Saturday, a hard wind was blowing off the prairie, leading to a hard game of softball at the Wolfpack annual summer picnic. The Wolves mascot, Skates, was doing a great job handling softballs at shortstop. I sat on a low ridge looking at the game, watching the tall prairie grass move in waves in the distance.
It was a moment from the past of America, the game, meaningless except for boasting rights, opened before me as it had opened for generations of Americans probably from before the American Civil War. There was the smell of beer and charcoal grills in the air and there were friends. Kevin Cheveldayoff was there too: there he was the relaxed general manager of the Chicago Wolves, and to my memory it was the first time he had ever been to a Wolfpack picnic.
He was mixing well with the fans, noting that the American Hockey League was to issue its schedule soon and he wasn’t working on it yet, because he hadn’t received any word from the league yet. He was a bachelor this week; the family had gone back, apparently to Saskatchewan. In a meaningless moment, I asked how his folks were. I’d met them during a Manitoba trip several years ago.
His mom was well, he said. She’d been down to visit the family, now firmly entrenched in Chicago, earlier that summer.
It was just a moment. Like many before, passing Chevy in a hotel lobby, a crowded concourse or a picnic, he was always ready to talk. He was always available.
Today, Chevy, as he is known, is the assistant general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. What can I tell Hawks fans about the biggest steal from the Chicago Wolves ever? Obviously he is a man who can mix with the common fan, enjoys it, and maybe even relishes the opportunity to talk about something that is he is now depending on for his living.
And he hates losing. Several years ago, before the team won the Calder Cup, I ran into Chevy at the Hamilton, Ontario arena as it was becoming clear the team wouldn’t be able to move to the next round of the playoffs. He expressed his disappointment at the year’s results. I expressed great satisfaction for the entertainment value. I don’t think it ever even occurred to him that there could be anything but winning.
Wolves’ fans always said Chevy would fix our problems. He would go out and find the blue liner, the wing or the goalie we needed to win the championships. And he amassed a lot of metal at the Wolves. He found John Anderson and with him developed a team that was often compared to the New York Yankees by other fans, that is, the fans who cheered for teams that either didn’t make the playoffs or who never made it to the final round.
Chevy is moving from an organization that really didn’t accept anything but banners, cups and rings to an organization that is undergoing a huge change in personality. He is probably the best thing the Hawks have ever taken from the Levin organization. He will find any loss hard to swallow and will not accept just appearing in the playoffs. One Goal indeed. This is as big as the Bowman moves.