(Editor’s note: This is the second installment of what’s going to be a regular series here at SCH where we’ll reach out to other writers from around the SB Nation family to learn more about other writers’ history with the sport, how the Blackhawks line up with other teams, and some general hockey talk.)
Before we begin, two important things to note: Elaine Shircliff can’t remember a time in her life when hockey — make that sports in general — wasn’t an important, and even a contentious, part of her family’s life. Secondly, she hails from a family that holds long and serious grudges against teams from indiscretions committed long ago (this might be a story kept for another time though). Let’s start by diving into the hockey.
Shircliff is not only an avid multi-team hockey fan, but also a prolific hockey writer. Her storied writing career began in 2009 for a (now retired) Blackhawks blog. Yes, you heard that right, a Blackhawks blog. So perhaps we should take a step back even farther to examine her circuitous route towards her current work with The Cannon and love for the Blue Jackets (Right, Elaine? You do like the Blue Jackets, don’t you?)
Born in the Chicago suburbs, Shircliff remembers listening to the “captivating” hockey radio broadcasters from the 1990s and being fully entranced by the commentary along with her besotted, hockey-devoted parents.
“People always ask me: ‘Oh, it was your dad that got you into hockey, right?’ Wrong! It was my grandma! And she was actually the one that got my parents into hockey as well. She was a huge hockey fan and loved the University of Michigan team. But my grandpa was an all-sports Ohio State fan. I remember they would argue about whose team I should be a fan of!” Her grandma finally conceded that, “she can be a fan of anything Ohio state team EXCEPT she HAS to be a fan of Michigan hockey!’”
Sadly Shircliff’s Grandma died when she was four, but she fondly reminisces about the family’s hockey affinities. Although her mother is a Detroit Wings fan and her father is a Cleveland Crusaders fan, Shircliff’s mother “generously allowed me to decide what team I would ultimately want to be a fan of.” Shircliff sided with the University of Michigan, partially due to her grandma’s influence, but also because of the team’s culture. “I loved the way the team ran. The fun they had, and their dedication.”
Of course people stil ask Shircliff if she’s still a Blachawks fan. “Yes I am, and people always wonder if I’m going to jump ship. Well, I’m also a Cleveland Browns fan, and if I haven’t jumped ship on that team with their terrible track record then I won’t jump ship on the Blackhawks.” “Especially,” she emphatically adds, “while Patrick Kane is playing.”
As for the Blue Jackets? It all started with her love of Jakub Voracek’s hair. Well, only partially.
“I always wanted to be a sports writer but didn’t know where to start.” After being introduced to, and writing for a Hawks blog in 2009, “I started dipping my toes into writing with random posts.”
On April 1, 2011, she was asked by the blog she wrote for at the time, “Blackhawks Down Low,” to travel to Columbus to cover the game. She was comped a ticket behind the Blue Jackets’ bench, and witnessed a game that changed her mind.
“I treated the Blue Jackets like the ‘little brother of hockey,’ like everyone else, at the time. But the way they were on the bench that night, the camaraderie, they were like a family, they were just having fun. They didn’t care what other people thought of them, they were the Blue Jackets! At that game, Viktor Stalberg won it in shootouts but the Blue Jackets didn’t look defeated, and they could have easily been that way. They just held their heads high, and were total professionals and still had the zest for playing that game. I went down to Columbus thinking that the CBJ’s were just a really bad team and that game changed my mind.”
Almost immediately after this game — and while still writing for the Blackhawks — she started her own Blue Jackets blog. “I created a somewhat ‘inappropriate’ title for the site based on a play of the acronym for the team in an effort to attract traffic to my blog, which worked, by the way.” As an added punch, “the first article I wrote about the Blue Jackets was called ‘The First Time is so Special’ in which I really played it up cause the team had a lot of ‘firsts’ that year.”
In 2013 Shircliff’s friend Jeff Little introduced her to The Cannon and three years later Tony Brown, the play by play announcer for the Monsters, suggested she reach out to SB Nation and she has been working for the site ever since. Unfortunately, Jeff died in 2017, but Shircliff is honored to continue his memory and legacy through her work.
How about this season? Shircliff says the key work is DRAMA.
“I thought that the Jackets couldn’t get any more dramatic after Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchane left, then we experienced the bubble with the pandemic. I don’t know how the players are focusing on the game to be honest. It seems as though they are having issues that we as fans and writers don’t know about because they are not telling the credentialed media what’s going on.”
In addition to that, Schircliff thinks the devoted fan feels alienated and that more work needs to be done to collect the fan base and the players in a symbiotic relationship. “There’s no identity in Columbus right now so it’s so hard to be a fan, It seems like the team itself doesn’t have an identity either. They need to think of their own brand and who they are.”
What does Schircliff say for the game against the Hawks? “Chaos can be fun. I always like to see the kids that played together in the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets meet up for an NHL showdown, such as Jack Roslovic and Connor Murphy, it’s always exciting cause they know how to get under each other’s skin.”
Goalie matches are interesting Lankinen was underrated but we should be calling him “Lanko-win,” and I hope to see Joonas Korpisalo go up against him.” If Kaner and Kubalik and Suter are flying down the ice and they are being denied by Roslovic and Atkinson and Jenner, then we’ll see a low scoring game and that’s hockey!”
It sure is hockey. Now let’s go Hawks!