Reliable, relaxed Calvin de Haan ready to refresh Blackhawks’ defense, on and off the ice
From co-owning a brewery to regularly responding to trolls on Twitter, the Hawks’ summer acquisition is more than just a stay-at-home defenseman.
Ask most any NHL player about Twitter — or litter, or glitter, or anything that remotely sounds like Twitter — and he’ll automatically reach into the cliche grab-bag and find the one labeled “social media.”
“You’ve just got to block out the noise,” he’ll say.
But Calvin de Haan won’t.
He doesn’t, in fact, do much like a typical NHL player.
Before last month, the stay-at-home defenseman had never been traded in his career, dating back in juniors.
His second job as a brewery co-owner gives him a strong case for hockey’s most interesting man.
He doesn’t even like cliches — after instinctively describing his offseason plans as getting “faster, bigger, stronger,” he amended his answer to “all that BS you hear every day.”
And he actually loves Twitter.
“It’s how I get my news,” he admitted. “Like I don’t get up and read the morning newspaper anymore — we’re Millennials, that’s how we get a lot of our information.” (Editor’s note: The Sun-Times forgives him for that quip.)
So when Twitter was abuzz with Niklas Hjalmarsson comparisons after de Haan was acquired from the Hurricanes on June 24th, de Haan saw it, was flattered, and mentioned it on a media conference call hours later, without prompting.
And when critics and angry fans alike disparage his performance on the ice, de Haan sees that too, and instead of blocking out the noise, uses it as motivation.
“Seeing stuff and reading stuff about you that you may not agree with, sometimes it makes you work harder, makes you want to be a better player,” he said.
If it ever crosses the border into inappropriate, de Haan — simultaneously thick-skinned and laid-back as always — enjoys having some fun with it.
“Oh, it’s hilarious,” he said. “People will come back and be like, ‘Oh I didn’t mean it. Blah blah blah blah blah.’”
“Whatever, you obviously did.”
If anything, de Haan had less trolling content to work with than usual last season, playing for a smaller and friendlier fanbase in Carolina than he did the previous five seasons with the Islanders. He knows to expect more trolls — and worse weather too, he was quick to mention — in Chicago.
But he also says that it’s “good to feel wanted” by a team after the Hurricanes, one year after signing him to a four-year contract, blindsided him with the deal. For once, Twitter let him down.
“I had no idea. There wasn’t any rumors on the Internet,” he said. “[Hurricanes GM] Don Waddell called me, and it was a minute conversation because I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t think it was gonna be me.”
After processing the news with his fiancee, and talking with Stan Bowman and Jeremy Colliton — actually a teammate with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in 2011-12 — over the phone, de Haan has warmed up greatly to the move.
It turned out the Hawks had been trying since the season ended to work a trade for the 28-year-old Canadian. De Haan’s reliable defensive style should be invaluable for a D unit that ranked as one of the NHL’s worst last season.
“I’m just playing my game and taking meaningful, strong minutes,” he said. “Whether it’s 18 minutes or 30 minutes, who knows? I think I can be an asset for the organization.”
That’s essentially how de Haan handles every obstacle, both on the ice and in life: composed, relaxed, nonchalant.
It’s the way he’s been since his childhood on the rinks of Carp, Ontario, where he first befriended Jake Sinclair. Now, he and Sinclair are two of four partners co-owning Ridge Rock Brewing Co. in Carp.
“Laid-back, that’s definitely the word for Calvin,” Sinclair said. “If anybody were to sit down and meet him, you’d never know he’s a professional athlete. He doesn’t really carry that swagger that a lot of other guys do and doesn’t really show it off much. He enjoys the simple things.”
If he does have internal anxieties about a recent run of unfortunate injuries, he doesn’t show those off, either.
A stick-to-the-eye freak accident in March that caused a cut inside his eyeball, internal swelling and temporary — not that he, at first, knew it was temporary — blindness? No big deal, the way de Haan describes it.
“So that was weird, because I couldn’t really see out of it for like 30 hours,” he said. “You take that sense for granted. Trying to get around with one eye was a little weird, to be honest.”
What about an injury to his right shoulder — an area of concern for de Haan, considering his lengthy history of left shoulder issues — in the first round of the playoffs? Nothing he couldn’t play through for the next two series.
“I tried to win the Stanley Cup, and I put my body on the line,” he said. “Yeah, it kind of ruins my summer, because I’m not golfing and I haven’t even put on skates yet, so stuff like that kind of sucks. But looking back on it, it was the right decision to do and I would do it again.”
It has certainly disrupted his summer. Initial prognoses had de Haan out potentially until November.
He’s hopeful he’ll be ready for opening day in Prague come October, though, because he’s already feeling great — it’s just his doctor holding him back for now.
In the meantime, he’s back at home near Ottawa, spending time with his family, at his brewery and yes, on his Twitter account, too.
“We’re pretty pumped [for Chicago],” he said. “It’s a new beginning, and another speed bump in the road here, but it’s part of the journey.”