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Punching in: Bollig ready to make his mark in battle for the Cup

April 11, 2012|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

SWM, 25, athletic build. Skates well, new to Chicago, looking for someone to hug.

Well, not that kind of hug.

You don't want to be hit on by Blackhawks left wing Brandon Bollig, who is known for wrapping his arms around opponents on the ice—right before swinging at them. These romps have made the hugger-cum-slugger a breakout star since he was called up from the Rockford IceHogs in February.

Though fights are less common in the playoffs than regular-season games, Bollig said he still plans to do what makes him a hit—hit.

"Everyone likes to see fights and stuff, and I bring that physical aspect to the game," Bollig said.

In honor of the Blackhawks' best-of-seven series against the Phoenix Coyotes, which starts Thursday in Arizona, RedEye presents five things to know about Chicago's newest swingman.

tswartz@tribune.com | @tracyswartz

The dust-ups are generally mutual.

Just call him the Sultan of Swing. Bollig said he doesn't have a fighting style per se, but he's picked up various techniques over the years. One of the top questions he gets is how the fights begin. "It's kind of just mutual. Somebody asks if you want to fight, and if he wants to, then you go," Bollig said. "If something happens, like a big hit [on a teammate] or something, then it's a little different."

But before you label Bollig a fighter and not a lover, know that "he's nice. He's kind," Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell said. "Lot of guys think you need to have a couple screws loose to be a tough guy in the league ... but he's a down-the-ground guy."

He's tight with ex-IceHogs but says there's no Rockford clique.

West is best. Bollig, Bickell and Blackhawks right wing Andrew Shaw played in Rockford before being called up to the Blackhawks. "It's easier to transition when you have guys like that—more familiar faces. I'm lucky enough to have more than one here," Bollig said. The group often dines together tweets one another on Twitter.

But not everything is peachy with the Rockford clan. Bollig is always texting, said Bickell, who bunks with Bollig on the road. "I take control of the room," Bickell said. "I got a little more experience. I take the leadership by taking all the remotes and [picking] when to get up, when to go to bed." For his part, Bollig said he lets Bickell think he's running the room, and Bickell talks in his sleep. Both seem to have no trouble smack-talking when they're awake.

He can be a bit of a pill.

The Blackhawks have suffered from various injuries this year but Bollig is on top of his health. "He takes a lot of vitamins," Bickell said of Bollig. "He's got like a big pill bottle, and you can always hear him walking around and shaking those pills." Bollig defended his vitamin use, telling RedEye he knows what's good to take and what's not. "I think that's something that I've always done—try to take care of my body. I do definitely take a lot of pills, and it's just to keep my body ready."

He calls downtown home.

He plays at the United Center and lives in the center of Chicago. Bollig said he was surprised when the Rockford general manager called him a few months ago to tell him he was being called up to the Blackhawks. Since it's unclear how long his stint with the Blackhawks will last, he's staying at a hotel downtown. "When you're right in the middle of everything down on Michigan Avenue, it's a good time," Bollig said. He said he wants to eventually visit Millennium Park.

He breaks the Cardinal rule in Chicago.

The St. Charles, Mo., native openly cheers for his hometown baseball team, the Cardinals. "I have a couple of St. Louis hats I wear around," Bollig said. "I grew up really not liking the Cubs, and so I would like to go to a couple of games if we're around. It's definitely a big rivalry." Cubs fans, beware. He knows how to hit back.

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