“It was like chronicling the Dark Ages of hockey,” says Mark Lazerus, a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks since the early 2000s when the only way players could get people to attend games was to hand out free tickets at bus stations among other places.
“Back then, with 23 on the team, 20 would be out getting drunk the night before a game,” recalls Lazerus, a sportswriter who lives in Highland, Indiana. “I knew they were young and crazy but that was really something.”
Growing up on Long Island, New York, Lazerus has long been a serious hockey aficionado, rooting for the Long Island Islanders since he was young. A graduate of Northwestern University, he continued his passion for hockey by avidly following the Blackhawks. But even such a seasoned and dedicated fan was amazed by the big change in the team and their fortunes.
“The players are all very different now,” says Lazerus, author of If These Walls Could Talk: Chicago Blackhawks: Stories from the Chicago Blackhawks Ice, Locker Room, and Press Box (Triumph Books 2017; $16.95). “I was surprised by the complete turnaround. These guys are now finely tuned machines.”
Going behind the scenes including on the team plane, players’ homes and, of course, in lots of bars, Lazerus interviewed present and former team members collecting stories which he shares in his book. These include reminiscences of how Blackhawk players celebrated after winning their first Stanley Cup victory in almost a half century, dialogues with such greats as Adam Burish, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews and stories on sharing the bench with Head Coach Joel Quenneville. The book’s forward is written by Hockey Hall of Famer Denis Savard who played for the Blackhawks.
“It was fun watching the city fall in love with the Blackhawks,” says Lazerus. “And for me, writing the book was great. It let me talk to people about hockey and that’s all hockey fans like me want to talk about.”