The inside story of new Blackhawks president Jaime Faulkner and Hurricanes D-man Jaccob Slavin’s unlikely friendship
Before Faulkner was named the Hawks’ head of business operations — actually before she entered the hockey world at all — she billeted a teenage Slavin in Bensenville.
When Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin got a call from the Faulkner family Dec. 15, he initially didn’t think too much about it.
After all, Slavin and Colin and Jaime Faulkner — his billet family in the Chicago suburbs in 2011-13 — still keep in touch.
But this call came with a twist.
‘‘Colin and Jaime had called me and said, ‘Hey, someone’s going to be the new president of business operations for the Hawks,’ ’’ Slavin said. ‘‘And my first guess was Colin. Like, he’s going from baseball to hockey.
‘‘But he’s like, ‘Nope, it’s Jaime.’ And I was like, ‘Oh. Well, that is super-sweet.’ ’’
Indeed, it wasn’t Colin — the Cubs’ vice president of sales and marketing and a former Stars executive — taking over the Blackhawks; it was Jaime making the jump from the concessions side of the sports world.
Back in 2011, when this unlikely connection first formed, things were a lot different.
Slavin, then a bowl-cut 17-year-old from Denver, had just joined the U.S. Hockey League’s Chicago Steel — then based in Bensenville, now based in Geneva — and needed a billet family to live with. Shared Christian faith paired Slavin with the Faulkners, who had just moved to Bensenville with their three kids.
For two years, they basically acted as his fill-in parents. Slavin regularly ate dinner at their home, kept Jaime updated via texts about his whereabouts and even attended Hawks games with the family.
‘‘It was their household, so I was obeying their rules and trying not to give their kids too much candy,’’ he said.
All the while, Slavin developed a strong relationship with his billet mom.
‘‘She still did my laundry for me and would cook me meals sometimes,’’ he said. ‘‘Back then, my pregame meal was just a box of mac and cheese and chocolate milk, so things have changed a little bit from that standpoint. But she was awesome. Anything I needed, I could communicate with her.’’
Said Jaime: ‘‘What having Jaccob in our house did was help us understand what it’s like to be in juniors: the dedication, the amount of work [and] balancing school and being on the ice, which is a great example for our kids. It gave us a different lens of what it was like to be in the game of hockey.’’
That relationship continued after Slavin moved on to play two seasons at Colorado College and now five — going on six — with the Hurricanes.
He has scored at least 30 points and averaged at least 22:30 of ice time in each of the last four seasons, establishing himself as one of the NHL’s most consistent and underrated top-pairing defensemen.
‘‘I’ve matured and grown up a lot, and I know how to do my own laundry now,” Slavin said. ‘‘Anytime I’m back in Chicago, I always reach out to them to see if we can meet up, and typically it works out where I can go up to their house for dinner. We have good memories together.’’
The Faulkners, meanwhile, were so pleased by their experience with Slavin that they remained a billet family for numerous Steel prospects through the years, coinciding with Jaime’s transition from accounting into the thick of the sports world.
This season, the Hawks and Hurricanes have been united in the Central Division and will play eight times — perfect timing for Jaime in her first season heading the Hawks and for Slavin’s hopes of congratulating her in person.
‘‘I’m super-excited for her, and I know she’s going to do a great job,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s just the type of worker that she is. She’s a super-smart woman when it comes to those kind of things.”