Madhouse on Madison: Here come the ‘Hawks!

“Only the country of Canada & Blackhawks fans truly celebrate hockey.” He’s right: You haven’t been to a hockey game until you’ve cheered on the Blackhawks at United Center. We went to our 2nd game last week.

A bit of background: We are a hockey family. Matt plays. Greg plays. All of us appreciate the game. My favorite sound in the universe is hockey — skates and sticks, goal horns and cursing at refs. We raised our kids with arena night (normal families have movie night, I’ve heard) in the glorious Ralph Engelstad Arena and now many other rinks (and several ice-cold barn dumps) around the upper Midwest.

Oldest to youngest and everyone in-between, we all appreciate rink time.
Oldest to youngest and everyone in-between, we all appreciate rink time.

Highlights of this Blackhawks experience:

Getting there

This city loves hockey. We walked a bit, stopped by the Blackhawks store on Michigan Ave, stopped for a quick bite to eat, then took a cab to the arena. Everywhere, we heard, “Go Hawks” and “Have fun” from others. Cool.

kids in Chi

Of course we stopped by The Bean.
Of course we stopped by The Bean.
I didn't grow up with hockey. I think I fell in love with sport just as I was falling in love with my hockey guy! It's been a wild romance ever since (the marriage has been good, too).
I didn’t grow up with hockey. I think I fell in love with sport just as I was falling in love with my hockey guy! It’s been a wild romance ever since (the marriage has been good, too).
photo bombing our Matty
photo bombing our Matty
Our Matty.
Our Matty.
Our boys, proudly in former UND Sioux player Toews jerseys of course.
Our boys, proudly in former UND Sioux player Toews jerseys of course.

Soaking it all in

There’s a certain aura about hallowed ground such as United Center. I did grow up a basketball fanatic, and my #2 sports experience of all time was seeing Michael Jordan play from court side seats. He was superhuman. He did fly. Soared over any defender with amazing grace. And his home court commemorates him with a beautiful statue to welcome even hockey fans…


This, from a few seasons ago, makes me smile. I know Mr Jordan loved it, too:

photo credit: WGN, Chicago
photo credit: WGN, Chicago

Inside, the banners (which I couldn’t even fit in one camera shot) tell the tale of Champions.



It was Toews bobble head night ~ Score!
It was Toews bobble head night ~ Score!
Nobody travels like Sioux hockey fans! The girls don Tshirts of the 2 UND boys in the evening's matchup.
Nobody travels like Sioux hockey fans! The girls don Tshirts of the 2 UND boys in the evening’s matchup.


The experience

If you haven’t figured it out by the time the National Anthem begins, you’ll realize within two notes that you are in a very special place. Fans are at high volume the ENTIRE Anthem (respectfully but with enthusiasm), and on their feet much of the game. We’ve now had seats on the 300 level and the 100 level. No matter where you are in the arena, your fellow fans know hockey. They know the players, their lines, challenges (Hossa was just back from an injury and got a standing O every time he stepped onto the ice), rules and other nuances of this amazing game. It’s fun to listen to the analysis and rants and cheers and jeers from educated fans!

Did I mention there’s a vodka bar there?

vodka bar


We got lucky. Our game went to a 6-shooter shootout. Our guy Jonathan Toews got his!

Kane Toews

Sadly, the Blackhawks lost, but it was a great game.


Just a few days later, we caught a ‘Hawks game on TV. We all stopped, and reminisced about waiting outside door 3 1/2, playing a penny game, the homeless (?) guy who hailed us a cab afterwards, the “joyful” people who came and sat by us later in the game, the goalie’s shootout stance and many other memories of our night at the Madhouse on Madison. And that is part of why I so adore sports. Our family will forever remember this incredible time together.


Perfect April Fools’ Day x20!

Growing up, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. Or Sid Hartman. They loved Minnesota, History, Sports and Writing. Today, I celebrate 20 years with The Flint Group doing precisely what I so love: writing. It’s all due to amazing clients and incredible colleagues. And it’s perfect that April Fools’ Day is my work anniversary.


Never the same job

In today’s world NO ONE stays at a position for two decades. Yet my responsibilities have shifted so greatly, my position has never seemed the same. In the early years, I got to write “print, radio, TV” for clients. Sometimes, we even got to write billboards! The words “blog,” “tweet,” “Facebook” “SEO” didn’t exist. I attended a conference in 1993 on “The World Wide Web.” One speaker said, “This is a cute little trend, but it, too, will pass.” I remember being sad — then thrilled he was dead wrong.

Change is good

The constant change is what drives me. I’ve written copy for ice cream, air drills, coal, McDonald’s bacon, dogs, baseball, checking accounts, hockey, nut-free spread, cats, Subway footlongs, electricity, vodka, Subway 6-inches, dying people, corn seed, tractors, basketball, McDonald’s french fries, medical conditions I can’t pronounce (but I can spell perfectly!), football, nuclear energy, marathons, pigs, political candidates (there is a comma between those two), musicals, wheat seed, drugs (the legal kind; or so they said), horses, bikes, crazy Olympic skaters (no comma there), skis, volleyball, pandas, natural gas and, yes, race tracks.

I’ve written copy conveyed on milk cartons, labels, arena scoreboards, by Mr. Paul Harvey (yes, that Paul Harvey), government leaders, confidential white papers–and some copy that never aired or was printed. Most times, that was a good thing because it means we avoided crisis. I’ve written screenfuls of text to “get  the bugs out.” I’ve written headlines that weren’t ever approved. I’ve written snarky, sassy, sarcastic copy no one besides our dogs ever saw (great therapy, I highly recommend it).

Do what you love; love what you do

If you know me, you know I wouldn’t stick with a career that didn’t bring me joy. This has. I was going to say it’s never seemed like work. That’s not true. Many times, the research, concepting and looking for just that right word and phrase (my best ones come to me in the swimming pool or at 2:48 a.m.) is grueling. But it’s like a killer workout — it hurts at the time. And when you feel the muscle aches the next day and especially the day after that, it feels so GOOD. Then you see a client get results of something your colleagues have done. I love that feeling. Sometimes, we’ve failed. Ouch. But with a strong client relationship, we re-collected, pulled all-nighters, thought deeper and smarter and got back on track. I’m probably most proud of the results of those failures.

Shared values

The Flint Group has leaders and clients who have balance. Without getting all corporate-speaky, here’s what I mean. Our CEO still signs his holiday note “Merry Christmas.” He still closes our office early on Good Friday.

When I opted to stay home with our 2 young kids (and have a 3rd), my colleagues were my core support group. All parents themselves, I called them when I locked myself in the closet to escape a houseful of toddlers, dogs and crayons gone crazy. They laughed … and talked me out of the darkness. My Flint Group friends even let me keep writing for our clients on a freelance basis. And when the time was right for both of us, I came back to the agency. (My husband and I contemplated another kid — we opted for 3 kids and both of us having careers. Best decision ever.) When my husband took a job in another city, my supervisor didn’t blink and said, “You can do what you do from home.” The only time I nearly cried at work! (Some of the best advice I got that I will now pass on to other women professionals: Never, ever cry at work.)

Today, I’ll spend my 20 yr. anniversary as a Flint Group colleague in perfect fashion: Some early morning work for great clients with colleagues I so appreciate. Some time getting up to speed on the latest marketing/communications and especially social media trends and buzz. (If you don’t take a daily pulse on this, you’re outta touch.) Then, go with arguably my best mentor, an amazing writer, to our beloved Twins Home Opening Game. (No, not Sid. Although I bet he’ll be there, too.) Ms. Mary Schieve and I will go downtown to cheer on our Twins. And I’ll be looking for clever copy, grinding my teeth at typos on buswraps and agonizing over where to put a comma in a project due later this week.

Perfect. Thanks, Flint Group.