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Hawk Talk: No Place Like... The Road?

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

As of this writing, the Blackhawks home and road records are nearly identical, just a couple or three games under .500. This is the good news/bad news scenario. In the NHL, NBA or any professional league, if you can play near .500 on the road, you have a good chance at a winning season, most likely a playoff season.

That's the good news. Of course, for the Hawks, the bad news IS their home record. They have the second worst winning percentage (not counting OT losses) at home. Only the hapless Flyers are worse in their own city. I know this team can play good hockey, more times than not (almost) they've done it on the road in some of the most hostile environments in the league. Collectively, their worst games have been in Chicago.

I stated on the radio a while ago that I thought one reason the Hawks lack the home ice advantage is not having the building energized like it was in the old days. Players in all sports talk about the need to feed off that energy from the crowd. After watching the Hawks on their latest road trip, where they played inspired hockey, I'm more convinced than ever of it.

We know hockey in Canada is king, and when the Hawks were up there I believe those crowds even energized the road weary Hawks. I also believe the media can play a big part in the equation as well.

When Rex Grossman failed, his face was splashed across every newspaper in town. No player likes to be embarrassed, and if he didn't have enough motivation to be better, then the media and public criticism certainly can be a motivator in and of itself.

I've been around several head coaches with the Blackhawks and each of them, including Savvy, ironically, would not have minded a little calling out by the media every once in a while. Think about it. The coach is yapping at you over and over about lazy play and you say you get it but you go home to your family and nice paycheck and live a nice life.

What if your face was on the back page with a headline that said "OVERPAID!", or you went to the grocery store and were heckled, or you turn on the radio and are getting hammered for being a lazy S.O.B.?

You can't tell me that wouldn't have an effect; most likely a motivating one. It's called accountability. Right now Hawk players are accountable to their head coach and their teammates, and while they might say that's enough, it's not. If there's a player not towing the line, he needs to hear about it from everyone.

So what am I getting at? I'm not going to let the players off the hook. Just because hockey isn't at the forefront of the masses (especially during the Bears run) or the media doesn't mean they have an excuse to relax at home. Now when I say relax, I don't mean giving 50%, I mean giving 95 instead of 100. There's a fine line between winning and losing, and without the intangibles pushing the Hawks at home, they need to up the intensity on their own.

That's the key. Understanding that this team, right now, needs to create the energy and intensity it lacks from the crowd and the media and the overall atmosphere in Chicago. It will take special players and a special coach to recognize that and overcome it on a night to night basis. I don't think it's just about talent.

We all know what the old barn was like when the Hawks were rolling. We need to get back to that. Winning will bring that atmosphere back. And it will bring back media scrutiny as well. While the Bears probably don't want it or need it, the Blackhawks do. Of course, that atmosphere will accelerate winning, so we're left with a little bit of the chicken and the egg theory.

Until that atmosphere returns, each and every player that dons the Hawks sweater must tell himself he needs to bring it, and I mean BRING it, every night, and slowly the tide will turn. They will be part of a great turnaround and maybe that Stanley Cup drought will finally end.

Either do all that or see if Havlat has a brother or two. That guy can play!

Email Blackhawks pre- and post-game radio host Jesse Rogers at: jrogers@chicagoblackhawks.com

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