CHICAGO | The fame of being a Blackhawk cuts in opposite directions for two veterans of the 2010 Stanley Cup now trying to drink from its glory a second time.
“It’s funny,” said glamorous Patrick Kane, who doubles as star of TV commercials with running mate Jonathan Toews, but also with some frat-boy off-the-ice episodes in his rear-view mirror.
“Whether it’s just walking down the street trying to go to a movie or go to dinner, something like that, there’s always a few people that recognize you. You kind of learn to wear the hat down low by your eyes and just keep your head down and keep walking.”
In contrast, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, with his “everyman” face, can keep his head held high and walk around the city unimpeded.
“I don’t get recognized that much around town,” said the five-year Hawk. “There’s so many high-profile guys on our team. That’s a good thing, I can walk around town and no one recognizes me. It’s a good thing, too. I’m a pretty shy guy and I don’t mind that.”
No Hawk is really complaining about the price of fame, though. The Hawks, last in popularity among Chicago sports teams in the mid-2000s, have become the rage of the city with TV ratings blowing out baseball head to head.
“There’s great fans in Chicago,” Kane said. “You’d rather have them recognize you than not recognize you. Just to show how great of a hockey city it is. That’s how excited they are about the times the Blackhawks are going through right now.”
Forward Patrick Sharp and top defenseman Duncan Keith, senior in service among all Hawks, know success and a revived hockey organization and marketing department have meant everything for players’ recognition.
“It’s kind of been a whirlwind really since 2010,” Sharp said. “The Hawks do such a good job of promoting the players on the team. It’s fun to be recognized. That’s the perk of being part of a great organization.”
Said Keith: “I think playoffs might have something to do with it. People in Chicago get excited come playoff time when we’re playing. I have a great life here in Chicago. Great people here in Chicago, very respectful. I enjoy talking to people around my neighborhood.”
Center Dave Bolland has spent much of summers in town, successively earning more recognition.
“I think it’s a little different from the first time I got to Chicago,” he said. “Chicago people always have been great to me.”
Playoff facial hair also strikes a chord among fans.
“I don’t know if it’s the beard,” said forward Viktor Stalberg. “People do seem to come up to you more, congratulate and talk to you and things like that.
“It’s fun. It is a sports town, for sure. People like to get involved in what we do. It’s a great feeling.”