WASHINGTON — For the past three days, hockey fanatic Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., has been at Nationals Stadium — converted from a baseball field to a dazzling hockey venue for the NHL’s Winter Classic — where sadly the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Capitals in the last dramatic seconds of Thursday’s game.
Quigley is a fan, a player and a hockey evangelist.
He’s been in the game since his folks gave him skates when he was an 8-year old growing up in Carol Stream.
The co-chair of the Congressional Hockey Caucus (yes, there is one) hits the ice twice a week with his Chicago teams and plays in other charity games through the year.
Quigley’s devotion to hockey is so total that seven surgeries, hundreds of stitches and a few broken noses are merely previews for the additional injuries certainly facing the 56-year-old wiry lawmaker.
I caught up with Quigley before the game to talk about the intersection of pucks, policy and politics.
Quigley is wearing a Blackhawks jersey with No. 5 on the back, the number of his North Side congressional district. He watched the game from a skybox where he hosted a fund-raiser for his main political campaign committee.
There were many side events in connection with the Winter Classic, and on Tuesday, Quigley played in a game with former Capitals and some members of the media.
“An hour and a half on the ice at full speed with guys who haven’t been out of the NHL very long. It’s great stuff,” Quigley said.
On Wednesday, Quigley skated with the USA Warriors, “all guys injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, some single, some double amputees,” and the Blackhawks. Quigley called it “scrum hockey,” played with two pucks. Each side had 10 Warriors and 10 Blackhawks.
Quigley recalled a Warrior proudly said, “I scored on [Blackhawks goaltender] Corey Crawford.”
Quigley is heavily involved with the Warriors. As his lawmaker/hockey identity grows — it doesn’t hurt that the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013 — Quigley is looking for ways to create private and public opportunities to help make the very expensive sport of hockey more accessible to youths.
“For me, it’s not just about growing the game. I think there is a great injustice wen a kid can play a sport only in front of him. . . . It’s also about fairness. It’s not that the next Wayne Gretzky can be from the South Side of Chicago. It’s even if that kid is not any good . . . he should be able to play hockey.”
Quigley has been elected to the House four times and gets sworn-in to a new term on Tuesday.
When Congress is in session, there can be dozens of fundraisers each night, with donors “going to the same damn events over and over and over, cocktails and bad hors d’oeuvres. Here, they get to watch the Capitals and the Blackhawks in an outdoor game,” Quigley said.
The ask for this New Year’s Day funder was $2,600, the maximum an individual can contribute to a federal candidate in each election cycle.
Said Quigley, “This was an easy sell.”
Please note: The sentence reflecting a score on Corey Crawford has been corrected.