Now-former Blackhawks defenseman James Wisniewski is known as a screwball, as evidenced by the multitude of team promos and other unavoidable YouTube clips. He’s also one of the tougher guys on the team, never backing down from a brawl, even if it means risking life and limb like with the serious knee injury he re-aggravated last season after scrapping with Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo at the end of a game.
I recently interviewed Wisniewski Monday afternoon — just two days before he was shipped to Anaheim at the trade deadline. We met in the Hawks United Center locker room, which can be a pretty intimidating place for a hockey newbie like me. Yet the personable Wiz made me feel right at home and even let me get in on some of the ripping of his now-former teammates.
The Heckler: You’ve played a couple years with the Hawks now. How does what’s going on this season compare with previous years?
James Wisniewski: It’s good to see hockey coming back.
TH: A lot of the fans — myself included — are new fans jumping on the bandwagon. Do you ever think it’s funny when bandwagon fans react at the wrong things because they don’t know what the hell is going on?
JW: Naw, it’s just really exciting to play in front of such big crowds. It’s funny when fans by the glass expect you to wave back at them even though it’s the middle of a game though. I think a lot of people are realizing how avid hockey fans they can become when they watch in person. You see it on TV and it doesn’t do it justice. In person it’s like a million miles an hour.
TH: You grew up in the Detroit area so I assume you were a Wings fan. Does that make it different to play against them and battle for the division?
JW: I was a Wings fan. My uncle (Billy Dea) played for them and then coached them and worked in their front office until they fired him with a letter in the mail in the ’90s. When something like that happens, it’s kinda easy to stop liking a franchise.
But my first year in the NHL, a lot of the guys I grew up watching were still on the team … Shanahan … Yzerman. I don’t want to say intimidated, but playing against them at Joe Louis Arena was a pretty exciting way to start. fans have been waiting for this for a while and they love a winner.
TH: Not sure what you’ve heard of the publication I run …
JW: You’re that paper that rips on everything, right?
TH: So in that spirit …
JW: You want to start ripping on people? Let’s do it. Let’s go down the line [pointing at teammates]
Adam Burish. He thinks he’s king shit of Poop Island. Everyone thinks he’s an All-American boy but he’s the exact opposite. We call him Capt. Madison. He could run for governor of Wisconsin. Want something done in Wisconsin? Call Capt. Madison over there.
Burish: That’s Mr. Madison to you.
JW: Okay. Mr. Madison. He’s always playing with his hair. Real big shot.
TH: I heard he’s got a pretty active Facebook account.
JW: Yeah, what’s he got, like 7,000 friends? Real All-American boy.
TH: Who’s next?
JW: Troy Brouwer. My roommate. The guy’s a know-it-all. Knows everything. We call him The Dictionary.
TH: Kind of like Cliff Clavin?
JW: Yeah, exactly. Then you have Colin Fraser. Biggest overachiever on the planet. He’s engaged and she’s actually good-looking. Maybe she’s blind or something.
Brouwer: Did Wiz show you his Pamela Anderson barbed-wire tattoo? [Lifting Wisniewski’s sleeve to show the ink.] JW: It’s not barbed-wire. It’s tribal.
TH: What tribe is that?
JW: The Wiz Tribe. I’ve got three tattoos. My grandfather’s dog tag numbers on my side and the Team USA logo on my chest [lifting up his shirt to show off both]. We beat Team Canada for the gold in 2004. [Teammate Brent] Seabrook was on that team. He was on the ice when they gave up the game-winning goal. I’m not sure about that, but make sure you print it.