Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Being a Blackhawks Fan in Wisconsin

2 Jun
Chicago Blackhawks

Photo Credit: picturepush.com

I’m not a Chicago fan. I’m a Blackhawks fan.

It wasn’t always this complicated.

Wisconsin born and raised, I didn’t grow up in a hockey family – I never skated. I never watched the games. When hockey highlights showed up on SportsCenter once in a blue moon, it was my cue to get off the couch and make myself a snack. It may as well have been a commercial break.

I honestly couldn’t care less about the sport. I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t want to. I couldn’t comprehend why fully grown men were allowed to drop their gloves and attempt to beat each other to a pulp. What’s the point?

Boxing on ice, I called it.

I never would have foreseen myself becoming a hockey fan, let alone supporting a team from Chicago. I hated hockey without ever giving it a chance. But perhaps I hated Chicago more.

Much more.

When I departed for college, I wanted to make a concerted effort to broaden my horizons, try something new. And boy, did I ever get the opportunity to do so.

During my freshman year, I met a guy down the hall who eventually became one of my best friends. He was from Illinois – a Chicago Blackhawks fan.

Naturally, I was around hockey more and more as the year progressed. It was only fitting that my first experience viewing a full-length hockey game featured a fight between goaltenders, something that rarely happens. But how would I know? I was a novice. More boxing on ice, I thought.

Over time, I learned about the sport.

The NHL All-Star Break was approaching, and I took it upon myself to watch all the festivities, including the Fantasy Draft. One of the alternate captains was Patrick Kane from, you guessed it, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sure, I had heard of household names like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin as I scavenged through my house for food with SportsCenter in the background during yesteryear. But Kane was the first player I gravitated toward, the first player I knew. Whenever he played, I wanted to watch.

Initially, I felt out of place cheering for a team from Chicago, but I got over it relatively quickly. After all, I came to the realization that Wisconsin doesn’t have a professional hockey team. We have the Milwaukee Admirals – the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators.

Be that as it may, the more I seriously followed the Blackhawks, the more ridicule I received from family, friends and even acquaintances who, quite simply, didn’t understand my point of view. Most of them still don’t.

Coincidentally, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup the year before, in 2010. Not only was I a “traitor,” I was a “bandwagoner.”

I couldn’t decide which one was worse. It’s just how things worked out.

People know me for my sports prowess, my dedication and passion as a fan. When questioned about my fanhood, that’s not something I take lightly. Someone once asked how I can be a Packers fan and a Blackhawks fan, suggesting I should be ashamed. That nearly drove me over the edge.

Let me be clear: the Packers will always be atop my team totem pole. I don’t have a tattoo of the logo on my chest for nothing.

My support for the Blackhawks in no way reflects how I feel about other Chicago teams, notably the Bears and Cubs.

I find great solace in the fact that the Bears only have one Super Bowl and nine World Championships, as opposed to the Packers’ four and 13, respectively. And no part of me wants to see the “Lovable Losers” at Wrigley Field win their first World Series in more than a century. Thank you, Steve Bartman.

The Bears are to the Packers what the Cubs are to the Brewers.

But what about the Blackhawks?

There’s no hockey rivalry for folks from Wisconsin to get upset about. It’s only a Chicago thing to them.

Yes, I understand the Blackhawks reside in the Windy City, but please save your breath if you plan on telling me how close it is to Milwaukee and everything we hold dear as Wisconsinites. I don’t need a geography lesson.

Chicago is just a city. The Blackhawks are so much more than that.

I fell in love with hockey and the Blackhawks to the point where I wanted to share it with someone, the same way my friend did with me.

I force-fed my old man with more hockey than he could handle until he reluctantly began watching Blackhawks games with me on a regular basis. He was even more dead-set against being a hockey fan than I was at first. But just a few years later, we’re splitting a subscription to NHL GameCenter so we have access to every game.

He sarcastically tells me how he was perfectly happy with the way things were before I introduced him to hockey. He didn’t need the additional stress that comes along with being a Blackhawks fan: the Game 7s, the mad scrambles with an empty net. Yet he thanks me for bringing it all into his life.

Being a Blackhawks fan in Wisconsin is unique – a fraternity of sorts. I’ve come across fellow Blackhawks fans a number of times, but conversations don’t usually take place. We smile, nod and continue on. We already know what it’s about: pride.

For 18 years, I wedged the door shut on something that has increasingly become a huge part of my life. I was close-minded and ignorant – oblivious to the possibilities that have since become a reality.

I’ve been to the Blackhawks Convention, several games, including Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, and even a Stanley Cup victory parade with two million strong; none of them cared about my ties to the Packers or Brewers.

Being a Blackhawks fan in Wisconsin isn’t as sacrilegious as it seems. Open your mind. Give it a chance. There’s no better time than the present.

I never used to have a hockey team. Now I do.

And it’s not a Chicago thing.

Introducing the Green Bay Packers’ 2015 Draft Class

5 May

Damarious Randall – Safety, Arizona State (30th overall)

Demarious Randall

Damarious Randall
Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com

Technically listed as a safety, Randall was a virtual unknown in Packerland for obvious reasons. The Packers didn’t need a safety. They needed a cornerback. So when the Packers selected Randall with their first-round pick in the draft, eyebrows were understandably raised throughout Wisconsin. But fear not. Randall has experience playing man-to-man coverage as a slot corner, his most likely landing spot given Casey Hayward’s impending transition to the outside.

Randall was highly regarded by many as the best cover man in the entire draft. With the NFL’s pass-happy reputation and an increasing number of teams running the spread offense, players who can cover come at a premium. Randall should be able to step in and compete right away. The Packers’ pick was in almost immediately after they were on the clock, further proving Ted Thompson got his man.

Quinten Rollins – Cornerback, Miami (OH) (62nd overall)

Quinten Rollins

Quinten Rollins
Photo Credit: gannett-cdn.com

Thompson further addressed the need at cornerback by selecting Rollins in round two. With a basketball background, Rollins played just one year of college football, but that’s all it took to make an impression on the Packers. In his lone season, Rollins had seven interceptions and earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. His ball-hawking tendencies appeal to the Packers, who often thrive when forcing turnovers.

Rollins’ ability is raw; his upside, tremendous. Competition is healthy for any position group, and the additions of Rollins and Randall will certainly add to it in the cornerbacks room. The Packers’ secondary appears to be in good shape after being a serious question mark following the losses of Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency.

Ty Montgomery – Wide Receiver, Stanford (94th overall)

Ty Montgomery

Ty Montgomery
Photo Credit: stanforddaily.com

It’s difficult not to be sold on a player who has been referred to as a bigger version of Randall Cobb. At 6’0″, 221 pounds, Montgomery is built for strength. But he also has quickness, making him yet another versatile option for the Packers. You can never have too many weapons for Aaron Rodgers.

Montgomery also could become a threat in the backfield – as we’ve seen sparingly from Cobb the past few seasons – and provide a much-needed spark to special teams as a dynamic return man. That would allow Cobb to avoid further injury risk and focus primarily on his duties as a slot receiver. The Packers likely invested a third-round pick in Montgomery to be more than a special teams contributor. In time, he could be a primary fixture in the Packers’ passing attack.

Jake Ryan – Linebacker, Michigan (129th overall)

Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan
Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com

Ryan will inevitably be one of the most popular selections among Packers fans for the sole reason he addresses an immediate need. He also provided solid value in the fourth round. After tearing his ACL during his junior season in 2013, Ryan recovered in just six month’s time and moved from outside to inside linebacker. Ryan’s instincts have been praised, and he tested well at the combine with a sneaky 4.61 40. He has a nose for the football and a nonstop engine, similar to Clay Matthews.

Ryan is decent in coverage but will have to improve that part of his game to become the complete three-down linebacker the Packers need. Expectations must be tempered and lofty comparisons held in check, but Ryan has the potential to become a day-one starter at inside linebacker for the Packers’ defense.

Brett Hundley – Quarterback, UCLA (147th overall)

Brett Hundley

Brett Hundley
Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has often expressed his desire to get his hands on a developmental quarterback. Enter Hundley. Projected by many to be drafted in the second round, Hundley was scooped up in the fifth round after the Packers traded their original draft pick, plus a seventh-rounder to the New England Patriots – a small price to pay for a talented prospect with as much upside as Hundley possesses.

It’s unlikely that Hundley was brought in to become Rodgers’ future replacement, as Rodgers is just 31 years old and coming off his second MVP season. Nevertheless, the Packers’ have had issues at backup quarterback in recent years, and Rodgers hasn’t exactly been injury-free. Scott Tolzien is currently entrenched in the role as Rodgers’ backup, but given a season under McCarthy’s tutelage, Hundley could overtake Tolzien by season’s end.

Aaron Ripkowski – Fullback, Oklahoma (206th overall)

Aaron Ripkowski

Aaron Ripkowski
Photo Credit: crimsonandcreammachine.com

Ripkowski appears to be the second coming of fan-favorite John Kuhn, who is in the twilight of his career. Effective as a blocker, ball-carrier and receiver out of the backfield, Ripkowski has all the tools to contribute in the Packers’ explosive offense. He also offers an immediate impact on special teams, a primary point of emphasis during the offseason. Chants of “KUUUUUHN” won’t last forever, but Ripkowski can seamlessly fill the void when Kuhn decides to hang up the cleats.

Christian Ringo – Defensive End, Louisiana-Lafayette (210th overall)

Christian Ringo

Christian Ringo
Photo Credit: gannett-cdn.com

Labeled as a long snapper during ESPN’s draft coverage – much to my amusement – Ringo must have had more to offer to the Packers. As a matter of fact, he does. A disruptive pass-rusher in college, with 11.5 sacks last season, Ringo already has drawn comparisons to teammate Mike Daniels, one of the anchors along the Packers’ defensive line. Ringo is effective against the run as well, recording 20.5 tackles for loss in 2014. He’s a sleeper.

Kennard Backman – Tight End, Alabama-Birmingham (213th overall)

Kennard Backman

Kennard Backman
Photo Credit: provationsgroup.org

The UAB football program closed down at the end of last season, but Backman had the urge to continue his career in the NFL. The Packers took a chance on him with their final pick of the draft. With 39 receptions for 399 yards and three touchdowns in his final collegiate season, Backman didn’t have eye-popping numbers. But at 6’3″, 243 pounds, he does have the versatility and athleticism the Packers covet in their tight ends.

The Packers haven’t featured a tight end who can stretch the middle of the field since Jermichael Finley, and current options Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless don’t necessarily scare opposing defenses. Rodgers has shown flashes with his great hands, but he isn’t a threat after the catch. And Quarless’ contract is up at the end of next season, meaning if Backman impresses, he might have a shot at a starting job in 2016. Expect nothing more than special teams duty for now, if he makes the team.

Which of the Packers’ draft picks are you most excited about?