Musick: Despite ugly loss, Hawks can take flight in series
CHICAGO – As any traveler from around these parts is aware, it’s a long way to Los Angeles.
Try 1,750 miles.
Try a 4-½ hour flight into a stubborn headwind.
Try cramming your luggage into the overhead bin and cramming your body into the seat.
Sounds great, right?
Well, if you’re the Blackhawks, it couldn’t sound better. Because after a stunning collapse that led to a 6-2 loss Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 of the Western Conference final, they want to get away and regroup like you wouldn’t believe.
“It’s a good opportunity to respond after a tough loss here,” Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said in a quiet, mostly empty locker room a few minutes after the final horn had sounded. “Look forward to getting on the plane and playing Game 3.”
Sharp always has been regarded as a straight shooter with the media. In his postgame comments, he spoke without a hint of sarcasm or annoyance.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder silently whether the Hawks’ 11-year veteran was crazy. What kind of person would look forward to a 4-½ hour flight?
It turned out that Sharp had company.
Hawks teammate Kris Versteeg nodded in agreement when he heard Sharp’s comment relayed to him. Versteeg said he also looked forward to the long flight, and he believed that the same was true for the rest of his teammates.
“I think so,” Versteeg said. “It’s going to be good to get around the guys again. Always, getting on the road and finding a way to rally is a good time and a fun time. So, hopefully it brings us closer and brings a couple wins.”
Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure.
Other people who have been around the game for their entire lives would have a better idea. I spotted Hawks radio analyst Troy Murray exiting the bathroom and getting ready to head home.
Naturally, I stopped Murray to ask about plane rides. Naturally, he was too polite to say no.
Sharp’s comment made sense, Murray said. The Hawks are scheduled to take off Thursday.
“When you get on the road, and the way that the Blackhawks do it, it’s all about hockey,” said Murray, who played parts of 12 seasons with the Hawks. “I know that there’s family and friends in town and distractions, so when you get on that flight, you just kind of focus on what you need to do and have that opportunity to think about what you need to do better.”
Besides, the Hawks would enjoy a charter flight to Los Angeles. It was almost like a corporate retreat at 36,000 feet, which surely was something that Murray could appreciate.
Murray explained that he and his teammates flew commercial flights during his career, which started in 1981 and lasted until 1996. In addition to playing for the Hawks, Murray spent time with Winnipeg, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Colorado.
Winnipeg and Ottawa were the toughest in terms of plane travel, Murray said, because of the scarcity of direct flights to other NHL cities.
“We had to fly from Winnipeg to Minneapolis on a 7 o’clock flight in the morning just to get a transfer flight to go to whatever city we were playing,” Murray said, grinning at the memory. “Or, if we were going out east, we’d fly from Winnipeg on an early flight to Toronto, and then get a connecting flight from there.
“We had to do the same thing coming home. We couldn’t get into Winnipeg, so we had to go to Minneapolis and wait a few hours, and then catch the next commercial flight.”
All things considered, then, the Hawks don’t have it so bad.
They’ve handled tough losses before. They can handle a long flight and a pressure-filled Game 3 on Saturday against a very good Kings team.
“They’re going to be even better in their own building,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We have to expect that. We have to reflect on what just happened and be ready to raise our own level of play.”
• Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.