CHICAGO – Before the puck drops Wednesday night on the Stanley Cup Finals, one more showcase event will take place at the United Center.
No, it’s not a Rolling Stones concert.
It’s the circus. As in, the annual NHL media day circus on the eve of the series.
“I have no clue what to expect,” Blackhawks forward Brandon Bollig said as he prepared for a long day of practice followed by media obligations. “But the way you’re talking, it should be pretty entertaining. Now, I’m kind of excited.”
Note to self: Pray that the event lives up to Bollig’s heightened expectations. Otherwise, make sure to maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between you and his fists.
To be truthful, the NHL’s media day is not in the same galaxy of strangeness as the annual Super Bowl media day. Nobody wears costumes (at least, let’s hope not), and the media horde is a fraction as big as that which globs on to the NFL.
But by the Hawks’ everyday standards, it still is a pretty big deal.
A typical regular-season practice or pregame skate might feature six or seven reporters and a few TV cameras. As the Hawks entered the postseason and captured more of the city’s attention, media crowds increased into the multiple dozens.
Guess how many media members will be covering the Stanley Cup Finals between the Hawks and Boston Bruins?
Hawks forward Michael Frolik accommodated a slice of that crowd as he spoke in front of his locker Monday after practice. Frolik spoke about his excitement about playing in the Stanley Cup Finals after two-plus seasons with the Florida Panthers and two-plus seasons with the Hawks.
“When you are little, you dream about it,” Frolik said. “Now, here we are.”
To clarify, you dream about playing hockey. You don’t dream about sitting at a table at media day while reporters come and go, asking the same question 10 or 20 times in two or three languages about what makes the Hawks’ penalty kill so good.
Frolik chuckled at the circus that awaited him and his teammates. Outside the Hawks’ locker room, a maze of cables and wires covered the tile floor as national TV crews prepared for a couple of big nights ahead.
“It’s unbelievable,” Frolik said. “It’s so many people. It’s crazy.
“I know [on Tuesday], we’ve got like two hours or something to be here for the media. I’ve never had that. It’s an exciting time. You want to enjoy it.”
At the same time, the Hawks have a job to do.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said he trusted his players to stay focused on hockey when they weren’t conducting interview after interview. After having been through this before, Quenneville said, a positive attitude was key to dealing with the hubbub.
“There can be some distractions, but it is a fun process,” Quenneville said. “You want to make sure you enjoy the process and get ready at the right times.”
The table is set. The spotlight is ready. Many nations of hockey fans will be watching.
The Hawks plan to smile and say hello.
“I mean, there’s two teams left,” Hawks rookie Brandon Saad said. “But four [teams], two [teams], eight [teams], everyone’s always watching the playoffs. It’s a little bit of a bigger stage, but we’re just going to be excited about it and embrace it.”
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.