was promoted, and team president John McDonough was recast as a megalomaniacal meddler hell-bent on destroying the goodwill that he previously earned.
Did McDonough overpay for Brian Campbell(notes), or give Cristobal Huet(notes) a four-year deal when Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) was already under contract? Did he inflate salaries like a Macy's Parade balloon, pushing the Blackhawks' cap to the point where the team's in danger of losing a player like Patrick Kane(notes) or Jonathan Toews(notes) next summer? No, that was Dale Tallon; but criticizing his obvious imperfections as a team executive doesn't fit into the "good guy done wrong" narrative.
So the fan convention, at first, turned into a political rally against McDonough -- ironic, considering the political nature of Tallon's dismissal -- and the team president was lustily booed on the opening day of the event. Stan Bowman was given polite applause. Players like Patrick Kane and Adam Burish(notes) told the media that Tallon's reassignment was "disappointing" and "shocking."
But McDonough's at his best when he's on offense, and Saturday's Q&A forum seemed to soothe many of his critics -- at least for the moment, as this season's on-ice performance and next season's salary cap conundrum will provide the final verdict. McDonough said he expected Friday's rough reception, according to the Sun-Times: "I knew exactly what was coming."
Second City Hockey has a first-person analysis of Day One of the fan convention. Third Man In takes a critical look at McDonough at the fan convention. The Blackhawks official site also has terrific video coverage, including five generations of captains (Pilote, Mikita, Savard, Amonte and Toews) talking about their challenges. No word if Mikita brought enough donuts for the crowd.
Speaking of video, the headline promised angelic voices of the Chicago Blackhawks; which is exactly what the fans heard when some of the players participated in a karaoke jam. Provided those fans were tone-deaf.
First up, it's Kris Versteeg(notes) presenting an encore of his infamous Fergie impression to a Q&A session for the youngin's. Not the best quality, as a man mountain keeps getting in the way of the camera. But you get the idea.
Next is Brian Campbell, fulfilling the dream of any Canadian boy: Singing The Tragically Hip with a live band. Here's "New Orleans is Sinking"; Campbell doesn't add a lyric about being able to rebuild it with two years' salary.
Not bad, eh?
Finally ... earplugs. Mandatory. It's Versteeg and Cristobal Huet signing "Sweet Caroline." Where it began? With a note so flat it's like someone took a steamroller to it.
- Dale Tallon
- John McDonough