By Ross Forman
Chris Hine skated into the spotlight March 9 the way he does it best – with his writing.
But he was part of the story this time, too.
Hine, the Blackhawks beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, blasted a question posed to an NFL prospect by an assistant coach for the Atlanta Falcons during his interview at the NFL Combine, the annual skill audition and physical evaluation for players who have declared for the NFL Draft, which begins April 28 in Chicago. Apple is a top prospect from Ohio State University and a potential first-round pick.
Apple reported that the Falcons’ coach asked him, “So, do you like men?” and that reportedly was one of the first things he asked.
Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn later apologized for the question. “I am really disappointed in the question that was asked by one of our coaches,” Quinn told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I have spoken to the coach that interviewed Eli Apple and explained to him how inappropriate and unprofessional this was.”
“After I got to think about (the coach’s question), and the implications of what was being said, I started to get a little angrier about it,” said Hine, 29, who lives in Chicago’s West Lakeview neighborhood and is in sixth year writing for the Tribune and his first full season as the Hawks’ beat writer.
Hine is gay, as he revealed in the column about the Apple incident.
“I needed to say what was said,” said Hine, who previously has covered University of Illinois football and basketball and the University of Notre Dame football and basketball.
Hine said the response to his public coming-out has been overwhelmingly positive – from fellow journalists and readers. Other than a couple of negative emails and Tweets, the response has been 98 or 99 percent positive and supportive, he said.
Is the NHL ready for an openly gay player?
“That’s an interesting question … I hope so,” he said. “The NHL has worked with the You Can Play Project to promote a pretty solid atmosphere. I think the NHL has done a good job on that over the past couple of years.
“I do think it can happen, but I have my doubts that there are going to be several gay players or a wave of players coming out; I don’t think we’ve hit that point, yet. I still think it takes a lot of courage and guts to come out, given their careers and the millions of dollars that are on the line, and [they] just don’t know how players or coaches are going to react.
“There is a lot at stake, and I totally understand why gay athletes [don’t want to come out]; I really do.”
Hine came out to his parents at age 22 just before moving to Chicago from his native Pennsylvania, then, over the next year or so, he told his friends.
“It was a tough process [coming out], working up the nerve to do it, but everyone in my life has been very supportive of me; I’m very fortunate in that regard because it’s not like that for all other gay men,” Hine said. “I couldn’t have asked for more [love and support in my coming-out.]”
Hine said covering the Blackhawks is “a really fun job … just being a sportswriter is a dream job.”
“Getting to cover the Blackhawks is a great responsibility, one I’m glad my bosses asked me to take on,” he said. “There’s such a passionate following for the Hawks in Chicago.”
Hine said the best part of the job comes after writing a good story and then receiving favorable feedback. Hine said another positive of the position is just getting to meet a lot of new people.
Hine said covering the 2015 playoff run by the Blackhawks was a highlight, and interviewing the Hawks on the United Center ice after the team won the title last June “was a pretty cool experience,” he said.
And despite the tight deadline, he definitely took a moment “to take in the atmosphere and recognize this was a special moment.”
Hine writes two stories daily, which can be a grueling and demanding process, he said.
From The Press Box
Chris Hine, the Blackhawks beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, offered his perspective on puck action he’s witnessed in person:
Best Goal: Alex Killorn’s deflected goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
Best Assist: Brad Richards’ no-look pass to Patrick Kane to set up a goal in the clinching Game 6 of Stanley Cup Final.
Best Save: Scott Darling’s shortstop-like save against the Maple Leafs in February.
Best Game: Game 2 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals when the Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in triple overtime.
Most Exciting Game: Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, when the Blackhawks clinched the Cup on home ice.
Best ‘Quote Machine’: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues coach
Most Exciting Play: Andrew Shaw’s ‘headbutt’ goal against the Ducks in the playoffs, which ultimately was waved off.
Most Exciting Player: Patrick Kane
Best Jersey: Philadelphia Flyers orange jersey
Worst Jersey: Nashville Predators yellow jersey
Best NHL Arena: Bell Centre in Montreal
Worst NHL Arena: Rexall Place in Edmonton
Second-best National Anthem (behind Chicago): Ginette Reno singing ‘Oh Canada’ in Montreal.
Best NHL Arena Food: Montreal
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years, and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.