CHICAGO — Who knew beer could be part of the process for recovering from a hockey injury?
Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan started a brewery as a business and later had an idea to make a specialty beer for charity. But along the way he found the charity project helped him endure a demoralizing third season-ending right shoulder injury.
“I’d obviously rather be playing than focusing on this but it’s been really helping me pass the time and keep my mind focused on other things,” he said. “I’ve (had) three shoulder surgeries in the past three years so it’s been a grind mentally. It’s just kind of keeping me a little bit more occupied focusing on being a human versus a robot at the rink.”
The beer, Loud Barn Lager, was ready for its public debut Saturday afternoon at 4:30 at Goose Island Taproom, about a half mile from the United Center. It will be sold the night of every Hawks home game in March until supplies run out, and all proceeds benefit the team’s foundation.
De Haan brought down his Ridge Rock company’s brewmaster, Jamie Maxwell, to work with Goose Island on the beer, though de Haan did plenty of taste testing.
T.J. Annerino, Goose’s Island experiential market director, described the flavor as “easy drinking.”
“I think they actually took the hop character down a bit right before they brewed it and it came out very approachable, not crazy bitter,” he said. “I like to think of it as just a good hockey beer.”
Annerino and his team worked with de Haan on the name.
“The reason why we picked that (‘Loud Barn Lager’) is it’s a tribute to the Blackhawk fans, the consecutive sellouts, the anthem — it’s an iconic rink to play in,” de Haan said. “I remember coming here as an opposing player and hearing Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem as loud as he can, the fans are standing up, then you see Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford and that and you’re like, ‘I gotta play tonight,’ like this is surreal.”
It also was a nod to de Haan’s roots.
“We took some Canadian slang because we’re hillbillies back home and the rink is ‘the barn,’ ” he said.
Three years ago, de Haan and three buddies started the brewery on a lark to fulfill a “pipe dream” and provide a watering hole in their hometown of Carp, Ontario. They converted an old building that had become something of an eyesore but had a quirky history. It had been used as a bank, a pharmacy and a gas station, among other things, but there are legends associated with the building.
“We have a conference room in the basement that we call it the ‘Vault Room,’ ” de Haan said. “But back in the day the biggest bank heist in Canada, in like the ’30s or something, was planned and executed in that building, like tunneled up underneath into the bank in our small little hillbilly town back home. … No one knows where the money went.”
Now it’s the social venue for the small community, where residents pull up in snowmobiles.
He wanted to set down roots in Chicago and thought establishing a signature charity event — similar to Duncan Keith’s concert and Brent Seabrook’s bowling event — would be a good first step.
Despite starting a brewery and partnering with Goose Island, de Haan doesn’t know much about the brewing process, but “since I’ve been hurt I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on it to try to understand everything. It’s cool. Beer’s a good way to bring people together. That’s kind of how T.J. and I have become buddies.”
They bond over beer and their mutual love of hockey. Annerino plays amateur league hockey — a defenseman just like de Haan.
Four years ago, when Goose Island had a corporate team, several coworkers attended a game at McFetridge Sports Center during which Annerino took a stick to the face, resulting in a split forehead and a trip to the emergency room.
“They thought it was the coolest thing that they’ve ever seen,” Annerino said of his coworkers.
Annerino now plays at Morgan Park Sports Center. But, standing next de Haan behind the taproom’s bar, he blushed at the mention of his own dabbling in hockey.
“Don’t model your game after me,” de Haan joked. “That’s probably not the smart thing to do.”
De Haan has had plenty of such lighthearted moments with Annerino and the Goose Island staff, such as playing video games with brewmasters.
It’s been part of his healing process, and de Haan shared his passion for beer with teammates as well.
“We’re out on the road and he’s like, ‘Hey, let’s go grab a beer here and try all these different beers,’ ” said Drake Caggiula, who calls de Haan a mentor. “So I know he’s definitely into that and it’s kind of cool to see that he’s doing this for charity.”
Caggiula and de Haan met at Ryan Strome’s wedding (Blackhawks teammate Dylan Strome’s brother) this summer, and now they live in the same building in Chicago, often riding to the airport and the rink together. And beer was a natural for the Ontario natives — 312 is Caggiula’s local favorite.
“He’s great at ‘Call of Duty,’ he’s very outgoing, he’s super easy to talk to,” Caggiula said of de Haan. “He likes to run and mess around and be a little bit quirky. I think that’s kind of what I’m like too.”
Caggiula and de Haan also have been part of each other’s support systems while they each dealt with injuries. Caggiula missed most of November and all of December while in concussion protocol.
“He’s had his shoulder injuries and he’s been out for lengthy periods of time and he’s been able to help me deal with that and get through that mentally,” Caggiula said. “And (when) he got hurt (in December) we were kind of going through it together.”
De Haan said his recovery from shoulder surgery has been going well (“no complaints”) and he feels good.
“It’s just a slow process, that’s all. Part of the grind,” he said. “I’ve done it so many times now it’s almost become clockwork. Just trying to stay positive. Trying to not think ‘woe is me’ and everyone’s not out to get you is the hardest part. (But) doing something like this with T.J. and Goose Island has been a cool venture.”
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