I’ve always liked John-Michael Liles. He was the type of player I had spent decades as a Hawks fan wishing they would have. When my professional life combined with my fandom life, my cohorts and I must’ve dreamed up 50 different proposals to pry him loose from Toronto or Carolina to bolster the Hawks blue line (they seemed to do all right without it, it has to be said). Not an organization-shifter, but a solid, second-pairing puck mover who got the team up the ice. Got you into your shit, as basketball guys would say about underrated point guards.
Never did I think I would want to be John-Michael Liles.
If you haven’t caught Liles’s act these days, tune into any Colorado Avalanche game on AltitudeTV at the intermission. There, Liles is coming to you live from his wine...closet? Booze closet? It’s definitely not a cellar, because it’s not big enough. And it’s not just a wine closet, because he’s got a fine collection of bourbon on one side. And he does nothing to hide, and in fact promotes, what he’s sampling from said enclosure during his analysis. Sometimes he’s drinking from both sides of his displays. It’s now become its own thing.
Liles also has been modeling what is an array of blazers and sportcoats that seem to come in all the colors of a Skittles bag (all flavors). He can go British gentleman. Or CEO junket to Vegas. Or nouveau.
I’ll let my buddy Anthrax sum it up best (with a pic of Liles in his “Miami architecture” look):
Liles is basically the anti-Shaq of studio analysis these days. He’s incredibly happy to be there and is going to do it his way. It feels like this is what Liles would be doing if he wasn’t on TV. Just hanging out, drinking his studiously collected alcohol, watching the Avs. Altitude just happened to set up a camera while he was doing so, so yeah, he’ll talk about it. Where else would he be? Of course, “there” is just his Dungeon of Imbibing, and who wouldn’t be excited to be there?
And it’s not about pounding them back or being a wild-and-out-there crazy drunk guy to be a spectacle. Liles is just sampling whatever strikes his fancy that night. It’s a cultured taste. Besides, ever try and watch hockey without alcohol? It sucks!
For too many of us, we’ve let the pandemic shut us down and limit the things we love and need. The pandemic has let Liles blossom into everything he could have ever hoped to be, and really everything we all could hope to be. There’s a lesson in that.
So raise a glass to ol’ J.M. After all, he’s raising one to you.