By Jonathan Bombulie
WILKES-BARRE TWP., Pa. – Dan Bylsma rose from his stall — gear on, skates tied tight — and tiptoed toward the locker room door to line up with his teammates.
As they clicked and clacked up the short staircase that led to the ice, a chant began.
“Here come the Hawks. Here come the Hawks.”
Bylsma took a stride onto the sheet of ice. Bright lights flooded the rink. The cold wind whipped at his face.
He was 6 years old.
The rink, carefully constructed of packed snow and water from the garden hose over three days in late December or early January, was in the backyard of his family’s home in Grand Haven, Mich.
Bylsma’s teammates, so to speak, were his three older brothers, as well as anyone else from the neighborhood who dropped by for a pick-up game.
The family’s basement had been fashioned into a makeshift locker room, complete with stalls for each of the Bylsma boys. They called themselves the Hawks mostly because the NHL’s Blackhawks had to climb stairs to reach the ice at the old Chicago Stadium.
“That was hockey to me,” the newly named head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins said this week.