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Quenneville’s intensity always good for a lift – and a laugh

The first time Patrick Kane heard Joel Quenneville string together obscenities during a game, weaving a colorful quilt of curses behind the bench, it was jarring. Unnerving, even. Kane was just 19, after all, and had only known the more mellow Denis Savard as an NHL coach. 

Quenneville was something else entirely, and had to be heard to be believed.

“It was definitely different,” Kane said. “Catches you off guard at first.”

Bleep this and bleep that. Bleep off and bleep him. Bleep you, you bleeping bleeper. The best of the bunch?

“Something I can’t say here,” Kane said with a laugh. 

Indeed, this is the story of how the Hawks learned to stop worrying, and love the F-bomb.

“We’re used to it now,” Kane said. “To the point where if he says something, you nudge the guy next to you on the bench and laugh about the thing he says. He’s got some good comments back there. We enjoy it. Honestly, it gets us into the game, too.”

The cameras embedded with the Hawks for Epix’s “Road to the NHL Winter Classic” series showed a side of Quenneville the public rarely sees. Or perhaps more accurately, rarely hears. Everyone’s seen the Hawks coach flailing his arms and stomping up and down the bench during games, his tie flapping in the breeze. But few have heard the, uh, color commentary Quenneville provides during games. 

A very brief and very censored sampling of some of Quenneville’s gems from the documentary:

— After the disputed hooking call on Jonathan Toews that eventually cost the Hawks the Winter Classic: “Oh, bleep off you bleeping bleep. What a bleeping idiot.”

— After an earlier penalty against the Hawks: “Holy bleep, Batman!”

— During a particularly intense game against Minnesota: “Holy bleep! It’s a bleeping bleep bleep tonight! … I’m going to go bleeping mental in this bleeping game tonight.”

— After a failed play by Bryan Bickell: “Bleep off, Pickles.”

Then there are the jubilant shouts of “Peanut butter!” when a top-shelf goal is scored, and the ferocious fist-bumps he gives to each player entering the dressing room after a win. “Nobody likes winning more than me!” he’s been heard shouting on multiple occasions. 

“He gets pretty fired up when he’s on the bench,” Marian Hossa said. “When there’s something he doesn’t like, he lets the referees or the players know. Off the ice, he’s pretty calm.”

And that’s the thing. When Quenneville grips both sides of the lectern some 20 minutes after a game and starts mumbling about either great performances or wasted opportunities, his voice low and gravely, with little emotion and less volume, he sounds exactly like a guy with 2,352 games under his belt as both a player and a coach. Experienced. Poised. Almost blasé. A man who’s been here before, who has the proper perspective on the relative insignificance of one measly game.

But that’s only because he just spent the last two-plus hours ranting and raving like a first-timer, and he’s basically got nothing left in the tank.

“Every game’s different,” Quenneville shrugged. “You play to win that game, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Just about every player on the bench has been told by Quenneville to “(bleep) off” at some point or another during a game, but they learn to shrug it off. If anything, players find Quenneville’s over-the-top intensity during games, even after 36 years in the NHL, inspiring. If the coach isn’t getting complacent, what excuse do the players have?

“It shows that he cares, and it’s pretty special to bring that attitude night in, night out,” Kane said. “It’s something we can all learn from.”

And at the very least, it’s always good for a laugh. 

“Oh, sometimes you get a good chuckle,” Bickell said. “He knows that we can hear him, and I think he knows we’re laughing. But it’s good to see him so caught up in it. It inspires me and the team. Like he says, nobody likes winning more than him.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus