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I'm not going to claim 10,000 or 12,000 or 18,000 people were wrong for booing the memory of the late Bill Wirtz at United Center during a pre-game ceremony on Oct. 6.

The disgruntled felt how they felt.

But this space is about how I feel – and it ranges from perplexed to troubled.

Let's be clear, I'm not a Bill Wirtz booster. I understand why thousands of Chicago hockey fans have been disappointed/driven away by the way he mismanaged the franchise. No Cups in more than four decades; no home TV; feuds with several of the stars. It wasn't a recipe for success.

At the same time, a human life is sacred. Unless we're talking pure evil – and it my world, I'm thinking Saddam Hussein/rapist/pedophile/murderer evil – the appropriate behavior for me is to respect the departed and their families. That's not a hypocritical stance, just decent.

The problem is professional sports teams have become so entwined with our everyday existence, we've invested ourselves to the hilt in their successes or failures. I'm guilty of it, too. For me, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers. When Ben Roethlisberger throws a goofy interception, I sometimes goÂ…goofy.

At some point, though, it's incumbent upon me to figure out why I'm really pissed off – and it's clearly not rational to be irked by a person I don't know. That one's on me.

Besides, how fickle are we really? The Blackhawks qualified for the 1992 Stanley Cup final, losing in four games to the Penguins. Had Chicago reversed its fortunes in that series and grabbed the championship, how different would Wirtz's legacy have been? Would he be as reviled?

At the end of the day, the Chicago Blackhawks probably should have been able to foresee the response and planned accordingly.

One of my colleagues, THN copy editor/writer Ryan Kennedy, saw this coming a mile away and suggested the Hawks forego a ceremony and instead wear armbands this season.

Senior writer Mike Brophy wondered if getting a legend such as Stan Mikita to deliver the speech, as opposed to Tallon who's still attached to the club, may have made a difference.

We'll never know. But what I do know is I don't want to witness another uncomfortable spectacle like the one that played out Oct. 6 in Chicago.

GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN Readers of The Hockey News will want to check out this clip that pays tribute to the late Dave Fay. A Washington Times beat writer and our Capitals correspondent for many years, Fay passed away this summer of cancer. He was 67.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED The NHL's decision to start next season a week later, combined with the likelihood of increased travel as the league moves to a restructured schedule, could lead to increased fatigue among the players early in 2008-09. And when players are more tired, injuries are more frequent. Just something to monitor.


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