Tangential Reality: On the ‘Hawks, ‘Chrissy’, and Witnessing a Trade

By Keith Filling

In my last entry, I recommended to the Blackhawks that they avoid the penalty box to make things easier on themselves. They didn’t heed my advice.

They did me one better – they came out in game 5 like gang busters and kept the Flyers on their heels for most of the first period while shoving 3 goals down the Flyers’ collective throat. Chicago coach Quenneville split up his top line from the first 4 games of the series (Kane, Toews and Byfuglien) and gave them each a line of their own, and the ‘Hawks responded by playing the best period of hockey by either team in this Final.

I’ve got no advice for them heading into game 6; they’re on their own. They don’t listen to me anyway.


By now we’ve all seen (or at least heard about) the Chris Pronger poster in the June 8th print edition of the Chicago Tribune. It has been deemed sexist and childish, and the Trib has been accused by many of resorting to tabloid journalism. A lot of the criticisms have come from Flyers fans, though it is in no way limited to them.

One person who took offense is Team USA women’s hockey player Angela Ruggiero. From an Associated Press article:

“I’d like to see that editor out on skates. I’ll take them one on one on the ice any day,” three time Olympic medalist Angela Ruggiero told The Associated Press. “They obviously have never seen women’s hockey and are living in the dark ages.”

Ruggiero found out about the poster via Twitter and expressed disappointment and anger that such demeaning portrayals of women and hockey are still being made.

“For her and others who took offense, I apologize. No qualifiers, I’m sorry,” Chicago Tribune sports editor Mike Kellams said in an e mail. “We were just having a little fun with a guy who has come to personify all that has gotten under the collective skin of Blackhawks fans. Pronger is talented that way. And we were trying to connect to that emotion in a fun way.”

I gotta tell you that when I first saw it, I lol’d. Literally. Pronger does get into people’s heads and under their skin (and any other place he sees an opening), and I’m with Mr Kellams in that I would have run with that poster too, if it were my choice whether to include it in a paper. I guess that makes me sexist, too, to some. All I have to say that is, “Oink.”


Hockey players are the most down-to-earth professional athletes around, and I’ve had my share of encounters with them. I once shot a game of barroom pool with Brian Propp, and I shared a few rounds of drinks with another ex-Flyer, Derrick Smith, on another occasion. Happens to everybody, right? But I had never been in the vicinity of a player that was just traded – and I mean, “just” traded. Here’s what happened (some of you will be familiar with this one, as this is not the first time I’ve told the story) –

The scene is Toronto in December 1998 it is the final season of Maple Leaf Gardens as the home arena for the Leafs. My girlfriend at the time was a member of the Flyers Fan Club, which made the trip to see the Flyers’ final game on the sacred ice, and we joined them. It turns out that we stayed at the same hotel as the team…

The trip included passes to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and we made our way there the day of the game. Upon our return, we saw the television broadcast team of Jim Jackson, Gary Dornhoefer and Steve Coates loitering in the lobby. Coatesy lives in my general area of South Jersey (and I run into him occasionally at local watering holes), so I said hello when our eyes met. His eyes lit up and he asked, in his inimitable way, “Hey! Did you hear about the trade??” We had been out all day, so I said, “No, what happened?” Coatesy says, “Chris Gratton and (Mike) Sillinger to Tampa Bay…we got (Michael) Renberg back and Daymond Langkow.. It just happened.”

I had never gotten word of a trade anywhere but from a newspaper or the internet before this, so this was a scoop. I told Coatesy we had to go upstairs and dump our HHOF goodies in the room, but I would come back down and talk to him some more, and off we went to the elevators. As the elevator door opens, out storms Sillinger, bags in hand and obviously very unhappy. He nearly bowled us over and was grumbling loudly but incoherently. I turned and wished him good luck, but I don’t think he was paying me much attention. He had a plane to catch… : )

Okay, now let’s hear yours. Tell me a story…

** Tangent Man — Keith Filling… a fantasy and NHL hockey junkie who has a lot to say about the reality of life experiences, Scotch, hockey, music and the bane of being addicted to a fantasy game. Read more of his work over at his “Off on a Tangent” blog. You can also follow him on Twitter here.

7 thoughts on “Tangential Reality: On the ‘Hawks, ‘Chrissy’, and Witnessing a Trade

  1. That is Awesome, Keith. The only relation to hockey my story has is that it took place in Canada (I know, it’s a stretch.)

    I was on a long weekend in Niagara Falls and was taking in the casino and the buffet for lunch when my cell phone rang. I am the Network Administrator and only member of the IT department at my firm, so I am pretty much 24/7 on call. I take the call and our email keeps going down. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have remote access to all of my computers so I can fix a problem from anywhere – as long as I am in front of a computer.

    I panic and start to ask casino staff if they have an internet cafe or something on site – money is no object at this point. They escort me to the basement where they let me jump on to a computer so that I can fix the problem.

    I am elbows deep in to my work and don’t notice the commotion until someone sits down right beside me. I half glance over as anyone would normally do when someone sits down next to you and I notice that sitting next to me is none other than Alice Cooper!

    I fought the urge to give him a “we’re not worthy’ ala Wayne and Garth (Party on.) Instead, I quipped “So, did your Exchange Server dismount it’s mail store too?” Although it probably sounded more like I just got a Novocaine shot “Just gotta download an email” he said as he awkwardly moved about the computer.

    He got up and left after that and about 3 minutes later, my girlfriend walks in, of course she has the camera. Turns out that he was playing shows at the casino that weekend, I should’ve tried to score some tickets, but I was still blown away that I was just randomly sitting next to Alice Freakin’ Cooper…

  2. i was ice skating around at north park rink when i was about 13. i was a rink rat and went there friday night and all day and night on sat so i became friends with the guards. we were skating around just hanging out and sure enough ron francis was skating around with his little girl around his shoulders. my buddy said that even though he was ronny franchise my buddy still had to tell him to take his little girl off his shoulders. i got to go with him to let Ron know he had to take his girl off his shoulders. So we got to talk to Francis and actually ice skated around the rink for three laps with ole Mr Franchise! it was awesome

  3. Something like 5 years ago while working at TGIFridays we had a (pretty bad) deck hockey team. It’s not uncommon for Pens players and coaches to come into the restaurant after a practice or early game or whatever. One day Joey Mullen was there eating with his family and one of my coworkers had the balls to try almost relentlessly to convince Joe to come play for the Friday’s deck hockey team that weekend. He didn’t give up until Joe gave him a “maybe”. I wish I could end this story by saying Joey showed up and won the game for us with a bomb from the high slot but alas, he didn’t come. I still love telling the story though.

    On a slightly related note… All of the Pens players and coaches who came into the restaurant were nothing but great with everyone they came in contact with. Big Ben’s visits typically ended with a child crying on their birthday.

  4. Metz do I put my last night of my trip to the Burgh up or do I put it up as a blog on here like Tangents?

    These are great stories guys, hockey players are great.

  5. You can do it either way Walshy…whatever you want to do! That was an amazing night though… I was so excited for you!

  6. I was at a Dave Matthews concert at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. I was dead center, 7th row. At one point, I turn around and Dany Heatley is right behind me. Now, I’m a Senators fan and he had just demanded a trade from the team and subsequently veto’d a trade to Edmonton. My inclination was to turn around and punch him in the face, but I took a minute to evaluate my options. In the end, I decided he’s just a guy trying to enjoy his favorite band (yes, I know Dany Heatley’s favorite band), so I turn around and say “Dany Heatley?” He says “yes” and extends his hand to shake mine. I go back to enjoying the show. It’s clear that he has a lot of friends with him as there are about 20 people in Badger red behind me. I start talking to a few of them and everyone’s having a great time. By the end of the concert, Heatley was slapping me on the back and we’re fist bumping. If he only knew…….

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