Movember Matchup of the Day: Joel Quenneville vs. Mike Ditka

Our Movember Matchup series continues with a pair of legendary Chicago coaching staches.

One has a Super Bowl ring, and the other wears three Stanley Cup rings. One owns a race horse and the other has a restaurant chain, wine, and even Bloody Mary mix named after him. They both played their respective sports and neither will be paying for a meal in Chicago ever again.

Now YOU decide who has the better mustache!

Joel Quenneville

Quenneville Movember

vs.

Mike Ditka

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 11.49.33 PM

Who has the better Chicago Sports stache?

For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

Chicago Celebrities We’d Rather See At Games

From afar, I’ve admired what the Chicago Cubs are doing. Not just at the plate and from the mound, but also from a promotional standpoint. Rather than trot out any famous person who can afford a ticket with what they find between their couch cushions, the Cubs had players who appreciate where the team is now and put in blood, sweat and tears wearing the blue pinstripes to throw out first pitches in Games 3 and 4.

After Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and 2-time All-Star Kerry Wood kicked off each game, the Cubs utilized their new video boards at Wrigley Field with videos of the late Ernie Banks and Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” That’s classy. That’s also what they should do from now on, but that’s a discussion for another day. (Never let Ryan Dempster do his impression of Will Ferrell’s impression of Harry Caray again)

Amidst the bat-flipping, opposing pitcher name chanting, and hardcore partying, we’ve seen the celebrity faces that we expected (some dreaded) to see at the ballpark. Billy Corgan and his new get-off-my-lawn attitude. Northside/Southside flipping John Cusack. And the worst front-runner on the planet, Jim Belushi (I cringe typing his name like he’s Voldemort). New assistant to Cubs President Theo Epstein (probably) Eddie Vedder has been fun. As an avid Pearl Jam fan, I get a kick out of him partying as hard as the players after each game.

It’s also hard to imagine that Bill Murray isn’t too far away, despite his media tour next week for the upcoming release of Rock the Kasbah. If anything, he could make it an epic cross promotion for his film and the MLB playoffs.

Bill Murray Harry

Vedder and Murray are awesome but it’s time to bring out the big hitters to the seats in Chicago, and not just at Wrigley Field. Last summer, I countered recently-outed heavyweight racist Hulk Hogan’s baiting for angry Blackhawks fans during the Stanley Cup with my own list of better celebrity hockey fans. Those mentioned in that list (CM Punk, Mr. T, Vince Vaughn, etc) get a hat-tip, but the following names will represent star power that we’d rather see regularly, similar to the likes at New York and Los Angeles events.

1. Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford Chicago

We’re talking about Han Solo AND Indiana Jones here. How can you deny the idea of either baseball stadium in Chicago playing the “Imperial Death March” music announcing the Yankees lineup, then following it with a shot of Harrison Ford behind home plate with the Rebel Victory score over it? Maybe it’s a the geek in me, but any opportunity to implement Star Wars, especially with the new film coming out, is super sexy to me.

Note: I also refer to White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu as #Baseball Jedi, so there’s that. 

Ford has Chicago in his blood, being born here and spending his college summers working on a boat in Burnham Park Harbor or managing the first Crate and Barrel on Wells. In an Michigan Ave Magazine interview, Ford said:

I’ve been out in Los Angeles for 35 years, and I think there are some things about my upbringing that reflect the values and the attitudes of the Midwest…. a kind of work ethic that I find particular to the Midwest. I can say that those were important, formative years for me, living in Chicago.”

Cool, Indy. I’ll buy you a beer next time you’re in town, if it gets you to a ballgame.

2. Nick Offerman

Nick Offerman Cubs

Currently featured in the new season of Fargo, Nick Offerman isn’t slowing down since the end of Ron Swanson and Parks and Recreation. Offerman isn’t shy about his baseball allegiance either.

There are many grown men and women who would scream like a 90’s tween at a Backstreet Boys concert if they saw the Joliet native, University of Illinois grad, and professional canoe craftsman down the foul line at a ballgame.

If he’s willing, during a the Crosstown Cup series, there’s plenty of bacon-on-a-stick awaiting his consumption at US Cellular Field.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 12.49.13 PM

Double-thick maple bacon. You know you want it, Nick…

3. Gillian Anderson

Gillian Anderson Chicago

Yep, X-Files fans, Scully is from Chicago. With The X-Files revival series coming soon to FOX, they’d be making a huge mistake not having Gillian Anderson at Wrigley Field fending off the paranormal and extraterrestrial that I’m sure some Cubs fans still believe will prevent the Cubs from going to the World Series…At least come out to a Men and/or Women’s basketball game at DePaul, where Anderson finished college…something she and I have in common.

4. President Barack Obama

President Obama Chicago

Partisan opinions aside, he’s the MF’n President of the United States. He’s also a hardcore sports fan, which I thoroughly laid out on his birthday, and loves his Chicago teams…

When his term is up, I would welcome the president taking in as much Bulls basketball, White Sox baseball, Bears football, and whatever as he wants.

5. John C. Reilly

John C. Reilly Chicago

Would you really argue with me on this? Who doesn’t want south side native John C. Reilly in their corner?

That’s exactly who you want in games against New York when Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Jay-Z and Beyonce are behind the opponent’s bench.

6. Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert Chicago

For someone who has spent a lot of his career recently in New York City, Stephen Colbert has not been bashful at all about his time in Chicago. Leading up to the new Late Show’s premiere, Colbert dedicated multiple podcasts to his years at Northwestern and doing improv in Chicago. While interviewing Jane The Virgin star Gina Rodriguez this week, the two bonded over their love for the city and living there. Most notably, as tongue-in-cheek as it sounded, Colbert predicted a Cubs World Series win…a proclamation he believes “in no way will come back to haunt” him.

If the NLCS goes to New York, I would be shocked if Colbert wasn’t in attendance. Heck, he should catch a weekend game in Chicago if the opportunity is there.

More Chicago Celebrities You’d Rather See:

John Landis, Director – Animal House, Blues Brothers

Robert Zemeckis, Director – Back to the Future Trilogy

Patricia Arquette, Actress – Boyhood, True Romance

Common, Hip-Hop Artist & Actor – Selma

Fred Savage, Actor & Director – The Wonder Years

Ben Savage, Actor – Boy Meets World

Chloe Bennet, Actress – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Mandy Patinkin, Actor – The Princess Bride, Homeland

Gina Rodriguez, Actress – Jane The Virgin

Michael Pena, Actor – Ant-Man, The Martian

Frances McDormand, Actress – Fargo, Almost Famous

Shonda Rhimes, Writer – Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy

Michael Madsen, Actor – Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill

Jennifer Morrison, Actress – House M.D.

Michael Mann, Director – Heat

Tom Berenger, Actor – Major League

Dan Castellanata, Actor – The Simpsons

Bruce Dern, Actor – Nebraska, The Cowboys

Andre Braugher, Actor – Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Wood Harris, Actor – The Wire, Remember the Titans

Bob Balaban, Actor – Moonrise Kingdom

Jennifer Hudson, Singer & Actress – Dreamgirls

Chi McBride, Actor – Boston Public, The Terminal

Craig Robinson, Actor – The Office, Knocked Up

Jay Chandrasekhar, Actor & Director – Super Troopers

Jim O’Heir, Actor – Parks and Recreation

Did I miss anyone? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter

What To Love About Fall Around Chicago

Happy First Day of Fall, Chicago.

If you were up early this morning, I hope you got a good look at “Chicagohenge” as the sunrise lined up with the city’s East-West grid. You can check it out again at sunset, in cased you missed it, but it only happens twice a year.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 9.49.54 AM

Fall is my favorite season in Chicago, and I know I’m not alone saying so. Sure it means “Winter is Coming“, but it’s more like opening a fresh jar of peanut butter than it is scraping the bottom of one.

So what makes Fall worth loving? I’m glad you asked…

1. Sweater Weather and Flannel

Sweater Weather

Sweater Weather is so good that The Neighborhood recorded a song about it…Some of us are much more in our element with long sleeves and a cool breeze.

Has fashion ever blessed us with anything better than the hoodie?

Poehler Party

I think not…

And when else is Al Borland’s getup ever sexier?

Al Borland

mmm…checker patterns and stripes.

While sweaters and flannel are fantastic on their own, they both pair perfectly with the always lovable “puffy” vest. At least you’re getting ahead of the curve for Star Wars: Episode VII.

“I love you.” / “…I know.”

2. Them Leaves

Chicago Leaves

Fall foliage is a thing in Chicago. It may be the most stunning part about living in a region with four seasons. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Loop area, you can get lost in the changing of the leaves around Grant Park. Perhaps take a walk around Lincoln Park as the zoo tigers are camouflaged with the trees. I’m also looking forward to the views along the new 606 Trail and West Ridge Nature Preserve.

If you’re looking for a nice getaway from the city, take an hour and half trip west on Rt. 80 toward the Illinois Valley and see what Starved Rock is all about. The hiking is fantastic and nearby are the greatest wings ON THE PLANET at Skoog’s in Utica.

Starved Rock Fall

While you’re already heading west, go see what the Quad Cities are all about. The first half of my college years were certainly highlighted by the unbelievable view at Augustana College walking the Slough Path to class.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 11.03.40 AM

Hey now…You can take a train from Chicago to Rock Island, so it counts.

3. Sports, baby…Sports.

Soldier Field

I know, Bears fans. Not the start to a season that anybody wanted…but when did that ever stop you from throwing on your blue and orange and fill up Soldier Field? Seriously. Those games are always sold out…At least you have Fantasy Football and tailgating, right?

It won’t be too long before the United Center tenants are back at it making 1901 W. Madison into a Madhouse again. The Blackhawks drop their new Stanley Cup banner and set to defend it starting with the New York Rangers Oct. 7th, and the Bulls tipoff with their season against LeBron James and the Cavs on their NEW home floor Oct. 27th.

It also looks like there WILL be October baseball in Chicago. Even though not all of us are Cubs fans *cough* me *cough*, it’s hard not to appreciate the fun they’re having on the north side. I don’t know how long the run will last, but you can’t help imagining how insane the city will be if a certain team hoists a certain trophy in a certain ballpark…

…and don’t forget Northwestern Football. Coach Pat Fitzgerald won’t let you.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 11.38.33 AM

Go Cats…?

4. Gone Pickin’…

Apple Picking

According to my Facebook feed around this time each year, couples and families LUV to go apple picking. For those of you interested in this sort of thing, here’s a helpful directory for you.

For those less inclined to do free manual labor on the weekends, might I recommend APPLE FEST in Long Grove? Starting this Friday, Sept 25th through the weekend, all the fun shops and vendors in tiny and quaint Long Grove gather to share apple treats and all the joy Fall can bring. There’s music, cider doughnuts, apple sangria, and I hear the Confectionary is making white chocolate and cinnamon sugar candy apples.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 11.57.01 AM

Can someone please try to recreate this photo and post it to the Facebook page? Thanks!

5. Halloween’ness

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.00.24 PM

Why yes, yes that is Daley Plaza…

While you’re not glued to your television being “Shawshanked” into an AMC Marathon of bad slasher franchise sequels, you’ll probably notice all the Halloween popup stores in what used to be your favorite nearby businesses. (*Skypoint* Blockbuster)…

Quick remedy? How about a trip to your nearest terrifying Haunted House? For years I’ve been trying to gather friends (and the nerves) to try the Statesville Haunted Prison. If you’re interested, just Tweet at me.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.13.40 PM

If you’re less than willing to have the begeezes scared out of you, I would recommend doing what I have for the past few years…hit up a Bulls game and count how many “Where’s Waldo” costumes you find. It’s absurdly entertaining.

6. Fall Beverages

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.29.57 PM

I know, Pumpkin Spiced Anything is the fad this time of year…but so are several seasonal adult beverages. The patios are still open across the city, and what’s better than a “warm apple pie” or some other warm cocktail while siting along the the Chicago river walk?

I’ll sit and wait for your response…

That’s what I thought.

If you happen to have some recipes for excellent Fall-coholic beverages, please feel free to share them on the Facebook page and I’ll post them to the site as well!

7. Fun Runs

Chicago Fun Runs

You may be like most of us who didn’t train for the Chicago Marathon, but still want to feel like you accomplished something fitness-wise this Fall. FEAR NOT! Here’s a schedule for the remaining “run for fun” races, including various Thanksgiving Turkey Trots and the famous Hot Chocolate Run…

Hot Chocolate Run

That totally looks worth running a 15k or 5k.

8. ALL THE PEANUTS SPECIALS

Not necessarily something Chicago-centric, but it’s the F’ing Peanuts. Who didn’t grow up on Snoopy and all the holiday specials? With the new movie coming out in November, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a ton of fun promotions around the city for it.

9. Indoor Concerts – Big and Small

Festival season is over, but the music lives strong in Chicago year-round.

From the big stadium venues like the United Center and Allsate Arena

To concert halls like House of Blues, The Riviera, The Metro, The Vic, and The Aragon Ballroom

Wilco Riv

and small venues like The Beat Kitchen, Reggies, Double Door, and Bottom Lounge. You never know who’s going to show up…

10…

You let me know on Facebook and Twitter!

President Obama’s Birthday and All His Sportiness

The 44th President of the United States LOVES his sports. He is an unapologetic Chicago White Sox fan. He fills out March Madness brackets for both Men and Women’s tournaments on SportsCenter each year. He also has no problem mixing it up on the White House basketball court.

Air Obama

So on his 54th birthday, lets put the partisan blah blah blah on the back-burner and appreciate something we all enjoy…Sports.

March Madness

Presidential Bracket

I look forward to the President’s annual segment on ESPN where he joins the rest of the nation in the Madness. Since he was elected, President Obama is interviewed by college basketball reporter Andy Katz from the White House to talk out each of his picks. Last year he took regular season undefeated favorite Kentucky to win it all (like many of you did) over Nova, and was obviously incorrect as Duke beat Wisconsin in the National Championship.

President Obama finished in ESPN’s 72.9 percentile in 2014 and was most successful in 2011 with a bracket in the 87.4%. Both years, UConn won the National Championship and he didn’t pick them. The President did choose a National Champion for his first year in office, North Carolina in 2009.

ESPN isn’t the only network who gets to share air-time with the Commander in Chief as one of CBS’s best color analysts, Clark Kellogg, took him on in a game of HORSE…err POTUS.

I don’t even want to know what would’ve happen if the President got skunked.

He Loves His Chicago Teams

President Chicago Teams

Despite referring to his White Sox’s home stadium as “Kaminskey Field” early in his first term, the President has never wavered as a Chicago die hard. When the Bulls re-signed All-Star Jimmy Butler to a longterm deal, he was on it…

(Props to my old teammate Matt Rodewald for getting that tweet picked up)

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for Game 6, President Obama was leading the chants from Twitter…

And wore his lucky hockey sweater while doing so.

While touring Cooperstown a year ago, the President asked to try on the White Sox World Series ring.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 2.35.07 PM

…and then donated the Sox jacket he wore to throw out the first pitch at the 2009 All-Star Game to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The President even hosted a White House visit for the Super Bowl winning 1985 Bears team, because they never got the chance to do so before. 

President and Ditka

(Ironic that it was Mike Ditka handing the President his jersey since he also wanted to run against him for a Senate seat in 2004)

The ’85 Bears and the Blackhawks may be the only Chicago teams that the President has hosted at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but he always seems to get a quick shoutout in for his favorite squads when he hosts other teams.

White House Host with the Most

We all remember the drama surrounding Red Sox DH David Ortiz’s selfie with the President and the handful of athletes who make a thing out of not going to visit the White House, despite it being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (looking at you, Tim Thomas)…

But damn, do those photo ops turn out great.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter

Are the Blackhawks the Best Organization in Sports Right Now?

Following their 3rd Stanley Cup victory in six years, the Chicago Blackhawks are basking in the glow that is Chicago in HawksMania. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and the rest of the 2014-15 roster are even bigger than Oprah (yeah I said it) through the eyes of their fans, and I don’t blame them. The Cup itself has such celebrity status, that bars are filled to mass capacity, simply based on speculation that it will be making its way through each establishment.

Speaking of Chicago Celebrities, as I watched the Comcast SportsNet Chicago livestream of the Blackhawks parade and rally yesterday, I saw host Pat Boyle discussing the team with MMA fighter/Former WWE wrestler CM Punk. Punk gets onto the topic of bandwagon fans and recalls a time when the Blackhawks were the worst organization in professional sports. He then follows his thought up by calling the Blackhawks the best organization in sports right now, and there is no rebuttal from the panel. So I wondered…Are they?

Punk wasn’t wrong about how low the Blackhawks organization had been. In 2004, ESPN had the Blackhawks ranked as the worst organization in North American Sports. Former owner Bill Wirtz had blacked out home games, stating that it was “unfair to season ticket-holders to give away the home games on TV for free”, according to Chicago Bulls & White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. During the 2003-04 season, the average attendance at the United Center 13,253…This year, the Blackhawks led the NHL in attendance for the 7th consecutive time with a 21,769 average.

Current owner Rocky Wirtz changed the direction and business model immediately. Team president and CEO John McDonough turned the team into a marketing goldmine. The “ONE GOAL” campaign that was introduced before the 2009-10 season has been imitated not only by teams in the NHL, but in other league’s as well, like the Brooklyn Nets. The organization invited back its legends as ambassadors like Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, whom were shunned by the previous ownership. While many of the team’s core was brought in by Dale Tallon, they went outside the franchise for a winning pedigree by appointing Stan Bowman as general manager and making his father, (and legendary coach) Scotty, Senior Advisor.

The last piece of the puzzle came following a slow 1-2-1 start in the 2008 season with Blackhawks Hall of Famer Denis Savard at the helm coaching. The team had higher expectations out of the gate, so they dismissed Savard and promoted newly hired scout Joel Quenneville to head coach. Quenneville had a 438-283 record coaching the Avalalanche and Blues before joining the Blackhawks, making the transition to the bench seamless. What I’ve found to be most impressive about that situation is the relationship between the Blackhawks and Savard immediately after. The organization named Savard an ambassador and he had no problem with it. It’s unbelievably cool to see him graciously pass the baton and still be a part of what has grown into a dynasty. How often do you see a former head coach have that with the team that removed him?

Denis Savard

Three championships in six years with a salary cap is more than qualifying for a dynasty. While he isn’t credited with bringing Kane, Toews, Sharp, Keith, or Seabrook to the organization, Bowman has done a masterful job (yes, masterful) at handling the turnover of the roster following each championship. When forced to choose between matching an offer sheet from the San Jose Sharks for Niklas Hjalmarrson or parting ways and re-signing goalie Antti Niemi. The decision to go with Hjalmarrson has worked out given his exceptional defensive play, 2 more championships, and none won by Niemi’s Sharks. More recently, the additions of center Brad Richards before the season, as well as Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins at the trade deadline, proved even more so that Bowman is capable of arming his squad for a playoff run. All three were key in winning the Cup.

The Blackhawks will be faced with more turnover this summer, given the lowering of the league’s salary cap, but now Chicago has become a destination for veterans who want to win. Players who have made plenty over the course of their careers are more inclined to take pay cuts if the odds of having their names engraved on the Cup are in their favor. Great organizations have that benefit. So who else is in the conversation?

The most comparable organization, based on championships during the same timeline, are the San Francisco Giants. They too have won three titles in the last six years, with World Series wins in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In contrast to the other major sports leagues, MLB has no salary cap. While teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees boast payrolls over $200 million, the Giants operate with salaries totaling in just above $170 million. Not necessarily a huge difference, as they ranked 7th in highest payroll the last time they won a championship, but still $100 million less than their division rival’s $272 million in LA. Their star talent is mostly homegrown with Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum being their Toews, Kane, Sharp and Lincecum.

Like Quenneville, Giants manager Bruce Bochy took over with prior success, having won a pennant with the San Diego Padres. He also followed a former player in the organization, Felipe Alou. The Giants have also ranked in MLB’s top 4 for attendance for each of the last 5 years.

The other team that you can consider to be similar would be the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve won 3 championships in the last 10 years, 5 in the last 15 with Gregg Popovich as head coach. The Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Patriots have certainly found a recipe for success having won 11 of the last 12 AFC East titles and 4 Super Bowls. However, it would be difficult to say the Patriots are very popular or well respected at the moment...but that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

At this moment, the Blackhawks seem to have found the formula. More than 2 million fans reportedly showed up for the parade and rally yesterday, wearing hockey sweaters in humid temperatures. They turned Soldier Field into the Red Sea to celebrate their third title, while introducing many of the same names and faces from the first title in 2010. Are they the best organization in sports right now? You tell me.

Jonathan Toews

You can let me know on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03

Welcome to the Party, Blackhawks Bandwagon

Tonight the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning face off in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to survive and force a Game 7, in hopes of winning their first Cup since 2004. The Blackhawks have an opportunity to win their 3rd championship in six years and their 6th in franchise history. It could also be the first time since 1938 that they clinch on their home ice.

Since Joel Quenneville took over in 2008, the Blackhawks are 9-0 in Game 6 with a chance to clinch a playoff series. The city of Chicago is bracing itself for the potential celebratory eruption and the brink of a hockey dynasty. It’s a party and a pretty damn fun one at that! Now the invite should be open to all who are interested as well.

For years, a segment of Blackhawks have worn the badge of honor for being longtime fans. They were the ones who vividly remember the soul crushing sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1992 Final series and remained fans since. There were kids like me who actually got made fun of in grade school for being fans of an organization that was a consistent loser for a decade (only one season with a record over .500 from 1996-2007). There are those of us who hopped on the Metra after class to pickup “student discount” tickets at the gate, when the United Center never sold out. Sitting in the lower bowl was maybe a third of the face value price it is now, and you could easily find Patrick Kane’s family members…because they’d let you know who they are.

The first Blackhawks Stanley Cup in the Quenneville/Jonathan Toews & Kane era felt almost exclusively for those fans. They had to root for teams that were led by Doug Gilmour (Captain in 1999-2000), Tony Amonte (2000-02), Alex Zhamnov (2002-04), Adrian Aucoin and Martin LaPointe (2005-07) with a combined 210-265 record and a lockout from 2004-2005. They had to bare witness to an all-timer in Chris Chelios joining the bitter rival in Detroit, winning Stanley Cups as a Red Wing. Those fans were graced with epic rants from Hall of Fame broadcaster Pat Foley, including a famous one about Alexander Karpovtsev. They also couldn’t watch home games on television for an unfortunate period of time, as instituted by former owner Bill Wirtz. It wasn’t easy being a fan during that stretch.

I remember a game that ESPN 1000 WMVP’s “Waddle & Silvy” Show used to play where an intern would go to the old Blackhawks Store and you had to guess how many customers were present. The number was rarely in the double-digits. Then the changing of the guard happened with Bill’s son Rocky Wirtz taking over ownership and former Chicago Cubs executive John McDonaugh being named team President and CEO. McDonaugh knew how to market a team in Chicago and Rocky knew how to let him do his thing. The season ticketholder base increased from 3,400 to over 14,000 and the organization led the NHL in attendance for seven consecutive seasons. Those results can be attributed to winning as well as a business department doing its job very well.

Ever since that first Stanley Cup, the city and surrounding suburbs have been draped in Blackhawks red and white. You’ll find people wearing their heavy hockey sweater jerseys in 90 degree weather. I’ll never forget attending the Blackhawks convention in the summer of 2011 with my friend and longtime fan Brad Wenzel, and any Q&A featuring Toews, Kane, Patrick Sharp or Duncan Keith felt like a Backstreet Boys concert with screaming fans. Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune also has a cool, well-researched piece on the demographic growth of Blackhawks fans and how African-American fans have the highest rate among NHL fans at 1.4 times the overall rate.

Growth of any kind for any team and any sport is a good thing. Now that the Blackhawks are looking at the prospects of a 3rd Cup and a possible 3rd parade ending at Grant Park, the door should be wide open to all walks of life new to the party. The team benefits from the revenue, the league benefits from the ratings, and the hardcore fan benefits from a better product thanks to the former two.

Chicago is no stranger to the bandwagon/front-runner element. It was a Bulls town while Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were reeling off two 3-peats of Championships in the 90’s, and that quickly changed when now-Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg was a member of the roster. The Northside of town was electric as the Cubs were this close to going to the World Series in 2003. Actor John Cusack famously flipped allegiances as the White Sox won the 2005 World Series. Now the Blackhawks are the hot item and deservedly so.

Rather than play the part of someone who says “I liked this band before everyone else did”, old-time hockey fans should be excited that their team is bringing people together across the state. They aren’t solving serious problems in Chicago, but the Blackhawks are an excellent distraction to share. It’s easy to get annoyed when a new fan sounds like they don’t know what they’re talking about, so politely educate them on your sport instead.

There is a flip-side to the coin though. If you are a new fan when the team is winning, don’t go hiding when things go the other way. Given the salary cap issues going into next season, there will be a number of changes to this Blackhawks roster, similar to those made after the 2009-10 Stanley Cup. However, if general manager Stan Bowman has proven anything, he can get a team back to the Stanley Cup Final…with Toews and Kane on the ice.

So HAVE FUN Blackhawks fans, old and new! Cheer on your team together and please don’t flip my car if they win tonight.

Blackhawks Celebrity Fans vs. Hulk Hogan

After both teams shook hands and the lights went dim at the Honda Center following the Western Conference Finals Game 7, Anaheim Ducks Super Fan/Crazy Person Emilio Estevez went eerily quiet on Twitter. All week, Estevez took to social media to channel a drunk version of his 1992 character, Coach Gordon Bombay, from ‘The Mighty Ducks’ to troll Chicago Blackhawks and act super sensitive when the tables were turned on him (he blocked me). The day after, Estevez did what all celebrities do after acting a fool on Twitter…claimed he was hacked (sarcastically).

And now Emilio’s watch (and relevance) has ended.

Picking up the flag for Blackhawks antagonists, and ripping his tank top off in the process, is 12-time Champion of the World and apparent Tampa Bay Lightning die hard, Hulk Hogan.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 2.26.52 PM

“Chicago’s in a whole bunch of trouble,” said Hogan at an ESPN Special Olympics event yesterday. He also noted that the Lightning are undefeated when his daughter, Brooke, sings the National Anthem…

As I type that last bit, I start to wonder if this is really just plea to the Lightning to have his daughter sing in the Stanley Cup Final, but Hulkamania is “Running Wild” in Tampa regardless. While I would be more than okay with Hogan planting a running leg drop on Chicago’s worst celebrity ever, Jim Belushi, I have a few high profile fans in mind that I’d love to throw in the ring with him…rocking the Indian Head sweater.

1. CM Punk

CM Punk Blackhawks

The “Straight Edge Superstar”, former World Heavyweight/WWE Champion, and UFC Fighter is a longtime committed Blackhawks fan and favorite among “shoot the puck” contestants. In the wake of Tampa’s “No Blackhawks jerseys in certain sections” announcement, Punk took to Twitter to let the Lightning know he’s coming.

Since Hogan will be there, can we get an Intermission “Hardcore Rules” Match please?

2. Mr. T.

(Love the little shot at Belushi from Susannah Collins)

Coincidentally, both Mr. T and Hogan starred in Rocky III together as Clubber Lang and Thunderlips. They also tag teamed on Saturday Night Live and WrestleMania II

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 4.11.57 PM

but don’t be surprised to see the Lake Forest, IL resident lace’em up when the series makes it’s way back to the United Center. Anytime you’re asked to make a prediction on this series (or anything ever) the answer should be “PAIN!”

3. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan Bhawks

Is there a bigger name synonymous with Chicago? That question was rhetorical…His uniform and the Bulls championship banners he earned hang in the same arena that the Blackhawks skate in, but even Michael Jordan is a fan of a team on the verge of “dynasty” status. A photo of Jordan wearing his Blackhawks jersey was making the rounds before Game 7 against the Ducks the other night, and articles sillier than this one did as well. You can bet #23 will be doing it again during the Stanley Cup Final.

You may remember Hollywood Hogan tag-teaming with Dennis Rodman for a WCW pay per view against Karl Malone and Diamond Dallas Page, but how about that MTV Celebrity Deathmatch when MJ took on Rodman (where Claymation Jordan said he was thinking about joining the NHL)?…You’re next, Claymation Hogan.

4. Vince Vaughn

Vince Vaughn bhawks

I was a little reluctant to post this, given Vince Vaughn’s recent comments that turned him into a polarizing political figure…but the guy has been at the games and was doing so when nobody was. Way more than Jim Belushi. And you get the feeling that his role in the upcoming season ofTrue Detective will make him appear to be someone you want on your side. He seemed to still be in character while lurking from his suite earlier in the Ducks series.

“Rule #76: No excuses. Play like a champion”, Vince.

5. Chicago Baseball

Cubs Blackhawks

One of my favorite things to see are teams in the same city supporting each other. Despite manager Joe Maddon claiming he’s Switzerland in this series (since he managed in Tampa Bay for so long), the Chicago Cubs are in full Blackhawks mode…I couldn’t let the White Sox go unrecognized though as players like Adam Eaton have been showing their love all season long.

If their schedules permit it, I’d love to see players from both clubs (as well as the Bears and Bulls) along the glass when the Blackhawks play at home. If Paul Pierce can do it, anybody can.

Honorable mention…

Charles Barkley Hawks

…Because he’s Charles Barkley.

Who are some other Chicago celebrities that you’d like to see wearing Blackhawks jerseys during the Stanley Cup Final? Let me know on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03.