Blackhawks Confidential

Savard will dish food, drinks and fun in his own Hall of Fame restaurant

savardfoodie.jpgFearless Denis Savard is venturing into a career-threatening business where the turnover is greater than coaching. He plans to fling open the doors to Savard's Hall of Fame restaurant and ice bar in late January in Munster, Ind.

A guy famous for dishing pucks when he was an ice icon will be taking on a tough crowd this time. Just like Mike Keenan, it could send shivers down his spine.

Not even Michael Jordan could fly high enough to keep his Chicago restaurant open. Scroll a list of famous athletes who have been grilled to death by the food-and-drink game and it is a gourmet's Hall of Fame thrown right into the garbage.

Just sticking in the Midwest region, Don Mattingly couldn't make a go of it in Evansville, Ind., nor Brett Hull in St. Louis or George Brett in Kansas City with a try at pine-tarred steaks or Jim McMahon in Chicago with a menu as succulent as headbands.

Neither could Jim Kelly in Buffalo or famed championship prophet Joe Namath in New York or catcher-of-the-night Johnny Bench in Cincinnati or Larry Bird in Terre Haute Cuisine, Ind. or Pete Rose in Cincinnati betting that tonight will be the night or Rusty Staub in Manhattan serving Rusty Nails...stop me, please.

Athletes have always found their Achilles heel marinating in the soup. Sammy Sosa dipped a toe into a possible reaturant with his marquee name when he was Slammin' Sammy. That idea never came uncorked before he did, showing that not only is fame fleeting, but so is an excellent steak and martini for less than the gross national product of the Dominican Republic.

Even if Savard was bounced as coach early last season, he will still stand to profit from a Blackhawks' championship run in 2010. He has seen the Wirtzes benefit from their own liquor distribution for years, so why not join the wine-and-dine party in progress and spin off a piece of success. The spinarama is a Savard speciality.

The last time that I can recall a Blackhawks player being famous enough to venture into a food fight, where profits tend to float away more quickly than the Balloon Boy if the owners aren't vigilant, was Cheli's Chili Bar in Chicago in the 1990s.

Those were also halcyon days when a Stanley Cup championship dream was real, though never realized of course. I don't recollect the chili.  I do remember standing outside looking in the window of the joint one freezing winter's night giving Chelios a friendly finger, while he hosted a party inside warm and cozy and laughing at my idiot act.

I also might have mooned him. Can't quite drudge up the clarity of that sickening image. If memory serves, I didn't need any stinking chili to warm me because I was being energized by my own spicy and refreshing firewater at the moment.

Hockey was relevant then, as it is again. That's why Savard might be able to draw a crowd to Savard's Hall of Fame when it opens in late January. He will be co-owner with Nicholas Sord, taking over the current establishment called Charlie's Ale House, which closes Dec. 23.

The Sords also own Charley Horse restaurants in New Lenox and Tinley Park and 94 West in Orland Park.

"There are so many hockey fans on the south side of Chicago," Sord told the Northwest Indiana Times about opening Savard's Hall of Fame. "Instead of going into Chicago, we want to attract everybody from Indiana to the southern suburbs of Illinois who enjoy hockey."

The story points out that among the hockey memorabilia will be Savard's jersey from winning the Cup with the Montreal Canadiens. I hope that's just background fodder, because the real emphasis has to be on what Savard accomplished as a Blackhawk.

He may not have won a championship, and he may have been traded to Montreal in 1990 to get Chelios when times were getting good, but his individual efforts are legendary and he left Chicago Stadium fans with countless memories of his extraordinary play and his winning personality.

I would recommend Savard's Hall of Fame include a Mike Keenan dartboard area to entertain patrons by aiming at the mustachioed villain of lore. And some special drinks, such as Savoir-Faire on ice.

Savard's Hall of Fame will feature an ice bar. If free hockey sticks are provided to his customers after a five-drink minimum, I envision some lively barstool action.

The Blackhawks' history with WGN-TV is so spotty it's of little consequence historically that last Saturday's game in Pittsburgh drew the highest rating in 20 years.

But the fact it was the highest-rated WGN telecast of the Hawks in the last two seasons identifies that the Hawks are meaningful again for the first time in a long time. Hockey returns to the conversation in Chicago and elsewhere. Maybe even Munster, Ind.

People are actually gathering to watch them in significant groupings. WGN says that its household ratings have increased 44 per cent from last season, when the bandwagon wasn't fully rolling and word of mouth was just beginning.

WGN adds that of adults aged 25-54, 89 per cent more are watching than a season ago. The Hawks are catching on with a fan base that obviously hasn't always been hockey fans.

The way the Hawks played Saturday in that 2-1 overtime win against the Penguins can only increase interest further. The Bulls are doing their part to make the Hawks interesting by falling off the stage like blind drunks in the opening act.

All signs point to a great hockey season. So one more sign--SAVARD'S HALL OF FAME--will be further proof that a new era of entertainment is upon us.

The Hawks can draw more attention Wednesday night by beating the New York Rangers at United Center. The word will go out to the media capital of this country that there is this team playing in Chicago that can't be ignored.

Munster, Ind., is a long way from New York. Hell, it's a long way from Chicago. But pretty soon Savard will be back in the game, serving up hamburger pucks.

Blog in your menu suggestions for Savvy just to be helpful, because somehow I don't see John McDonough getting involved in the marketing.

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6 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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Mike, I hope Savvy has a stool reserved at the bar for you...with the best possible view, and well-endowed waitresses satisfying your every whim.

Cheers.

Jerry Kayne said:

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Cheli's was probably busy on Hawks game night. I was there on an off day after my own game at Johnny's.The place was empty, the chili was terrible, and the bar was a dump.

Munster? A restaurant in these difficult times. I hope he has a $1 menu.

I suggest now that Don Roth's is closing he puts the Spin-o-rama Salad Bowl on the menu. Maybe a Munster cheese plate?

TNIEBERGALL said:

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I will be there the night it opens! I'm really excited and Good luck to you savard! see ya there opening night!

Ham said:

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so... many....... puns... head exploding.

Roger said:

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Great news to finally have a good sports bar, especially Hawks emphasis in NW Indiana. Let's hope Denis also installs DISH to be able to carry the "minor league" channel Versus games, such as tonight's Sharks game. Direct TV has a monopoly in this area and because of the fight with Comcast over Versus, we are out of luck when the game is on Versus.
Roger

Carrie said:

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Nick Sord was just arrested last night. He was driving drunk, ran off the road, and his girlfriend was killed. I'm not sure if this will delay the opening of Savy's restaurant...or if he will even have a partner at all anymore.

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