It remains to be seen whether those recent pictures of the Hawks' Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg and John Madden enjoying the Vancouver nightlife will impact the season.
I hope not.
Let's not forget the Hawks played Tuesday night -- defeating the Oilers 4-2, and it should have been more -- and that Kane became the youngest Hawk to reach 200 points. That all happened after the photos were made public on the Orland Kurtenblog.
I don't think the photos warrant some of the criticism out there on the message boards or in blogland, or even if they deserve all that much attention in the first place. To be honest, when I first saw the photos late Tuesday, I thought they were digitally altered -- perhaps just more fuel to throw on the fire that is currently the Hawks-Canucks rivalry.
It's only news because they're famous. TMZ would tell you that -- no matter how many professional athletes have their pictures taken at bars, parties and other "non-work" settings these days. You almost can't avoid them. Unflattering pictures of professional athletes fill up blogs faster than what actually happens on the field or, in this case, the ice. It happens; it's (unfortunately) the world we live in nowadays.
What should be the main concern for all Hawks fans is whether their play is impacted, and not what the women look like or why they have their shirts off. What matters most is what happens on the ice. Only time will tell if the photos become an insurmountable distraction. But I don't think they will. The Hawks have proven to be a resilient group.
Anyways, here's my story (below) in Thursday's Sun-Times on "those" pictures. I meet the team in Carolina this weekend.
And, by the way, the Hawks meet the San Jose Sharks Thursday night in a matchup of the top teams in the Western Conference.
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BY ADAM L. JAHNS
Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane, John Madden and Kris Versteeg are by no means the first professional athletes to be photographed in an unflattering light. But they are the latest.
The Vancouver Province's Orland Kurtenblog ran four photos of the trio Tuesday apparently in a limousine with three women. In three of the pictures, the Hawks are shirtless. Bottles of Kokanee, a popular beer in Western Canada, also are visible.
It is unknown whether the photos were taken a day before the Hawks lost 5-1 against the Canucks on Saturday or afterward.
A team spokesman said Hawks president John McDonough and general manager Stan Bowman would not comment. The team released this statement: ''We are aware of the photos. It is a team-related matter, and we will deal with it as such internally.''
Mike Halford, co-editor of the popular blog, wrote in an e-mail that a reader e-mailed the photos to Kurtenblog after coming across them on Facebook. At first, only three of the photos were posted. But after some readers suspected they were altered and not genuine, a fourth, showing all three Hawks under the vehicle's mirrored ceiling, was added.
This is not the first time NHL players or the Hawks have been photographed in social settings. The Hawks also were captured last year in costumes at a Halloween party where Kane and Adam Burish dressed as Bulls players.
''We receive photos like these with some regularity,'' said Greg Wyshynski, editor of Yahoo's popular Puck Daddy blog. ''Sometimes we roll with them if it's in good fun. Other times it might be a player or players in a compromising and unflattering position, and we're more careful with those because images do carry significant weight with fans, families and sponsors.''
Other notable photos include: Mike Commodore of the Columbus Blue Jackets wearing nothing but black briefs and covered in money; four members of the Montreal Canadiens wearing speedos and goggles; Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin at night clubs; and Philadelphia Flyers players at a fraternity party.
''Overall, these photos and stories are harmless,'' Wyshynski said. ''But we're also at a point where players have to be overcautious, to the point where some will only sign autographs rather than pose for photos. And that's the price we all pay for the public and private bleeding together on the Web.''