Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blackhawks a blast, Bulls a bust

The Bald Truth

I had forgotten how much fun it is to watch a well-played hockey game in person. Tuesday's Blackhawks-Ducks game provided a wonderful reminder.

This was the first athletic event I had attended as a ticket-holding spectator in a long, long time - and the first I had attended at all since I became a former newspaper hack. It would have been hard to come up with a better experience.

Between the energy of the crowd, the spirited play of both teams and the perfect seat I was lucky enough to occupy - thanks to the generosity of a friend, my son Ben and I were in the sixth row behind the net - it was impossible to have anything less than a great time.

The game was magnificent sports theater, with the Hawks dominating the first period to go up 2-0, the Ducks controlling the second to tie it and the teams playing even throughout a fast-paced but scoreless third. When Martin Havlat scored a spectacular unassisted goal early in OT to give the home team the victory, there wasn't a fan in the house disappointed that there had been nary a fight all night.

That's right: not one fight. Plus, the teams skated up and down the ice with few stoppages for penalties or even for faceoffs. It reminded me of one of the many Olympic medal-round games I covered way back when - and I consider that to be "pure" hockey, the best of the best.

I was skeptical of Blackhawks management when they canned coach Dennis Savard just four games into the season. But his replacement, Joel Quenneville, has done a fine job with a young, exciting, hard-working group assembled by GM Dale Tallon

Deficits in size and depth probably will keep these Hawks from reaching this year's Stanley Cup finals. Still, for the first time in a long time, the organization has hope for a bright future.

The fun is back at the United Center.


The fun is back on the United Center ice, anyway.

Unlike the Blackhawks, the Bulls are a slothful, soulless bunch of slugs. 

Every time they beat a decent team, they turn around and lose to one of the NBA's dregs - such as the Charlotte squad that drubbed the Bulls on Tuesday. 

They were so bad against the Bobcats that Vinny Del Excuse didn't even try to make any excuses. "I didn't like our effort," the coach-by-default said.

The Bulls are honoring the late, great Norm Van Lier and Johnny "Red" Kerr by putting a patch on each player's uniform, but that's not the tribute either man would choose. 

If the players really want to honor Stormin' Norman, they will embody his tenacity, dedication, aggressiveness and toughness every second of every game. And if they really want to honor Red, they will display the kind of "I love the Bulls" passion he always did.

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