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Blackhawks Visit With Obama Overshadowed By Bad Blood??

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Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

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The greatest honor any American citizen can have is to be celebrated at The White House.  Lately it has become common place that professional and college sports teams that win championships or accomplish something which The White House deems honorable get their day in the sunshine by dressing up and heading down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.   
 
This Friday the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks get the rare opportunity to meet the leader of the free world face to face.  Of course with President Barack Obama being from Chicago, you can expect some jokes boasting about his hometown hockey club on top of a jersey to be presented to the President.  The team will surely get a tour of the Oval Office, photos that will mark numerous sports and news websites, and a street hockey workout on the South Lawn of The White House.  Just another lame way to show people how passionate President Barack Obama is about sports.  Even the ones he does not watch on a regular basis.  Standard operating procedure.
 
However the story leading up to the Blackhawks visiting The White House will not be who is attending, but who is not attending.  With the roster turnover the Blackhawks have had to face in the past six months, could this day in Washington reveal some hidden bad blood between the organization and their former players?

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Without a doubt, the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in professional sports.  There is no guarantee that any one who has the honor of getting their name engraved on the cup will ever witness that again.  There are no dynasties in the modern day NHL because of the even playing field where any team legitimately has a shot of winning the cup.  With that said, when you win the Stanley Cup you should celebrate it as it could be your last time with it.   
 
One perk of being a champion is getting the opportunity to meet the President of the United States.  There is no legitimate reason why any player/coach/front office person should miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.  Whether you agree/disagree with the politics of the Oval Office, how often do you get to meet the leader of the free world?   
 
With that said.... why is Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, John Madden, Colin Fraser, Adam Burish not attending?
 
OH WAIT....Cristobal Huet will be there!!
 
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Of the former Chicago Blackhawks that will not be in attendance, Versteeg, Niemi, Eager have the night off from their respective teams.  Colin Fraser plays for the worst team in the league (Edmonton) yet will not be attending because of a game in Detroit.  The Atlanta Thrashers host the New Jersey Devils Friday night continuing their push for a playoff spot.  That means Dustin Byfuglien and (Thrashers Captain) Andrew Ladd will not be meeting President Obama.  Veteran winger John Madden has visited The White House twice before, but not a third time because he will be playing against Adam Burish in Dallas.  

While some former players of course have valid excuses because their new teams are in the hunt for playoff positioning, some players have no excuse at all for not joining their former club in our nation's capital.
 
"It's pretty cool to get the chance to go the White House, but after thinking about it I just decided to take a pass and let those guys enjoy themselves.  I'm still buddies with (the Blackhawks), but I haven't been on that team for almost a year."
 
Is there more to what Kris Versteeg (now with the Flyers) is saying here?  While he received the invite to attend the ceremony at the White House, could there be something else leading Versteeg to say thanks but not thanks?  Versteeg signed a three year deal with the Blackhawks who were then run by General Manager Dale Tallon and then traded by incoming GM Stan BowmanAntti Niemi was a cornerstone for the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup run, but after a long fought arbitration battle with Bowman he left the team after only one season signed with the rival San Jose Sharks.  With a day off on their schedule both Niemi and Ben Eager do not have valid excuses for joining their former mates in Washington.   
 
Could there be some bad blood?
 
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Everyone remembers the story of how the Blackhawks took a 110 mile road trip following a game in Toronto to visit then General Manager Dale Tallon as he was laying his father to rest.  The entire team, and front office was in attendance to support their friend/colleague/boss Dale Tallon.  That moment alone showed the love and passion those in the organization shared for Dale Tallon.  When Stan Bowman came into the fold to replace Dale Tallon in July 2009, could that trust between players and the front office been severed?  I think to a certain extent....yes.
 
The one knock on Dale Tallon was he did make bold moves regardless of cost.  Signing high dollar contracts to Cristobal Huet and Brian Campbell was not a welcomed idea to many Blackhawks fans, because the franchise had never paid that amount to any player ever before.  What Tallon was known for was taking care of his players, however it was a simple fact that he was not a John McDonough guy.  The move to replace Tallon with Bowman had to resonate with the players on the roster before last season, because they knew they were no longer protected by the GM they grew to love and trust.
 
Now look to what happened this past offseason.....
 
Could it be that Kris Versteeg was a little upset he was being traded after being considered not part of the "core" by Stan Bowman?  Could it be that Antti Niemi might be a little ticked off still that the Blackhawks did not resign only the fourth goalie in history to win a Stanley Cup as a rookie?  Could it be that Dustin Byfuglien, who lead the Blackhawks in goals last postseason with Patrick Sharp, might be pissed he found out he was traded not by Stan Bowman but by ESPN 1000'S "Afternoon Saloon"?   
 
Just by these few examples, you have to think there is some bad blood running between the former Blackhawks and the front office.  There is no reason why such key figures like Versteeg, Niemi, Byfuglien, Ladd, Fraser cannot attend, yet Cristobal Huet can fly in from Fribourg, Switzerland where his team was just eliminated from the playoffs not three days ago?   
 
Could it be because Dale Tallon was not invited to The White House ceremony?
 
"That's fine with me, I'm a Republican anyway," Tallon joked on Monday.
 
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While I agree that you cannot mix in business with family, the 2009-2010 Chicago Blackhawks brought something special to this city which had not seen a Stanley Cup in 49 years.  The fact that one off season drastically changed that good family feeling to extreme bitterness amongst some players is disturbing.  The White House ceremony is a honor you may only get once in a lifetime.  Yet players who have the day off or play for teams that are already out of playoff contention cannot attend?  Also not even inviting the architect who built the Stanley Cup Champion in the first place in irresponsible and outlandishly wrong.  
 
I do not blame the former players one bit for having some sort of grudge against the current organization at 1901 West Madison Street.  The Blackhawks organization handled Dale Tallon like he did nothing to help the club in his tenure as GM.  To throw a guy who the roster adored out the door and bring in a man with little experience and only a last name that resembles anything on his resume was heartless.  Yet at the time it was only the start of things to come.
 
While up to 120 members of the organization may be visiting President Obama, it is the ones who are not in the team photo that should be the story.
 
-RoCk
 
John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and Host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score
 
You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at twitter.com/mullyhanley
 
You can follow Rock at twitter.com/RockMamola

 
CATCH THE ROCK REPORT EVERY FRIDAY AT 10PM (CST) ON 670AM THE SCORE IN CHICAGO AND 670THESCORE.COM WORLDWIDE



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6 Comments

fanof19 said:

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While it is an honor to attend a reception at the White House, you have to be invited. We now know from Tallon directly that he was not invited. A little more digging and one will find that he was also not given a day with the Cup; In spite of his name being engraved on it. Can't find a single press piece on him having a day with the Cup. Who ever was in charge of those obvious intentional slights should be fired. When Rocky took over he told the fans bad blood had no place in the organization anymore. It's quite clear that someone wasn't listening to that part of Rocky's press conference.

Rock Mamola said:

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To all my knowledge, he did not have a day with the cup.

That's a shame because he built the winner Stan Bowman reaped the benefits of.

Totally agree that whomever is making these decisions should be let go because it is simply not fair to Tallon.

The question is will he be mentioned at the celebration?

-RoCk

steph said:

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I'm not too worried about there being bad blood from former players. Not too long ago they had a player wide survey asking which team an NHL player would want to play for if he had his choice. The Blackhawks were #2. Tallon set that team up financially that only gave them the opportunity to have those players for a few years. Which was an incredible task and I thank him. However, I don't see any distrust aimed at Rocky or Bowman. I think they all take care of their players. As for traded away platers... Niemi was greedy, and got himself shipped to San Jose all by himself. He was never worth what he was asking. Big Buff and Andrew Ladd are playing in a game or would have been there. Huet (don't ask me why) is flying from Europe. Brent Sopel is coming from his recently played game in St. Louis. So basing an "opinion" off of one comment by Kris Versteeg doesn't really prove a point. I'll admit, he doesn't sound thrilled in the comment, however, he did just join the Flyers. He may believe that might not look good to his teammates to participate considering they are Eastern Conference front runners this season and he is the new guy. There was nothing else to do but trade this past summer as much as it hurt us, its the nature of the business.

ckfred said:

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Remember that Tallon made some mistakes in the procedures for offering new contracts to rostered players. It almost cost the Hawks some players, and the players' union was upset at how the situation was handled. The belief was that Tallon, while a good judge of talent, was not well-schooled in NHL procedures, and that a change was necessary prior to the 2009-10 season.

How do we know that Dale wouldn't have made the changes that Stan Bowman made? The Hawks had some major cap issues, and the team needed to reduce payroll. The contracts for Toews and Kane took up a lot of cap space, as well as a lot of bonus money. Remember that there was a decision to defer bonus money to 2010-11, in order to have the best team possible for the 10-11 run at the Cup. However, everyone in the front office and the players understood that salaries would need to be dumped after the season ended.

fanof19 said:

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fred: it is widely known, thanks to the Boston press, that the person in charged of making sure that the QO's were fed ex'd was not Tallon, but the assistant GM. The press indicated that Tallon was very ill, and not even in the office during that little "set-up" as they called it.

We don't know what changed Tallon would or would not have made to the roster, since he wasn't given the chance to see his plan through. We do know that in the Cap era, any team wanting to make a run for the Cup will have to go up against the Cap.

I think the jist of the story is, that even though Ricky said the days of bad blood are over, someone in that organization didn't get the memo. How do you NOT give the guy who built you the Cup winning team a day with the Cup, OR an invitation to the White House?

fanof19 said:

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typo: Rocky not Ricky

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