Patrick Sharp, looking so unnatural in the green and white of the Dallas Stars, took a knee on the United Center ice on Feb. 11, 2016, and craned his neck to watch the big scoreboard hanging high above. Not too long ago, there was nothing the Blackhawks loved more — or did better — than rousing tribute videos to returning ex-Blackhawks, and this one was a doozy. It lasted the entire television timeout. The crowd roared with each passing highlight of a big goal, each clip of a funny off-ice bit, each of the three times Sharp raised the Stanley Cup over his head.
As the video — set to Pearl Jam’s “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” a melancholy ode to long-lost love — built to its emotional crescendo, tears filled Sharp’s eyes while Eddie Vedder howled, “My God, it’s been so long. Never dreamed you’d return.”
Not long after the game, Sharp received a text. It was from Vedder, who told Sharp he saw the video online and that it was “beautiful.”
“That was pretty awesome,” A.J. Dolan said, nearly seven years later.
Was that the culmination of Dolan’s feverish, myopic, borderline comical and — let’s face it — slightly absurd quest to cram as much Pearl Jam as possible into the Blackhawks fan experience as the team’s former senior manager of game operations and entertainment? Or was it the time he played 10 — ten! — Pearl Jam songs in one game, on Dec. 20 of that same year, the day the band was voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Or how about the time he got to the rink early and blasted 19 consecutive full-length Pearl Jam songs — a full concert, basically — over the United Center sound system, just because he could?
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) January 24, 2017
Yes, “Chelsea Dagger” has been synonymous with the Blackhawks for the last 14 years as the team’s longstanding goal song. But it’s not The Fratellis who were the soundtrack of the greatest era in franchise history. It was Pearl Jam.
For no real reason other than a few guys in the United Center control room wanted it to be.
The trick, you see, to sneaking in five or six songs by the same, let’s say, less-relevant-than-it-used-to-be band in one hockey game is to get pretty obscure. We’re talking deep, deep cuts. Had Dolan and his team been blasting “Alive,” “Even Flow,” “Jeremy,” “Corduroy” and “Last Kiss” every night, even then-Blackhawks president John McDonough — whose only nighty musical insistence was “Juke Box Hero” by Foreigner, speaking of less-relevant bands — might have caught on. But when you’re throwing in “Breakerfall” or “W.M.A.” or “MFC” or “Mankind,” it’s pretty easy to sneak yet another Pearl Jam song by the boss.
“If John McDonough knew I would try to get to four or five Pearl Jam songs a day, he would have said to stop it,” Dolan said with a laugh….
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