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THE VERDICT: The Kiss Cam Couple, Earl and RoseLee Deutsch

On Sunday, the Blackhawks paid tribute to the late Earl Deutsch, who along with his wife RoseLee, was a staple on the United Center scoreboard Kiss Cam

by Bob Verdi /

When play stopped late in Sunday night's first period, affording the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues a breather, another sellout crowd turned to the giant screen. Time for Kiss Cam, a popular visual at the United Center.

No couple ever made the presentation click better than Earl and RoseLee Deutsch, soulmates who were instant audience favorites since debuting years ago. They would see themselves on the scoreboard, Earl would raise his right arm as if to say "watch this," then turn to his left and give his bride a big smooch.  

They were always the last twosome shown, because they were the most fun and were so good at sharing it. They never asked to be famous. They came to hockey games to see, not be seen. They were so genuine.

That's why Sunday night's edition of Kiss Cam was indeed bittersweet. Before the best of Earl and RoseLee was displayed, Gene Honda, the big voice at the UC, informed 21,815 that Earl had passed away recently. He was 93.

A group groan ensued, but not for long. When the clips of the Deutsches began, all the sorrow swiveled to joy. Upon conclusion of the montage, there she was, RoseLee, in her same seat, without her life's partner, but with plenty of company.

Wearing a No. 50 sweater presented by the organization to Earl and RoseLee on their golden anniversary, she got a standing O. The Blackhawks surely know how to make their fans feel special.

"So sweet of them to do this," said RoseLee, a sprightly 92. "I miss Earl. But the Blackhawks didn't owe us anything. We had great memories of them."

Video: Deutsch family honored on kiss cam

Earl, a WWII veteran, and RoseLee were married for 70 years, the last 60 as season ticketholders. At the old Stadium, their first seats were in the mezzanine level, around the bend from the giant organ. At the United Center, four seats in Section 101, a few rows behind the Blackhawks' bench.

"We went to games even before we bought season tickets," RoseLee recalled. "When we decided to get them, some of our friends thought we were crazy. It was a financial commitment, of course, but one we could handle.

"We loved the old Stadium. Nobody knew if they would like the new building, but the United Center is really nice and comfortable. We always liked the social aspect of hockey, getting to know people who sat around us. Even the ushers. There's more camaraderie in hockey than other sports. With fans and players too. Look how players celebrate together after they score a goal.

"We saw a lot of great hockey. Three Stanley Cups. We also went when crowds weren't so good. Or the team. Friends asked why we kept paying for tickets. But it's a beautiful game. We loved it. Even when the Blackhawks don't win, it's still a wonderful sport. If they're not winning, it's still our team. And the way they're playing, I think they'll make the playoffs."

Besides raising four boys - Larry, Howard, Steve, Barry - and working with Earl, RoseLee dabbled in painting. She describes herself as a "strict amateur," but that's open to debate.

After watching the Blackhawks' traumatic defeat to the Montreal Canadiens in the 1971 Final, she saw a photograph in the newspaper of Keith Magnuson, his head buried in his hands.

"Keith was devastated," she said. "Henri Richard went around him for the winning goal in Game 7 at the Stadium. I clipped the picture out of the paper and painted it. Took me about two weeks."

RoseLee's original was hung in the Deutsch's downtown luggage store, one of four in the family business begun by Earl's dad. Several customers offered to buy the painting, but were told it wasn't for sale. Eventually, RoseLee and Earl made prints and gave them to friends. Magnuson got wind of it, and was gifted with the original. He posted it in his house and a photograph of the painting was included in "None Against," Maggie's autobiography.

"We actually met Keith at the Stadium," RoseLee said.

"Such a gentleman. He was my favorite player and Earl's too. I liked the way he played, with so much effort. Plus, he was cute. He was just cute."

After Magnuson perished in an auto accident, Earl and RoseLee lined up with hundreds, around the block of a Lake Forest funeral home, in freezing weather. Stan Mikita picked them out of the masses and brought them in from the cold. The Blackhawks knew of the Deutsch's loyalty way back when. Larry remembers Mom and Dad bringing home a program from a Stadium game.

"It cost 25 cents," he said.

Since the United Center opened, it has fashioned three different scoreboards. The current iteration is spectacular, bigger than the previous two, thus all the better for Kiss Cam.

Sergio Lozano, the nonpareil senior director of scoreboard operations, "discovered" Earl and RoseLee during the 2014 Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.

"We have a crew that goes around the building with a mobile camera," said Lozano. "Plus, a permanent camera on the 200 Level. The KissCam fans we show are never told in advance, although if the mobile camera is nearby, they might get the idea.

"Anyway, the permanent camera is across from where the Deutsches sat. We put them up the first time during that series, and it got a huge reaction. Same thing ever since. Every time we showed them, it was like the first time. That part of why crowds enjoyed it so much. I don't think it's because they were elderly. They were always spontaneous, they were adorable."

RoseLee intently watches Blackhawk road telecasts. With Earl gone, RoseLee doubtless will hear again that it might be time to surrender those precious season tickets. Her reply, again, will be not a chance.

"We spread them out with family, our kids and friends," said Larry. "My parents met so many wonderful people at games. They never considered themselves celebrities, even though they were always being recognized. It was just a genuine love story. A love story brought to life by a jumbotron."

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