It’s no secret that Northwestern, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Cubs are inextricably linked; at numerous levels. While the Cubs are a brand synonymous with prodigious and incessant losing, the Blackhawks have risen to the cream of the NHL crop in the past few years, winning Stanley Cup championships in 2010 and 2013.
However, they’re not a dynasty. Northwestern lacrosse, with seven titles in nine years, now that’s dynastic.
Northwestern women’s lacrosse, currently #5 in the polls, has beaten six teams in the top 15 this year, including a big win over #4 North Carolina. Tonight Northwestern lacrosse beat USC 12-7 in front of a paid attendance of 5,145 at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs. It improved NU’s record to 10-5, ending their two game losing streak. The five losses are two more than we’ve seen in any entire season since 2003, the second season in which the Wildcats have been under the helm of Coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller.
And tonight’s season ending win for Amonte-Hiller’s Northwestern LAX team is yet another reaffirmation about how tightly knit the Cubs, Hawks and NU truly are. It’s common knowledge that Northwestern Athletic Director Dr. Jim Phillips and Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts are neighbors, but the links within this Chicago sports power triad (the shared partner of WGN Radio AM 720/87.7 The Game is the obvious connection) are numerous.
Kelly Amonte-Hiller (a five time Coach of the Year, who’s gone 211-20 since 2005) is the sister of Blackhawks icon Tony Amonte, the high scoring forward.
“I’m a Chicago sports fan, I have always been since my brother was captain of the Blackhawks, ” Amonte-Hiller said.
“It’s only right, I make my living here in Chicago, and I should be a fan of these teams.”
Former Blackhawks legend Chris Chelios was in attendance, as his daughter Caley Chelios, a Northwestern lacrosse defender, saw some playing time in the Friendly Confines. She hails from Detroit, where her dad works in the Red Wings front office, and she’s a graduate of the famous Cranbrook Academy. (Quoting Jimmy B. Rabbit Smith, in reference to his rap battle opponent Papa Doc in 8 Mile: “Cranbrook- that’s a private school!”)
Chris Chelios bought 500 tickets (at $10 a pop, that’s five grand he dropped tonight on tickets alone) and handed them out to Northwestern students. I caught up to Chelios in his suite at 1060 W. Addison and he spoke of his generous gesture.
“Nobody likes to play to an empty stadium,” Chelios said.
Following a NU goal tonight, the Wrigley sound system even played the Blackhawks goal-scoring celebration song “Chelsea Dagger.”
Northwestern lacrosse has played the first ever LAX game at L.A. Coliseum, Cowboys Stadium and the first ever women’s college sporting event at Gillette Stadium.
— Paul M. Banks (@PaulMBanks) April 27, 2014
“Out of comparing those games I’ve got to put this at the top of the list. To have it in front of our home crowd is really special,” Amonte-Hiller said.
Junior Goalkeeper Bridget Bianco and senior midfielder Kate McDonald are now big time Cubs fans.
“I like how the stadium is unique,” Bianco said of Wrigley.
“I’m from Philadelphia, and they just built Citizens Bank Park and it’s way over the top. There’s nothing special about it. You come to Wrigley and it has that old time feel, that history, now you feel like you’re part of that history now that you got to play here.”
“It’s an amazing stadium, a blast to be a part of this venue,” said Caley Chelios.
Overall, it was a very entertaining and engaging evening; even for those like me who aren’t that into lacrosse.
To me, LAX means only Los Angeles International Airport. (“hopped off the plane at LAX, with a dream and a cardigan”)
One thing’s for sure, Dr. Jim Phillips loves himself some Wrigley Field.
He’s booked the football game, a 48-20 loss to the Illini in 2010 (the famous everyone drives to the same end zone/Mikel LeShoure breaks the Illinois rushing record game) and baseball last year. Where Luke Farrell, the Northwestern starting pitcher, and son of Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell earned a victory just mere hours after his dad led Boston to a 4-3 win over Kansas City in the Red Sox’s first home game since the Boston Marathon bombing.
So expect more Northwestern sports at Clark and Addison in the near future.
On Thursday, Northwestern lacrosse hosts Vanderbilt in the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament at Lakeside Field.
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a frequent guest on national talk radio. Banks is a former contributor to NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, who’s been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)