The Blackhawks have made a remarkable comeback since the days they were ranked the second-worst sports franchise in North America, ahead of only the Los Angeles Clippers. On game nights in the early 2000s, George Lemperis would look out at the Palace Grill and there might be three tables of fans.
Lemperis never gave up on the Blackhawks, even when his hometown did. But the last decade has been the salad days for the franchise and Lemperis, who owns the now-famous restaurant where you can get a pretty good salad and a sandwich before the game. The Palace Grill is an institution with Blackhawks fans and, for that matter, players. One morning in the early 1990s, Chicago defenseman Chris Chelios was out having some beverages with friends and popped into the Palace Grill at about 3 a.m. Lemperis hadn’t arrived yet, but none to worry. Chelios jumped behind the grill himself.
“My cousin came in with a bunch of his friends, and they didn’t believe I was friends with the Blackhawks,” Lemperis said. “And there’s Chris Chelios behind the grill cooking breakfast for his friends. I came in a little later and I missed it all, but they left me with a mess. Everything was dirty, but that’s OK.” Read more
In his first season as Pittsburgh GM, Jim Rutherford got only a small sampling of Olli Maatta’s work, just 20 games. Still, what Rutherford saw on and off the ice left him with no qualms about elevating the young Finn to the rarefied status of being one of the Penguins’ core players entering 2015-16, Maatta’s third season.
If hockey doesn’t work out for Adrian Kempe, perhaps a career in fashion is in order. The 18-year-old Swede made a bold clothing statement after Game 3 of the AHL’s Eastern final in Hartford. Walking out of the dressing room in suit and tie, Kempe dropped his flip-flops on the ground, put them on, took a quick picture of his ensemble to post on Twitter, and walked across the street to the team hotel.
While the zany Kempe made the mistake of not packing dress shoes for the two-day road trip, what he did on the ice helped fans and teammates alike forget what he did off it. Carrying a 2-0 series lead versus the Wolf Pack onto the road, Kempe scored in Games 3 and 4, as his Manchester Monarchs swept their way into the Calder Cup final. Kempe was named the No. 1 star of the series-clinching game.
Having completed his season in the Swedish League, the Los Angeles Kings’ 2014 first-round pick embarked on a journey across the pond, where he joined the NHL club’s primary affiliate in Manchester, which sat in first place for nearly the entire AHL season. In his second game, Kempe lined up on the first line, centered by all-star Jordan Weal. Read more
Teuvo Teravainen’s real father, Timo, is a dentist in Helsinki. His surrogate father is a 40-year-old teammate Kimmo Timonen, and while the hockey world was fawning over Teravainen after Game 1, good old dad had a sobering message. “He’s got a long way to go,” Timonen said. “He’s a skinny guy, so he’s got to start lifting weights. I told him, ‘This summer you’ve got to make sure you work out.’ Golf is not a workout.”
Gee, thanks, Dad. Teravainen’s father might be “far, far in Finland,” but that fatherly advice isn’t. As Teravainen makes his way in the world, he’s learning things might not be as easy as he would have thought. In 2013-14, when he led Finland to gold at the world juniors and finished with 44 points in the Finnish League, many thought Teravainen had the second-line center job in Chicago waiting for him. But he struggled. Read more
The pee wasn’t even dry on David Keith’s Chicago Blackhawks sweater when the questions started. There he was, holding his two-year-old grandson, who had undoubtedly gotten caught up in all the excitement of his dad, Duncan, winning the Stanley Cup and forgot to take a washroom break. “We changed his diaper, but when the pants are wet, the pants are wet,” the Keith family patriarch said. “What are you going to do?”
Apparently, putting your baby in the Stanley Cup is quite the rage these days. Every time you turned around on the United Center ice there was another little one with a triple chin and a pot belly, sitting obliviously in the Cup while the rest of the family posed for pictures. It looked as much like a daycare as it did a Stanley Cup celebration.
As team president John McDonough noted, when he first joined the organization in 2007 most of the guys were single. “Now there are babies all over the place,” he said. Read more
With two days between Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup final and temperatures hovering in the 90s with the humidity, it’s difficult to escape that feeling of being sticky and fat. It can be tough to get a hockey vibe, but Tampa is getting there.
Even though after 23 years and a Stanley Cup in the market the newspapers still feel compelled to run a ‘Hockey 101’ column in which they explain faceoffs, icing and changing on the fly, Tampa has come a long way. Game 1 of the final got a local TV rating of 18, compared to Game 7 of their 2004 Stanley Cup final triumph, which scored in the single digits.
Jeffrey Vinik’s rather unpretentious office in Amalie Arena looks over a bar named Ferg’s, one of the places where fans congregate after games. But there is also a mother lode of undeveloped land, about 40 acres to be precise, and that’s where Vinik’s vision for transforming downtown Tampa is taking shape. And it all started five years ago with a hockey team nobody wanted, run by Oren Koules and Len Barrie whose ill-fated ownership flamed out spectacularly amid bickering and poor decisions. Read more
Thanks to the (literally) tireless efforts of Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawks claimed their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, dusting off the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
Keith, who played an otherworldly average of 31 minutes per game in the post-season, scored the game-winning goal by following up his own rebound on Bolts goalie Ben Bishop. Patrick Kane, who always seems to come through in big contests, added the dagger on a beauty feed from Brad Richards.
In terms of sentiment, it was hard to beat captain Jonathan Toews passing the Cup off to Kimmo Timonen, whose career and life almost ended in the summer due to blood clots. Instead, the Finnish D-man ended his career a champion.
If some gym bro said he works out for half an hour but it takes him almost three hours to do it, you’d probably laugh him off. And you’d be perfectly justified in doing so.
Why, then, is it any different for an NHL player?
Throughout the playoffs, a ton of talk surrounded Duncan Keith and the minutes he logged: 31:06 per game. Fans know that’s a dump-truck load of hockey, but most would be hard-pressed to prove why. After all, numbers-wise, it’s no more than what our gym bro does.
Consider this: Most NHLers average 10 to 20 minutes per game. Only the best play more than 20, while some play fewer than 10. The average shift lasts merely 45 seconds, and players clear the boards 20 to 30 times. All of this occurs over as much as three hours to play an NHL game. Endurance athletes like runners, cyclists and swimmers can go for much longer and do it without pause.
Everyone in the hockey world knows this is one of the most demanding sports to play. Yet few understand what players endure physiologically that makes what they do so difficult.