By Brian Hanley-
(CBS) Try as I may, I can conjure up only a few details of the some 600 Blackhawks games I covered for seven seasons while at the Chicago Sun-Times. Save for the veteran group that pushed the Detroit Red Wings to the limit in the conference finals in the lockout-shortened 1995 campaign, it was mostly mediocre-to-bad teams through those declining hockey years from 1993-2000.
It was, however, nothing but great memories of that sportswriting run that came rushing back Tuesday when I heard the devastating news that longtime Daily Herald beat writer Tim Sassone, only 58, had died. Every one of those fond flashbacks included Tim.
From the first night I was welcomed into the hockey fraternity — by being invited to sit alongside Tim, Pat Foley, Dale Tallon, Brent Sutter and Jocelyn Lemieux after dinner and into the wee hours at what would become our Vancouver haunt, Joe Fortes — I knew Tim was one of of the good guys.
Hockey has always been populated with good guys. Genuine, humble, humorous, kind, smart, passionate people. Tim embodied all those qualities. At times, Tim’s passion led to moments of some seething anger. Nothing, though, that a cold Canadian postgame beer or four couldn’t remedy when we were on the road.
Players often talk about how they bond on road trips. Ditto for sportswriters. As much as you want to scoop the competition, the countless shared flights, meals and rental cars create an awkward-yet-often-rewarding friendship.
Tim’s dedication and professionalism produced plenty of scoops over the more than 25 years he covered the Hawks and the NHL. His must-read byline was reason enough for his nomination to the NHL Hall of Fame.
More importantly, he was a Hall of Fame person, who loved his family — his wife, Christine, and children, Ali and Andy — first and foremost.
So as much as I will remember trying to keep up with Tim professionally, such as when we ran through a Pittsburgh hotel lobby to nab just-traded Chris Chelios before he caught a cab headed for a flight that would take him to hated Hockeytown, I will also remember the dash we would usually make after a game in Anaheim back to Manhattan Beach for last call and fish tacos at Sharkeez, a beach shack just down the road from the nine-hole Marriott course we would tear up — literally — on the same trip.
And those laughs that would usually come with the conversation as we awaited a post-practice coach chat with Darryl Sutter, Craig Hartsburg, Dirk Graham, Lorne Molleken, Alpo Suhonen and Brian Sutter. Or the smirks we had while watching then-general manager Bob Murray as he tried to bust down a door to the ref’s room or video judge booth. Or the absolute guffaws we shared when a towel-clad Bob Pulford sauntered down the hallway in the Florida arena bowels on his way to a sauna.
The memories of the times we shared, whether at the rink or at one of the many Springsteen concerts we loved, will live on.
In a perfect world, so would Tim.
Brian Hanley is the co-host of the Mully and Hanley Show on 670 The Score from 5 a.m.-9 a.m. on weekdays.