Wednesday, December 31, 2008

45 years ago the Bears ruled Wrigley Field!

Sports trivia: When was the last time a professional championship game was played at Wrigley Field? Who won it, Chicago or the visitors?

The answer is the Chicago Bears won the National Football Championship December 29, 1963, 14-10 over the New York Giants. The Super Bowl wasn't started till 1967. It was the last championship game the Bears played in until they won the Super Bowl in 1986.

The game was moved up to a 12:05 start by the National Football League after the Bears refused to move the game to Soldier Field. The NFL was concerned that the end of a long game could be played in the dark as Wrigley Field had no lights. Mike Crivello, age 26 at the time, lived about a block from Wrigley Field in the 1100 block of Addison. The morning dawned with a temperature of -8 F and winds gusting to 15 mph. Local radio reported that the Bears game was sold out and Crivello knew, from living in the area, that the city was cracking down on scalpers.

He headed out to mass at Trinity Lutheran Church with his wife. Passing the ticket office, he noticed a line for tickets. When he checked out what was happening, he discovered that the game wasn't sold out, but the remaining tickets were too expensive for Crivello. The ticket agent pointed to a man on the sidewalk, a scalper. “He'll sell you a ticket for face value,” the agent said, explaining that the weather was discouraging people from attending.

Crivello purchased three standing room only tickets at $4.00 each. It was a half-hour till game time.

Rousing his cousin Chris and another friend who did not make it, Crivello headed to the Waveland Avenue bleachers in his hunting camouflage. “It was cold and there was no food service in the bleachers,” Crivello said. The only protection from the wind and the bitter temperature in the bleachers was the men's room. Crivello remembers entering the men's room and seeing a man warming his bare feet over a heater.

Crivello remembers Giants Quarterback Y. A. Tittle's scoring first quarter drive. It culminated in a touch down pass to Frank Gifford. But the Monsters of the Midway, led by Larry Morris, hit Tittle as he was throwing later in the quarter. A second hit by Morris, on another play and Tittle's knee was injured. Although he finished the game, he was lost for part of the first half and he began throwing off his back foot for the remainder of the game.

Morris was able to intercept a Tittle pass moments after the second hit. His 61 yard return remains a Bears record. It setup a quarterback sneak touchdown by Billy Wade, tying the game. Going into the second quarter, Crivello remembers that the temperature was sending people home early. A Giants field goal sent the ball out of the stadium onto Waveland. A crowd of perhaps 100 people scrummed for the ball near the firehouse. The score was Giants 10, Bears 7 at the end of the half.

In the second half, with Tittle back on the field, Ed O'Bradovich intercepted a Giants pass. That setup Wade's second scoring run, giving the 14-10 lead to the Bears. Richie Petitbon finished the Giants chances when he intercepted a pass, the fifth Bears interception of the game, in the end zone with ten seconds remaining.

George Allen, the Bears defensive coordinator, received the game ball. Bears coach and owner George Hallas received the NFL coach of the year award. Morris was the Most Valuable Player. Among the other athletes in the contest were Johnny Morris and future Bears coach Mike Ditka. Crivello kept the game ticket and an aerial photograph of the game in a frame until last year when he gifted them to a football loving friend. “I still remember the ticket, SRO #96,” Crivello said.

by Patrick Kissane and Jane Rickard

Winter Classic- Wrigley in Winter Colors


The rink lies below, glistening in the sun. There is no ice there yet. That will come shortly. Already the Zamboni's have been dropped, literally, off the truck. On this morning, a cold wind blows. Looking at the stands for 41,000, you wonder how will those people survive this cold.

But Steve Alexander is happy. In the warmth of his rooftop club and the field across the street, his patrions will be able to knosh on cider, pizza and coffee inside, taking in the game as the weather allows on the rooftop deck. His arms wide, he says he is ready for the Winter Classic.

A veteran of the Greektown restaurant scene, Alexander says the rooftop gig has been the best place to work ever. He glides over to a wall, his speech is rapid and his excitement is viral, “here are pictures from the 1970's with the owner,” he says. He hardly allows a moment to examine the photos on the wall before racing elsewhere, the food is usually prepared outside in the summer he explains, talking rapidly.

“But, in January that won't be possible,” he explains, as he shows off the kitchen where the chili, mac and cheese and other winter favs will appear. “The staff is excited,” he explains, racing to the roof along a rear stair.

At the top of the stair, downtown glistens in the distance and an el train rumbles beneath us. Alexander is on the other side of the roof. Talking about what his guests will be seeing. Wrigley Field, frozen in snow and ice lies across the street and below. A rink runs from first to third base. It is quiet. A moment that is frozen.

Alexander is quiet for a moment, then his boots begin crushing the snow, “it will be 45 F here this weekend and this stuff will all melt,” he predicts. “Come here and look at this,” he is bursting with enthusiasm. Another kitchen, this is the summer kitchen. “And, we'll hang televisions from these poles too.”

Alexander rushes down a stairwell. Gasping to catch him, the sub-zero air is stinging my lungs. Alexander is a huge sports fan. At first, he says he doesn't understand hockey, but as he talks, he goes into a long discussion of the effects of constant hits on the player's body. He talks about Chicago Blackhawk players and Chris Chelios, the kid from the hood who did good.

“His parents were mall walkers and stopped by mom and dad's stand in the mall,” he explains. The old Greeks liked to talk to each other and grab a bite. They'd talk about their kid in the hockey league, Chris. Chelios, I explain, was assigned to the AAA Grand Rapids Griffins for conditioning. He might not play on New Year's Day. “Oh, too bad.” For a moment, Alexander is reflective.

He begins to talk again about the Cubs and the blessing of the business having this extra day of business. The city council had just approved the sale of tickets by the rooftops at its previous session. Although he had sold out, Alexander explained that prior to the approval, everything was tentative.

The poor economy is having its effect here too. Although Alexander has sold out, he says that some of the rooftops had tickets on the 20th. Tickets up here cost $300.00 USD each. For that the rooftop clubhouse Alexander runs opens an hour before the game till an hour after the game. All the food and beverage is provided.

The effort to be ready is exhausting. Alexander fields calls during the interview from supplier after supplier, arranging for the delivery of food, beer, soft drinks and other supplies. “Excuse me,” he apologizes, “I have to take this.” It is non-stop and there are more than ten days to go yet.

He says the rooftops host parties during concerts too, but that the view is terrible and it is by invitation of the owner (no income) for friends and clients. “We had to take the weather into consideration,” he says. He looks at the stands across the street. “People will be freezing if they stay outside long in this weather. They'll probably be going up (to the roof top view) and down (to the warmth of the clubhouse) a lot,” he predicts.

The building, originally a three-flat, was gutted to the walls. A similar project is occurring immediately next door. Inside, the walls are brick and mortar. Large windows keep the noise of the el train out, while pictures from Cubs history adorn the walls. Basically several floors of restaurants with bleachers on the top deck, only one apartment survives, on the first floor. And NO, you may not invite yourself up to the deck if you rent the apartment.

In the early days of Wrigley Field, the owners and tenants came up on the roof with lawn chairs and grills. Television gave the rooftops their romance, showing the rooftops and their occupants. It is a romance the National Hockey League hopes to capture. A little snow, some pictures of the rooftops with some cold people on them, and the ivy. You can see it now, in your minds eye.

Outdoor hockey at this level is about romance. The romance of a game played on ice. The romance of professional players, returning to their roots. It is a romance of the neighborhood kid, scoring the game winning goal or making the glove save at a critical moment-- at least in his head.

by Patrick Kissane

Sunday, December 28, 2008

No Joy in Mudville, Hogs and Wolves loose.

It was not a good time to be a minor league hockey fan in Chicago last night. Both of our local teams the Chicago Wolves and the Rockford Icehogs lost to divisional rivals.

The Wolves snatched defeat from the jaws of victory letting a three goal lead slip away during the third period ultimately losing 5:3 to old rivals the Milwaukee Admirals. Admirals goalie Drew McIntyre who many Chicago fans will remember from his years in Manitoba turned away 30 SOG in the loss. While Chicago's Ondrej Pavelec was challenged by 25 SOG. Referee Ian Croft (#87) returned in stripes assigning Milwaukee 26/mi/10 infractions and Chicago 36 minutes for 11 inf.

The turning point of the game for the home team may have come at 15 seconds into the 3rd period when a fight started between Chicago's Mike Hoffman and Milwaukee's Nolan Yonkman. Both men were evenly matched in size and desire to dance, however like may on ice encounters it ended in injuries. It appears that Yonkman may have suffered momentary loss of consciousness hitting the ice and Hoffman a wrist injury. Both combatants were taken into the locker rooms for medical attention immediately after the incident. Although the role of the enforcer is a popular one with fans it needs to constantly be acknowledged how dangerous and difficult it can be. These men are not “goons” but skilled players who provide protection for the smaller line mates often at a high personal price. After Yonkman and Hoffman left the ice it simply seemed the Wolves's air had left it's collective balloon and 5 unanswered goals simply happened in the next 20 minutes.

The Wolves board a plane for Manitoba for Tuesday's game against the Moose. There they will meet old team mates Jason Krog and Gui Desbiens, both of whom are reportedly doing very well in the Manitoba system. Maybe some cold Canadian air, some hot Tim Horton's coffee and the Wolves will snap out of it. If not maybe Desbiens can check some sense into them.

The Icehogs also were also on the negative side last night facing the Iowa Chops losing 5:6. The Hogs had Antti Neimi in goal while the Chops had David LeNevau in the pipes.

No, it wasn't the best night to be a hockey fan in Chicago. The bright spot is that the Hawks don't play the Wild until tonight. Then there is the “Winter Classic” to look forward to in 4 days, minor league fans have something to live for.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hogs Make Wolves howl winning 6:2

As the fog kept many Chicago fans homebound last night rather than making the 90 minute trip to Rockford, the team faced an attack by the Icehogs with a small crowd of supporters behind them. In the end Wolves goalie Ondrej Pavlec faced 21 SOG while Rockford's Crawford faced 32 turning away 29. The much anticipated match between enforcers Sean McMorrow and Mike Hoffman has been posponed for another day. McMorrow was listed as a scratch, better luck next game fight fans.

Things making me say Hummmm......
This came across my desk this afternoon:
Blackhawks have reassigned goalie prospect Joe Fallon from Fresno Falcons to Rockford . Joe Fallon?

After following the trail of the transaction it turns out yes, indeed there may be something up but it may come down to yet another team folding. The Fresno Falcons were the Blackhawks ECHL (AA) farm team. They shut down suddenly on December 22nd and the Hawks needed a place for prospects. This lead to the second head scratcher.

Fallon reassigned to Gwinnette? Gwinnette?

Yes ,indeed the Wolves and Hawks are sharing a farm team, hummm. Hockey makes for strange bedfellows, Gwinnette coach Jeff Pyle will have some interesting times ahead. With the Hawks added to Thrashers prospects one can hope they are interesting all the way through the playoffs.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Thank You!

Christmas morning and I'm up early. The sun is shining for the first time in a couple of days, there is a cup of coffee next to me, it may not be Tim Horton's but you know what, life is pretty darn good on this Christmas Day.

Last Sunday while covering the Rockford game I took a break to meet with friend and colleague, Kris. While we were chatting about lenses, children and hockey I asked her about something she mentioned in an earlier email. It seemed it had been Kris's turn to do the “locker room and bus food” shopping for the team the night before and it had been quite a run. Locker room food?

To those of us who are fans of the AAA and NHL teams this is going to seem like a supportive and amazing story but it is true for Kissane and I have heard it several times between the UHL and ECHL and now with the converted UHL/AHL Icehogs.

Two years ago on a cold winters night Kissane and I found ourselves in Dayton Ohio at a Gwenette Gladiators and Dayton Bombers game. After the game we met with dedicated fans and talked into the early morning hours. One of the topics of conversation was the extensive support the booster club gave to the players. This included furniture and appliances for apartments, and food for every bus trip (individually packaged of course) and “locker room food” at every game. We were simply astounded. Months later in Toledo we heard the same thing including a semi formal practice of families “adopting players”. Families only mind you, no puck bunnies need apply.

Last week was the first I had heard of it in the AHL, it is a practice continued from the UHL Icehogs of the past. Bless these boosters for their dedication to their team in providing them touches of home, food and support when these young men are on their own for possibly the first time in their lives. Yes they are adults being paid well to play a game we played on ponds as kids. But still, it is a lovely thing these families are doing for their teams. Often in smaller cities where the dollar is tighter these days like Dayton,Rockford and Toledo.

So Merry Christmas Kris and all boosters who work to support their teams and worthy causes at the same time. But you know what, that's hockey and on this beautiful Christmas morning life is good.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Woo Whoo!! A goalie in my Stocking!

It was the week before Christmas, days before Hanukkah. The house was decorated, kiddies finished with school and packages wrapped. I looked at my stocking hung near the crackling fire. What did I see? But Santa Kevin Cheveldayoff had been there, a smiling goalie in a green helmet decorated with a star was waving at me from San Antonino telling me of a win and his "assignment from Dallas".

Yes Virgina, Bret Karhn is unpacking his bags for a longer stay. He started in goal for Chicago last night in San Antonino winning 2:1 turning away 35 of 36 shots against t him. Nice work for our Pro from Dover or Dallas as it were. Krahn is a bit of a second chance kid or so a bit of research shows. Last September he was signed with Dallas as a 3rd line back up to Marty Turko. He was to compete for the position with nettie familiar to those of us in the west -Tobias Stephan. (Needless to say it is my belief the Wolves have ultimately gotten the best part of this deal ending up with Krahn!) Krahn had left the Calgary system after seven years and being dogged by knee injuries.It's an old story goalies and knee injuries, Khan's started in 01', they cost him parts of two seasons . It was rumored in September that he would be finished with rehab and be able to return to play by December 08'.

Stephan? Well,he is in Dallas singing backup for Marty Turko, he can stay there. If indeed Dallas has loaned us a net minder they may be ready to take a chance on or one we can rehab in Chicago we seem to have a hot hand between the pipes. The world of sports loves a underdog, second chances and a good story it would be just Chevy's style to find one for us this year in Bret Krahn. Whether Krahn is here for a fortnight, month or the rest of the season he has shown desire and fire lets hope he also shows us a comeback.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chevy Can we Keep Him? Krahn Looks good in Debut!

Brent Krahan may have only been here for the weekend filling in for the rumored injured Dan Truple but the man did impress. Not only did the Wolves win handily 4:1 against San Antonio. Krahn produced several of the prettiest saves we have seen at the Allstate since the 07' playoffs.

A long weekend does not even a honeymoon make but in his one outing Brent Krahn stood on his head and performed the two tasks of the goalie beautifully, as a friend Jill put it so concisely, see the puck, stop the puck . Considering the current uncertainty in Chicago nettie camp it begs the question to GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, "Chevy can we keep him a little longer, please?"
Here are a few shots of nights action:


Friday, December 12, 2008

Wolves win in Iowa 3:2 in SO, Ink weekend nettie...Waz up?

Chicago Wolves won in the cornfields of against the Iowa chops in a 3:2 shoot out, Robert Gherson was in goal for the Wolves. That is the basic fact, now consider this bit of news that cam across the internet today at 5:54 today.

The Chicago Wolves had signed yet another goalie 26 year old Brent Krahn. Krahn is a member of the 2000 draft class and was a first round draft choice, taken 9th over all. He has spent his entire career in the Calgary organization and was most recently with the Las Vegas Wranglers. Nice, but most interestingly he has been signed for a weekend contract. This leads to lots of speculation on chat rooms, boards and blogs. Is there a trade in the winds, another injury in the goalie pool or is somebody about to be released? It could be anywhere in the food chain, Atlanta,Chicago or Gwinette,only time will tell what is up.

Robert Gherson did well against the Chops tonight, tomorrow the Wolves will be in Rockford facing their biggest rival the Icehogs. Will Coach Granato go with the hot hand or stay with his policy of alternating goalies and start Turple, or slide the new guy in? It's Friday night one game and one win down of a three game weekend, and some good gossip in the wind, what fun !

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wolves Host Pig Roast, beat Icehogs 6:1, Who were those masked men?

Wednesday night Wolves fans left the Allstate Arena worried, very worried. Was it the trip to Turple by one of his own team mates? No, The shelling of Gherson? Not quite. The fact that every line change resembled a flock of peewees tumbling out for their big chance? No, it was the general don't seem to care, don't wanna care, you mean I should care attitude that hung over the bench like a cloud. It was like someone had opened a locker sealed from 05' and the bad karma leaked out. Driving to the game, frankly I expected that if the Wolves continued in this pattern it would be a blow out in favor of the Icehogs.

When I arrived at the Allstate the game was already two minutes old and what lovely sight greeted me? Not one but two Wolves in the Rockford crease waving their rumpuses in Antti Niemi's face.By the time I had gotten to my seat opened my bag Spencer Machacek had drilled the net for the first goal of the game. It would prove to be the first of 6 goals for the Wolves. Possibly the most amazing statistic of the game, that for 6 goals, 11 players awarded assists and three fights no Gordie Howe hat tricks were earned. Glory enough for all!

There is an easy explanation for the turnaround of play among the Wolves.It was rumored that Thrashers coach John Anderson basically told players on the parent club that unless improvements were made big changes were coming, and no one was safe. Player movments up and down would be possible, golaies could be coming and going and possible trade announcements would be forthcoming.
Linkage below:

How much for that nettie in the window? Kerie Lehentoen looks pretty good right now to these jaded eyes. Could the Wolves be looking forward to spending Christmas in warmer climates? Or have they finally woken up and jelled with their coach Granato, possibly after a few brutal practices this week? Well, a girl can dream.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Keystone Cops Hockey, Peoria out shoots Wolves 7:6

It was not a good night to be a nettie in Rosemont Wednesday. By the middle of the second period both teams were forced to pull their shell shocked goalies. Peoria's Ben Bishop was exchanged for Marek Schwartz after 29:05 minutes and Chicago's Robert Gherson limped to the box replaced by Dan Turple after 31:04. Now, that has to be an AHL record both teams replacing both goalies within 121 seconds of each other.

There are many fingers possibly being pointed in both locker rooms, at goalies, no question they had bad nights, the first goal Gherson let in, he looked like he had gone out for pizza he was so far out of the crease. The others he lacked defensive cover. The same could be said of Peoria. The refereeing of the game by Shaun Davis (31), was spotty at best, a controversial penalty shot would prove to be the winning goal. In short bad juju just flew all over the arena.

Tomorrow night the Wolves will face the Rockford Icehogs. They will need to shake off the loss and come out breathing fire to do well against their biggest rivals. Somehow I envision captain's practices until the team throws up.

Here are a couple of images of the debacle.