If you've been watching the Chicago Blackhawks' playoff run on national television, then you've seen more of Vince Vaughn than you did in that "Jurassic Park" sequel you forgot he co-starred in.
He's been a ubiquitous celebrity fan during the team's renaissance, from locker room appearances to ceremonial puck drops to cheering on Patrick Kane(notes) on Team USA in Vancouver to the most awkward photograph ever taken with Gary Bettman at an outdoor hockey game (and that's saying something).
During the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he's been seen with wife Kayla Weber and
Paul Blart the fat guy from King of Queens Kevin James, seated against the glass at United Center; ensuring that local sports anchors around the country can show an image of Vaughn's entourage and say things like "Byfuglien's goal gave Chicago the lead, and Vince Vaughn thought it was money!"
(Assuming, of course, local sports anchors around the country actually show NHL highlights. Which they don't.)
Is he a bandwagoner? No. Vaughn grew up in Illinois and was calling the Blackhawks his favorite team back in 2005 — before Toews, before Kane, before Rocky Wirtz and the revival.
So as the Blackhawks play for the Cup, is Vince Vaughn about to become their ever-present celebrity hockey mascot for television cameras; their Spike Lee with the NBA's Knicks, back in the day? And do Blackhawks fans mind?
There are many reasons why Vaughn is a different breed than the typical celebrity hockey fan (which we'll chronicle in a bit), but sitting rink-side, instead of in the antiseptic confines of a luxury suite, is chief among them.
In that way, Vaughn's presence is reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's courtside appearances at Los Angeles Lakers games: Passionately observing the team to which they're fiercely loyalty, engaged as a fan rather than making a public appearance.
Jack embodies the L.A. vibe: Sunglasses cool, seductive charisma, life as a party. Vaughn embodies the Chicago vibe: Charming but combative, schlubby but striking, beleaguered-looking due to decades of defeat or gallons of pregame libations.
But the face of the Blackhawks for NBC cameras? Are Chicago fans cool with that?
We asked Y! Sports' resident 'Hawks loyalist Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew, who said: "Fine by me ... he actually shows up to all of the games and he stays all the way through the end."
Sam Fels, publisher of the Committed Indian, on Vaughn: "It's way the [expletive] better than Jim Belushi. Considering that was a possibility, I'm just fine with it."
Belushi and Vaughn are part of the same category of celebrity hockey fan, a species that can typically be broken down into the following groups:
Canadians: The most populous group, featuring Mike Myers and Michael J. Fox and every other guy named Mike that's eaten caribou.
Someone Sleeping With a Hockey Player: What, you really don't believe Hilary Duff knows anything about the Oilers and Islanders dynasties, do you?
Americans Who Root, Root, Root for the Home Team: Like a Mr. Vince Vaughn. Or a Mr. Snoop Doggy Dogg before him with the Ducks. Must be something about those who appeared in "Old School."
Vaughn's attraction to the game is actually prototypical for many American hockey fans.
He's said in the past that he's not a hockey fan but a Blackhawks fan; check the national ratings for hockey during the postseason and you'll see there are plenty of fans who check out when their favorite teams are eliminated.
He loves the in-arena experience. He rocks the sweater. He's even used hockey video games as an entry point to the sport, as in that famous "making Gretzky's head bleed" scene from "Swingers" discussed briefly here:
What's cool about Vince Vaughn and the Blackhawks is that, well, Vince Vaughn is cool in a way that many U.S.-born NHL celebrity fans are not.
In the sense that he's not just famous for the NHL but famous overall. In the sense that he's not just appearing at games because the studio gave him a ticket or because he wanted to sit near Snooki, but because he genuinely digs the team and knows its history.
He's the sort of celebrity fan you feel like you could have a beverage with, and chat about the game in a casual way; and who wouldn't love to hear Vaughn's machine-gun repartee tear into a postgame analysis?
There's actually a parallel to be drawn between Vaughn and the NHL in the last two decades. Both caught fire and burned too fast, leading to some lean years and then rock bottom (our lockout; his "Psycho" remake). Then he had "Old School" and "Wedding Crashers," we had Crosby and Ovechkin, and the brands were reborn.
Sure, there are still going to be "Four Christmases" and "Fred Clauses" along the way. But at this point, they both are who and what they are. And it's all a pretty [expletive] good time. (Ear muffs)