At 1 p.m. Tuesday, when the Wolves’ United flight was cancelled before 10 players and 2,500 pounds of equipment could board, John Boulet and Rob Lorden of United’s Charter Operations group went above and beyond to try to get the equipment to Toronto on Tuesday.
When that wasn’t able to happen, Boulet protected the gear, locked it up and ensured it was in the air by 7 a.m. Wednesday. Without the sticks and uniforms and pads and medical equipment and everything else getting here, there couldn’t be a game.
So the gear flew here on United this morning. Ten players and a handful of other Wolves employees flew here on American. As you might imagine, Customs isn’t fond of so much gear flying into a different country unaccompanied. We worried the Customs people wouldn’t be sympathetic about how we got bumped and had to scatter to different flights and airlines just to make it in time.
But a friendly lady named Barbara at the United counter couldn’t have been more helpful. She escorted equipment manager Craig Kogut downstairs, explained the issue to the Customs officers and got him through the door so he could coordinate a job that required four porters to get the equipment from the baggage carousel to the Toronto Marlies truck parked outside.
Here’s the kicker: It was Barbara’s last day. She has been working there for 16 years, but she and her group have been outsourced. She didn’t volunteer this information. She mentioned it only when we asked how her day was going. She admitted she didn’t know exactly how she felt, yet she couldn’t have been more helpful and the Chicago Wolves appreciate it.
I’m betting there were several other people working behind the scenes to help things go the team’s way --- especially on a crazy day when people around the world were trying to solve flight problems at O’Hare and tensions ran high --- and the Wolves can’t thank you enough.
And this doesn’t even take into account the Wolves hockey operations department --- assistant general manager Bill Bentley, hockey operations assistant Norine Gillner and general manager Wendell Young --- working tirelessly to try to make alternate arrangements for the players and coaches and support staff.
ABOUT THE CRAZY TRAVEL
Amazing how one small fire in an Elgin bathroom can disrupt travel all over the globe. Surely you’ve seen news reports about the two-hour ground stop at O’Hare and Midway and the limited air traffic for several hours after the ground stop was lifted.
Equipment manager Craig Kogut has been with the Wolves since the beginning. He said he’s never seen O’Hare as crazy and never endured such a long travel delay.
In the end…after endless phone calls and texts and confirmations and cancellations and automatic rebookings for Thursday (one day too late) and rumors about a bus trip…the Wolves coaches and trainer Kevin Kacer caught a flight late Tuesday that went straight from O’Hare to Toronto. They arrived around midnight.
Fifteen players caught a flight late Tuesday that took them to Kitchener, Ontario, then they rode the bus for two hours to get to the hotel after midnight.
Eight players (and Kogut and a few others) woke up between 3-4 a.m. today in order to catch a 6 a.m. flight. Two other players had to wait for an 11 a.m. flight in order to catch up with the rest of the boys.
Without a full team or any equipment available, the Wolves scratched the usual morning skate today. Guys tried to catch up on sleep they missed, but got back into their usual game-day groove with the pregame meal at noon.
Long story short, travel woes won’t be an excuse tonight if things don’t go the Wolves’ way. In fact, they might be a benefit because it’s yet another thing to unite this already close group.
Daily Herald: O'Hare flights back to normal after problems Tuesday
ABC7: Chicago Wolves stranded by ground stop, trying to get to Toronto playoff game
NBC5: Chicago Wolves Hockey Team Among Travelers Stuck at Airport
CBS Chicago: Chicago Wolves Stranded By Flight Delays Ahead of Playoff Game