As a lifelong member of the sedentary society, I always presumed that as a hockey player ages, his legs go first.
Not so, alerts Denis Savard.
"I think it's the hands," says the Blackhawks' Hall of Fame ambassador. "The hands leave you before the legs. You're not as confident in the hands, because they aren't going as fast as your feet, and you wind up wondering where did the puck go? I've seen you play golf. Try to imagine walking 18 holes, then having to make a delicate… you know what? Never mind."
Applying that methodology, it is conceivable that Savard, 58, could embark on his nonpareil spin-o-rama maneuver as he hones in on the goal, only to discover that the puck, having a mind of its own, has abandoned him.
Hard to imagine, but we'll be watching when Savard and several other former Blackhawks participate in the inaugural Legends Cup at MB Ice Arena March 22-24. They will play four games with civilians, after which all participants likely shall be very sore, very tired and very glad about the experience.
"For 15 years, I went to Wayne Gretzky's fantasy camp in Las Vegas, and everybody had a blast," says Savard. "I know a bunch of guys from Chicago who went out there every year, and when they heard about this Legends Cup, they signed right up. A few of them are in their 60s. Wait a minute. I'm almost there myself."
A few vacancies remain for the $5,000 fee, a reasonable sum considering all the trimmings. A minimum of two Blackhawk Alumni will be assigned to each team, and amateurs are going to be treated royally.
They will receive authentic gear, including home and away jerseys, private locker rooms, transportation to and from four nights of lodging at the The Westin Michigan Avenue Hotel, where they will be served food, beverages, and more food. After pictures, interviews and the trophy presentation, the Legends Cup entourage shall ice down in a private suite at the United Center while the real Blackhawks engage the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night the 24th, the second of a back-to-back that figures to be huge for both sides.
Besides Savard, former Blackhawks will include the Hall of Fame ambassador for whom he was traded, Chris Chelios. You rarely encounter a corpulent hockey player, even after he retires. Like Savard, Chelios is still in excellent shape. He didn't quit until he was 48, after almost 2,000 games. But the itch to compete remains. Besides, what's another four?
In uniform, Chelios was industrial strength abrasive. But off ice, he is a hoot. Chelios pals around with Hollywood stars and Michael Jordan, yet is perfectly comfortable having a pregame meal at the United Center mess hall with us typists. It might be worth $5,000 just to hear Chelios tell stories, and that is the bonus of endeavors such as the Legends Cup. The former players are fun to be around and they love to hang out.
"I can't tell you how many new friends I've made at these camps," says Savard. "And how many laughs I've had."
Eddie Olczyk, the popular broadcaster, will be on board as will Brian Campbell, now a member of the Blackhawks' front office. Jamal Mayers, the best-dressed man in hockey, will be there, and so will Cliff Koroll, president of the Blackhawk Alumni, the sport's most admired organization of its kind.
Reg Kerr, Grant Mulvey, Phil Russell, Eric Daze, Dave Mackey, Ben Eager, Brian Noonan, Cam Barker, Jake Dowell are confirmed, as is Scott Foster, the local accountant who answered the emergency call and still boasts a goals-against average in the National Hockey League of 0.00. He'll appreciate a Legends Cup rule: no alumni will be allowed to score until his team is down by two goals.
All proceeds from the Legends Cup will benefit the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation, to be directed to Chicago area children in need of hockey fees and equipment.
The four teams will be named after Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Savard, who possessed quite an arsenal during his career but admits he rarely dusts off his skates.
"I'll be like everybody else when it's over," says Savard. "I'll feel it. I'm going to play but I'm also going to coach. Player-coach. That way, if I get fired as coach, I can still play. And I can't be traded. Deadline was in February. And for my guys, no curfew."