By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Game 7. Blackhawks. Red Wings. Last game together in the Western Conference.
Doesn’t get any better than that, right?
There’s just one problem: The United Center has been taken over by four old dudes who will try to bring the roof down tonight — less than 24 hours before the Hawks and Wings square off in their do-or-die Game 7.
Yes, the Rolling Stones are in town for the first of three concerts they will put on at the United Center in the next seven days.
“It’s exciting. It’s great,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I went to their concert the last time they came here — in ’06 I think it was — and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.”
But don’t expect many Blackhawks players to attend tonight’s show. Keith said he didn’t know of anyone going.
“Hopefully catch them another time,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We have bigger fish to fry.”
All-in-all, the presence of the Rolling Stones in the building shouldn’t impact the Blackhawks or Red Wings too much, although it certainly does make for a unique atmosphere for a Game 7. The band had pretty much taken over the building by Monday, but the Blackhawks were not going to practice anyway and they still had access to their locker room and facilities within the building. More importantly, the team has been assured their ice will be theirs by 10:30 a.m. Wednesday for their morning skate.
But the biggest question is, what shape will the ice be in? Players have admitted for years that ice surfaces in non-basketball arenas are usually better and a concert poses a whole different element with a giant stage and thousands of people standing on the floor. Concerts and various events happen at the United Center throughout the year, but a show as big as the Rolling Stones the night before a Game 7 is extremely rare. It also happens to be getting warmer outside too, which can impact the ice.
“Usually when you go to Joe Louis (Arena) and play, it’s probably one of the best ice surfaces in the league,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “I guess it’s tougher here for the guys to have the ice in top shape with so many different events here. You have the basketball and concerts and stuff so I understand it’s tough to keep the ice in great shape but it’s the same for both teams so can’t really complain about that.”
They won’t complain, but they are aware of it.
“I’ll be prepared,” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “Any sort of dump in or something I’ll be able to attack it on bounces. Just be prepared for those crazy bounces.”
Head coach Joel Quenneville downplayed the concert having an impact on Wednesday’s game and seemed more annoyed than anything by the topic. As for the players, the presence of the Rolling Stones appeared to just add more excitement to a confident locker room that has gone from extremely uptight to comfortably loose in the last five days since the Hawks trailed 3-1 in the series.
Even Jonathan Toews had jokes. When asked if he would have a problem sharing his house with Mick Jagger, Toews was honest: “Uh, probably. I don’t know if that would go over very well with those rock stars. Would be the same thing as Kaner, I guess.”
Quenneville did at least provide his favorite Stones song: You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
Of course, he’s hoping that song doesn’t apply to his team after Wednesday night’s game against the Red Wings.
For more Blackhawks coverage throughout the playoffs, follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamHoge.