A night in the minors: Chicago

Despite what some may still think ... no, this was not spent down on Madison Street.

Made my way over to the Allstate Arena on Wednesday night to see the Chicago Wolves for the first time as they met the Houston Aeros. Pretty good game .... Houston took a 3-2 lead with less than 2 minutes to play in regulation before the Wolves' Brett Sterling tied it with 59 seconds left -- and extended his goal-scoring streak to eight games.

After overtime, the teams went to a shootout and Jason Morgan beat Fred Brathwaite in the fifth round to give the Aeros a 4-3 win. To be fair, Houston's first two goals were off deflections, but he gave up four straight shootout markers ... which I guess also explains why he's back in the minors.

Like many journeymen, Brathwaite's pro career has been one long road map: Edmonton, Calgary, Manitoba, Cape Breton in Newfoundland, Saint John in New Brunswick, St. Louis, Columbus, Russia _ he spent the past two seasons in the Motherland before being signed by Atlanta on July 4.

The top of his mask bears an image of Martin Luther King Jr. with the words "I have a dream" underneath it. His dream has produced an 81-99 record with 37 ties, 15 shutouts and a 2.73 GAA in his NHL career.

The Wolves' history started in the old International Hockey League back in 1994. By 1998, they were Turner Cup champions, one of two they would win _ the other was in 2000 _ before joining the AHL. In 2002, they added another banner after winning the Calder Cup.

To say there is a loyal following would be an understatement. Minor league hockey does tend to be clannish, but what you see Chicago suburbs is something the Blackhawks cannot -- or in the case of owner Bill Wirtz, would not -- provide: a quailty product for an affordable price. The announced attendance was 8,882 ... compare that with the 7,500 or thereabouts at the United Center for Chicago-Edmonton game a couple Sundays ago.

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