Monday, February 26, 2007

No more Tkaaaaaaa-chuuuuuuuk

Well, we knew it was likely…. If not inevitable.

As much as I have enjoyed the Keith Tkachuk era of Blues hockey, I am really excited about the package that John Davidson and Larry Pleau have received in return from Atlanta. How could you expect to get more than a first and third-round pick this year, a second rounder next year, and a decent roster player (Glenn Metropolit)? Then, if Walt decides to re-sign in Atlanta… something I think is unlikely…but, if he does, the Blues get another first-round pick next year. Wow...Wow…Wow!!

That’s an enormous package for the future..even though the “experts” say this won’t be a really great year for players in the draft. There’s always the opportunity to package multiple picks to trade for other players or higher picks. Let’s understand that Mr. Tkachuk is still a very good player. But at one time he was considered one of the top ten, or so, players in the league. I think even he would admit that he’s not quite in that category any more. So, for the Blues to turn him into that sort of package in return…is an amazing feat in my book.

Now, by the time you read this it may be a moot point, but if the Blues can get a similar package (and why wouldn’t you expect that) in return for Bill Guerin, it would really set things up for the future of the team. The youth movement wouldn’t take full effect for a few years, but it should set Blues Nation to salivating about the possibilities, and get a lot of buzz going about hockey in our town. But, I think it's also likely that the team might be more inclined to keep Billy around for his ticket-selling ability.

As for myself, I will have to come up with a new “signature call” for one of the players at the games. Keith Tkaaaaaa-chuuuuuk was so much fun to do. And, maybe, I’ll get to do it again if he re-signs with The Note this summer. But, until then I might have to work on… Leeeeeeee Stemp..neeeeeeee-aaaaaaak. Or David…Baaaaaaaaaaa-ckesss. But it’s not so much the enthusiasm that I use in making the announcement. It’s the name itself. Tkachuk is just a great name for a p-a announcer. It’s almost like Ka-ching…and the first just so easy to have fun with. I always growled it out…and held it out…and then came in behind it with the powerful “chuck”. Just the perfect name for a pro athlete. Not many other names lend themselves to that kind of enthusiastic pronunciation.

As good as they are, Dallas Drake, Doug Weight, Bill Guerin and several others don’t have names that give you much of a chance to “play up” the announcement. On the other hand, I might try to have a little more fun with Eric Brewer, Manny Legace, Bryce Salvador, and some others that offer a little more fodder for fun.

I’ll miss "Walt". I remember when he came to the team in the deal with Phoenix several years back, I asked him before his first game if he minded if I had some fun with the announcement of his name. He encouraged me to do whatever I felt would work. He’s a great guy, and I’ll certainly miss having fun with his goal announcements. But the team will be much…much…better in the long run for this trade. And, hopefully, he’ll be on the same track that Weight was last year. Success in the playoffs…and return to wear The Note once again, afterwards.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Proud Papa

I want to use this space this time to brag a bit on my youngest son Stewart. Number one son Ian will get some time here soon. But, because we went to Chicago last weekend to see Stew perform in a college stage production, I have to strike while the iron is hot.

Stewart William Calhoun is now 22, and in his last year at the best place he could possibly be for a kid who wants to be an actor…the theatre conservatory at DePaul University which is called simply…The Theatre School. It is one of the more revered crucibles for performers, writers, and theatre management people in this country. We feel fortunate that Stewart was accepted there.

We packed up the grandmas and grandpa last Friday to head for Chicago to see Stew, and his college friend Jessica Rosenberger (from Dwight, Michigan), perform as the leads in young composer Jason Robert Brown’s (pic right) The Last Five Years. This musical has accumulated a cult-like following since it opened in Chicago in 2001, and then moved on to New York for an off-Broadway run in 2003. Younger people know all about it. Older people tend to be in the dark. But, it’s a great show that features two performers and a small orchestra. The story line is unique in that it follows the story of a couple’s relationship from their first date to their eventual break-up with a marriage in the middle. But, the woman tells the story from the end to the beginning, while the man tells it chronologically. When they cross paths on stage in the middle of the show they sing a wedding duet. Otherwise, it’s mostly one person on stage at a time.

Anyway, the music was great…and this show was spectacular, particularly for a college production. I don’t want you to think that just because Dad is writing, that I’m the only one who thought it was any good. At least one reviewer (Colin Douglas with Center Stage dot net, which covers the Chicago entertainment scene) wrote:

Skilled young actors Stewart Calhoun and Jessica Rosenberger completely inhabit their roles, allowing the audience to share in the joys, sorrows, successes and disappointments of their characters. Thankfully, both actors also possess pleasant singing and speaking voices, along with crisp diction not always found in today's theater.

The director and set designer got raves for their work too. Music Director, and one of Stewart’s professors, Mark Elliott should be praised for his work at the piano and assembling a great group of musicians to support the actors.

For a parent, buying into the dream of a kid who wants to be an actor is daunting, especially when he wants to take the more legitimate route through a private university’s theater program. It’s an enormous mountain of tuition and uncertainty to face and climb. But, because Stewart has known since he was in grade school that he wanted to be on stage…and demonstrated the talent and commitment to see his dream through…Barb and I decided years ago that the best thing we could do was to be as supportive as we possibly could. Seeing him carry a show as a lead actor/singer for the first time in a very professional presentation was thrilling, satisfying, and rewarding. To say the least, a number of tears were shed as we enjoyed our son performing and thriving “in his element”.

I’d also like to mention that because of the type of person Stewart is, my sister Bonnie Heffernan, her husband Mark, and daughter Lindsay, along with a number of other friends drove five hours to the "Windy City" to see the show too. That speaks to the loving support that Stewart has been fortunate to enjoy during his young life. I know he is as grateful as I am for that. He wouldn't be the great young person he is without it.

As to Stewart’s future…he will graduate in June with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from DePaul. Before that happens he will travel with other graduating students to Los Angeles and New York to perform/audition in front of casting agents, directors, producers etc. You know, people that might hire him in the future…or hopefully immediately. We certainly are holding out the possibility that he could become a big star of some kind. We also understand that not many of the thousands of people who enter the “show biz” work force each year with the same dream as Stewart make it. So, picking the right agent and getting Lady Luck on his side are the big things right now. He has the tools, talent, and the training, now he needs “the break”.

But, whether or not Stewart makes it big, he has already brought so much joy into the lives of his parents, family and friends that there is no chance he will ever be considered a failure. As a parent, all we want is to be sure that our child is happy with the path he has chosen in life. Seeing him in this show was proof that he has done that.

Now…go break a professional leg, Stew!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Many Thanks!!

I want to thank everyone involved with the recognition I received recently for the 20 years and 900 consecutive games with the Blues... especially SCP Worldwide, The Blues front office, and anyone else who played a part in my special night on Friday 1/26.

In case you missed it, I was asked to drop the ceremonial first puck before the Blues-Wings game that night. But before I did, wife Barb and I were accompanied to center ice by Blues President John Davidson. The ceremony was hosted by Kelly Chase, who had some incredibly nice things to say. “True professional” and “Iron man of the Blues family” are what I remember most.

JD presented us with a wonderful framed, limited-edition poster of the Blues retired-jersey players shown in action shots. It was signed by all of the living retired-jersey Blues…Sutter, Federko, MacInnis and Hull. Also pictured are the late Barclay Plager and Bob Gassoff. It’s a great piece and will have a very special place in our home. Alongside will be the number-20 jersey (for twenty years) presented to me by Captain Dallas Drake on behalf of the players. I’ll get that signed by them before putting it up on the wall. The team also gave us a trip to Chicago on the team charter for an upcoming game. That will be tremendous fun.

I have to say that the things are nice. But, during the ceremony, at the moment that Dally presented me with the jersey, the players from both teams stood at their benches and rapped their sticks on the boards. I have to admit that brought a little extra moisture to this old announcer's eyes. A spectacular memory for me.

Also that night, the team took care of my family and some friends in grand style with a suite and refreshments. Everyone enjoyed that…and it wouldn't have been nearly as special without my “special people” on hand. I know my 86-year-old mother said she was probably more nervous than I was. Since I wasn't really nervous, just in a daze, I have a pretty good idea how wound-up and excited she was. I'm sure it meant a lot to mom. While my sons were both out of town, I'm sure they were there in spirit.

One thing about that night that was somewhat surprising was the fact that Fox-Midwest, and outstanding director Tim Pabst, carried the whole ceremony. The Blues must have asked to have that done because many times the puck-drop ceremonies and the anthem are covered up by a commercial break. This night Tim waited until the commercial break was over to carry the ceremony. I’m guessing that the team wanted it that way to show the fans some of the history and tradition still associated with the “Blues family” even though there are new owners in town.

I will be getting some photos of the whole thing from team photog Mark Buckner shortly. Bill Greenblat..who shoots independently…was also there and promises some shots too. Thanks to Curt Price of for the photos on this post. Keep coming back and I’ll have some more for you soon.

Once again, I was thrilled at the way it all was handled. And to anyone who has extended a hand or a good wish, I say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.