Artist's Hand-Painted 'Hawkmobile' Van Holds Key to Team's Season, He Says
By Howard Ludwig on October 2, 2013 6:50am
MORGAN PARK — The Chicago Blackhawks have a good chance of repeating as champs if John Tolley's 2004 Econoline conversion van holds out.
Tolley hand painted the van during the 2013 NHL playoffs. The "Hawkmobile" features portraits of his favorite players and captures memorable moments from the championship run.
"That's why we won the Stanley Cup. It's because I started painting this one," Tolley said.
He began by painting Coach Joel Quenneville's mustache on the hood of the van. He kept adding to the collage throughout the 2013 playoffs.
Patrick Kane's celebratory fist pump is memorialized on the rear quarter panel. Brent Seabrook's fight with Andrew Alberts also occupies a prominent space on the vehicle.
The final addition was the Stanley Cup, wrapped in a banner celebrating all of the team's championship seasons.
The van is Tolley's everyday vehicle. He often brings it to Blackhawks events and occasionally circles the United Center before games. At one Hawks function at a nearby tavern, Tolley proudly showcased his creation to Denis Savard, a Hawks legend and Hall of Fame center.
"He really liked it," Tolley said.
This is actually the second "Hawkmobile" for the Morgan Park artist. Tolley painted a 1991 Dodge Spirit during the 2010 playoffs. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup that year, too.
The following season, Tolley stood pat, and the Hawks lost in the first round of the playoffs. That's also the year the engine cracked on the Dodge.
"It broke her heart," said Tolley, referring to the Dodge.
Tolley posted the original Hawkmobile on Craigslist for $500. A junk dealer offered him $450, which he reluctantly accepted.
A year later, the junk man returned. The Dodge was fixed, and the new owner said he couldn't bring himself to crush the car. So he returned it to Tolley without asking for his money back.
But mechanical problems continued to plague the original Hawkmobile. Tolley again decided to get rid of the car. He first attempted to reach out to the Craigslist customer, but his text messages went unanswered.
"All I know is that his name was Geno," Tolley said.
Tolley removed the hand-painted hood that captured the 2010 Stanley Cup celebration and sent the Dodge to a scrapyard himself. It came as no surprise to him that the Hawks again lost in the first round of the playoffs.
But the latest Hawkmobile is in good shape. The transmission has been replaced three times. There's some minor body damage, but overall Tolley expects the van to run strong throughout the year — just like the Blackhawks.
Tolley admits that the Hawkmobile isn't the only factor in the team's quest to recapture the Cup. He also believes the team is stacked with talented players.
"Repeating is near impossible. But we really have the tools to do it," he said.