Now that we’re in what should have been opening week, we can’t try and find other things to fill what we crave. We have to face up to the fact that only hockey will do, and we can’t force-feed ourselves something as a substitute. Maybe some of you will only accept NHL-level. That’s understandable. I’m pretty much in that camp too. But some of you need live hockey. And luckily, in Chicago you’re relatively close (debatable) to the next best thing next to the NHL, the AHL. Today, we’ll look at the closer of the two options. The Chicago Wolves, aka mini-Canucks.
Venue: The structure formerly known as the Rosemont Horizon. Also formerly known as that weird building just past O’Hare with the now-concealed flying buttresses (that’s all I remember from any architecture study I was involved in, and I think it’s easy to see why).
The Horizon used to be one of the world’s bigger dumps as far as stadia go. Also, due to the measures taken to cancel out the airplane noise, the many concerts they used to have there have tended to sound like utter garbage (in my lifetime I’ve seen STP there, who were beyond awesome, and Metallica, who were utterly awful on the Load Tour. There have been others, NIN, Tool, and Rush come to mind. And for reasons I shan’t discuss, other shows I can’t remember)
However, it’s been reworked a bit and isn’t as bad as it used to be. It won’t remind you of a bus depot that it once did. The sightlines have been improved, and from what I hear from most people it’s turned into a decent place to see a game from the below-average one it was when the Wolves first started (which strangely, was during another NHL work-stoppage).
Getting there can be tricky. You can take the blue line out there if you don’t want to drive and catch a shuttle from there to the arena. But chances are if you live along the blue line you’re in Logan Square or nearby and that’s a bit of a ride. Driving there is the preferred option from what I can tell, but as we all know the Kennedy can be an adventure at any time.The problem is you’ll be negotiating traffic to go see a bunch of mini-Canucks.
Tickets: Well this is the obvious appeal, they’re dirt-cheap compared to what we’re used to. Everything in the upper deck is $20 or below, and it doesn’t get much worse on the lower level if that’s your thing. So even if you’re a poor fuck like me, you can probably scrounge it together to get to a game. The only problem is that you’ll be watching mini-Canucks.
Recognizable Players: This might shock you, but the Canucks weren’t loaded with young, star players. Part of the reason Ryan Kesler is falling apart at the seams. This isn’t Charlotte or OKC or Houston that is going to be utterly loaded from the top team’s young talent. The only NHL-level players you’ll recognize are Zack Kassian — who surprisingly didn’t reinvent the sport after coming over from Buffalo where he could barely crack a non-playoff roster as the Canadian media had predicted — and actually promising blue-liner Chris Tanev. Former apple of McClure’s eye and Hawks’ farmhand Bill Sweatt is also here. Their leading scorers from last year, Mark Mancari and Darren Haydar, are back. That and 2.25 will get you on the train back home. So there’s a roster full of mini-Canucks, but none of them will matter if they ever become actual Canucks.
Any Good?: I guess. They won a pretty terrible division last year and then were bounced pretty quickly from the Calder Cup playoffs. The Nucks don’t use this, at the moment, as a place to develop some burgeoning talent to eventually make a splash in the Show. It’s a resting place for a bunch of grunts who can be called up to fill in in B.C. But because of that, they’re probably one of the smarter teams and less prone to youthful mistakes that would cost others. But with Charlotte, Rockford, and to some extent Peoria getting a boost from their organizations’ younger prospects, they might sink a little. And clearly they’re assholes, considering the organization they’re in.
Wolves Fans: This is all a guess, but it’s mostly the Suburban crowd that can get a little proud of themselves for eschewing the Hawks back in the day and adopting the Wolves because they were cheaper and actually cared about their fans. The games are probably like Fire games in the middle of summer on the weekends, lots of kids and families aside from certain pockets of real fans. Oh, and they hate Rockford, partly due to that contempt for the Hawks. But hey, they’re watching a bunch of mini-Canucks so you’d get uppity too.
Insurance Grade: B-
It’s good quality hockey that’s close enough and cheap. These things can’t be ignored. But they’re all dying to wear the blue and green. Could you really stomach it more than a couple times?