Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Coolest Place in Chicago

By R.A. Monaco
July 8, 2011

For kids like these, this was—not to sound too feverish—a truly eye-opening experience, and for each of the 46 young men the hopeful beginning of an inevitable sequel to a life-long commitment. These up-and-coming hockey prospects were gathered at literally the coolest place in Chicago on an 82° Friday in July—Johnny’s Icehouse, Practice Home of The Chicago Blackhawks for the 2011 Prospects Camp.

While Johnny’s Icehouse was surely the coolest place on earth for 2011 NHL Entry Draft Selections, Mark McNeil (18th overall), Phillip Danault (26th overall), Adam Clendening (36th overall), Brandon Saad (46th overall) and Michael Paliotta (70th overall), it was too for life-long Blackhawks fan Jim Sorce, owner of Jim and Pete’s restaurant in Elmwood Park, now in its 70th year and a favorite haunt of hockey and Italian food buffs. There to see the prospects on-ice sessions and to have a firsthand look at Mark McNeil, the Blackhawks number one pick, the team’s first home game couldn’t come soon enough for Jerry Pontteralli, Sam Anzaldi, and Jim Sorce who may be equally well known for his Blackhawk enthusiasm as he is for Italian cuisine and pizza.

Concurring with early scouting reports, Jim, Sam and Jerry avidly approve of the 19 year old NHL-ready physique of 6’2”, 210 pound Mark McNeil who they hope to see make the Blackhawks this year. While overtly pumped about this new crop of Blackhawk prospects, Mr. Sorce was also enthused about the recent free agent signings of Andrew Brunette #15 (6'1", 210 lbs), Daniel Carcillo #13 (6'0", 205 lbs), Jamal Mayers #22 (6'1", 215 lbs) and defenseman Sean O’Donnell #6 (6'2", 237 lbs) who he believes will improve the team’s physical presence on the ice, deliver plenty of bruises and some much needed pain to their rivals on their way to helping his 11th team to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Come September 28th the coolest place in Chicago moves to the United Center for the 2011-2012 season and when the Blackhawks go on the road, judging from their banter in the stands at Johnny’s Icehouse, you’ll most likely find the hottest fans in town at Jim and Pete’s.

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