October 17 2011 11:07AM
Ted Gruber is passionate about Chicago Wolves championships.
(Photo courtesy Ted Gruber)
Last Thursday Ted Gruber took a few minutes to answer some questions about the Chicago Wolves via the miracle of Skype. What follows is Ted's view of the Chicago Wolves.
Patrick Johnston: Ok Ted, give us a sense of who you write for; what's Chicago Now?
Ted Gruber: Chicago Now is owned by the Chicago Tribune. The Chicago Tribune is one of the three biggest papers, the others being the Chicago Sun-Times and you could throw the Daily Herald in there. Chicago now is basically anything about Chicago. There’s a bunch of bloggers on there; people from Chicago apply to do a blog on there, and I blog on there, covering UFC and MMA, but I also started in January covering the Chicago Wolves. So I’ve been doing that for 10 months now.
PJ: How did that come to be? Have you been a Wolves fan for a long time?
TG: I’ve been a Wolves fan since their inception in ’94, I’ve had season tickets for seven years, so I go to every home game. I get to see both sides, I know how the fans feel, and I get to put on a media hat.
PJ: Does that mean you spend some games up in the press box, some games in the stands?
TG: No, in our section, there’s lots of my friends around, I usually attend all games in my seat, because when I do my blog, I always look for opinions from the fans. The fans in my section are known to speak their mind. If the team’s not doing good, they’ll tell me, and they’re not afraid to let their opinions be known
PJ: What drew you to the Wolves in the first place, seventeen years ago?
TG: The family environment. They’re all about family. The owner, Don Levin, has owned the team since ’94. Everybody’s a big group together, and with the Blackhawks, their tickets are expensive now. The Wolves were outselling the Blackhawks in attendance about 5 or 6 years ago. The Wolves have 4 championships in 15 years, not many teams can say that in any sport, if you look at it that way.
Just about family: the tickets are reasonable, they not too expensive, I think you can get a ticket now for 8 bucks to sit in the front row of the upper deck. Any view in the Allstate Arena isn’t bad.
So like I said, Don Levin pushes towards wanting to win the Calder Cup every year. I guess, I just love hockey and the Wolves, and I live ten minutes away from the Wolves. That helps too, instead of driving all the way downtown to the United Center.
PJ: That leads into my next question, how do you end up with a, what, 17,000-plus seat arena in what, seems to me, to be way out in the ‘burbs? Can you give us a sense of where this actually fits into the larger area of the city?
TG: Well the arena is right next to O’Hare Airport. Rosemont is a suburb for businesses, there’s maybe 4,000 people living in the suburb, it’s all businesses, it’s hotels, you got tonnes of restaurants. The Allstate Arena, formerly known as the Rosemont Horizon before Allstate bought the naming rights, they put a lot of concerts on. I know wrestling’s there a lot; there’s ice shows, the circus. The last time the Wolves had over 15,000 was, I think, in ’02, when they won their first Calder Cup. The team draws great on the weekend, because they always get the kids, the girls scouts, cub scouts, all that. And that all relates back to family, as usual.
PJ: How many would say, roughly, on average you’ll get at a weekend game?
TG: Weekend game? Eight or nine thousand on a Saturday night, and if there’s a special event going on, like I said the cub scouts, it can go at least 10, 11 thousand. The opening night is this Saturday, I’m guessing 11, 12 thousand will be there.
PJ: Do you think there’ll be any intrigue in the fact that this is basically just a new team and a new lineup?
TG: Oh without a doubt, the team last year was just terrible, from coaching, players, the whole Atlanta situation, which I can just go on for hours about, just terrible. But this year, the fans see that the new kids are coming in, we’ve got the old guys coming back; the Wolves’ fans, there’s a good group which knows hockey and moves, but most of these people that are coming to game, they just want to see hockey, they don’t care who the affiliation is. They just want to see a good game of hockey!
PJ: So it’s fair to say the new agreement with the Canucks is going to be a good thing, at least for the next two years?
TG: Without a doubt, you can see it already, the Canucks care about their NHL team and about their AHL team. With the Atlanta Thrashers, they didn’t really give the time of day to the Wolves; like last year they traded away Drew MacIntyre, who was playing well. We didn’t know who our goalie was everyday. Atlanta, Don Waddell and that whole management team, was just terrible, so with the Canucks, it’s the best of both worlds.
PJ: Who are you personally excited to see in the lineup?
TG: Ah, I’m definitely looking forward to Lack. Lack’s getting the start on Saturday night. He is, what is he, 6’5”?
PJ: Ya he’s huge, he’s ridiculous!
TG: 6’5”? 6’6”? On skates?! And he can move. He’s not one of those ‘big’ guys that has no mobility at all. I mean, in his first game, he looked great, he looked good post-to-post. I’m hoping for a shutout!
Also, I like the play of Mike Duco. I know he doesn’t ‘like’ the Vancouver Canucks that much, but Duco is like, we had an old guy here name Karl Stewart, I think he plays in the East Coast League now. Duco’s almost the same way – he likes to get in there, get in the goalies’ faces. He likes to play within the rules, but push that to the upper limit.
PJ: So are you predicting Duco as a fan favourite?
Well it still early, but Duco could be one of the fan favourites. I know Haydar is already a fan favourite because he’s been on the team. And Doell… but Duco could be one.
Another one is Archibald. He’s a good young guy, got his first goal in his first game.
PJ: Let’s talk about Haydar – I mean, here’s a guy who has put up tonnes of points, what’s the story? Is he too small? Too slow? Why’s he never had a real shot at the NHL?
TG: That’s still a question I’m trying to figure out. I don’t know if you saw highlights of the first game, his passing’s unbelievable. If there is a guy open, he will *find* him. I mean in the ’08 team, when they had him on a line with Jason Krog and Brett Stirling, the team was unconscious. I just don’t know the deal with him.
PJ: Is he similar to Krog?
TG: He is small, he’s about my size. I’m 5’10” and he’s 5’10” on skates. But I just don’t understand it, the guy puts up decent numbers, every single year.
PJ: I was a bit surprised, given who the Canucks brought in on PTOs, that they didn’t at least have him in training camp…
TG: In his contract, if any NHL team comes calling, he can drop right out of his contract and sign with that NHL team. Hopefully he’s here all year.
PJ: Selfishly, right?
TG: *chuckles* exaaactly!!
PJ: Can I get you talk about Craig MacTavish? You’ve spoken so positively about the Canucks already, have you seen anything from the Wolves new head-coach, or is it too early?
TG: First of all, a lot of people are throwing their arms in the air going ‘two games and we don’t have a win yet?!’ And I’m reminding them, it’s new players, a new system, and these players are coming to the 3rd-biggest market in the United States. In terms of playing, living, it’s going to take some time to get settled.
As for MacTavish... I’ve been to practices – I go to practices two to three times a week – at practices, he is talking to every player at every practice, explaining to them what they did wrong, not yelling at them, he wants them to learn but at the same time, he wants to keep practices fast-paced. There’s no dead time, MacTavish, as you know, was one of the last guys not to wear a helmet in the NHL, he wants to keep things going all the time.
It is too early to talk about how his methods are translating to the ice in games, but I definitely see a lot of progress there, because, compared to Don Lever last year, MacTavish is a lot more vocal. Lever was just ‘alright, let’s practice.’ So definitely with MacTavish, I see a lot of good things happening there and once he figures out what the lines are, and how he can get them going, there’s no turning back.
PJ: Thanks for taking the time with us Ted!
TG: Ya no problem Pat, anytime.