Did Hawks attend funeral of Dale Tallon's father?
It has become somewhat of an Internet sensation, the story now almost a month old of how the Blackhawks decided as a team to attend the wake for general manager Dale Tallon's father.
The story is being e-mailed from hockey fan to hockey fan on both sides of the border and apparently it has struck a chord with people fed up with pro athletes getting busted for crimes or simply behaving badly or being disrespectful.
"It's getting a little overwhelming," Hawks center Patrick Sharp said of the Web response to the Hawks' trip to tiny Gravenhurst, Ontario, on Nov. 23, the day after their thrilling overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
"The story has taken on a life of its own," Tallon said. "It's a feel-good story and there haven't been many feel-good stories in pro sports for a long time, I guess."
So how true is the story being passed around? The important part is very true, with some embellishments.
• The Hawks did not take "rickety" buses with no heat. They traveled in two warm motor coaches.
• They did not miss their commercial flight to Chicago after the game in Toronto. The Hawks charter everywhere.
• There was no formal team vote taken to attend the wake.
• The players were not mobbed at a McDonald's when they stopped to eat following the wake.
Nevertheless, it's a great story about a team that is growing more and more popular every day.
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The Hawks were scheduled to charter home following their Nov. 22 game against the Maple Leafs, but those plans changed during the course of the day when the team decided to attend the wake for Stanley Tallon, who had died Friday.
The Hawks hastily arranged a practice in Toronto the following morning, then made the two-hour bus trip to Gravenhurst, surprising the Tallon family at the funeral home. The GM gets emotional still talking about what it meant to see the players walk through the door.
"I thought to myself, 'What is this? Am I back in Chicago?' " Tallon said. "They started coming in and, wow. My mother, she gets the hockey package and watches all the games, it was so great for her. She was having such a hard time with it, we all were, but to see that, it was so heartwarming and it really took the edge off everything. That was the buzz the rest of the night.
"My dad was a hockey player and there were pictures of him when he was a young player, so the guys were looking at all the pictures and stuff. It was really cool.
"It makes you feel good about the character of our team and the homework we've done as a staff in drafting and getting these players. They're genuinely good kids. It makes you feel good about our young population, to make the decision they did."
The story has gotten perhaps its greatest response for what happened after the team departed the wake.
It was getting late when the buses departed for the 110-mile drive back to Toronto and the charter home, and the players were hungry.
"It's cottage country up there and it was around 9 at night and there was really nothing open," Hawks center Dave Bolland said.
Nothing but a McDonald's and a Harvey's, a Canadian hamburger chain. The players' bus went to McDonald's, at Patrick Kane's urging, while the coaches' bus hit the Harvey's. The players, still dressed in their travel suits, piled into McDonald's to eat.
There weren't a lot of people in the restaurant and the players said they barely were recognized as they ordered.
"I'd say there were about 10 people there, maybe," Sharp said. "I don't know if they were surprised and knew we were an NHL team, or if they were just surprised a bus load of guys came in in their suits."
What did happen was the players acted like kids when they saw a display of hockey cards that McDonald's was giving with the purchase of meals.
"It was cool when you walked in, there were all these hockey cards on the wall because it was a giveaway and if you bought a Happy Meal you got a set of cards," Sharp said. "So right away everyone was looking to see if they were in this set of cards. But it was just Kane and (Jonathan) Toews and maybe (Nikolai) Khabibulin. I think it was just the three of them."
The players filled the restaurant, eating their burgers and fries as people in the store finally began to sense this was the Chicago Blackhawks eating in their little town.
"It was pretty funny because most guys don't eat McDonald's," Bolland said. "The last time I had McDonald's was, I think, last summer."
"Not to sound like I'm a health nut or anything, but I haven't eaten at McDonald's in years," Sharp said. "It was funny to see guys like Dunc (Keith) and Ben Eager, guys that really, really take care of themselves and watch what they eat, sitting there eating chicken nuggets and Big Macs."
The players finished eating and headed back to Toronto for their charter, thinking nothing that they had done was special.
"It was a long road trip and an extra day at the end of it, but there were no complaints or second-guessing," Sharp said. "It was Dale's father, but if it was anyone else in the organization we would have made the same decision."