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The Wolves’ hunt begins…at Gibsons?

The American Hockey League schedule says the Chicago Wolves start their hunt for the 2014 Calder Cup championship on Friday night at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena.

A fine Chicago Wolves tradition declares otherwise. The team’s postseason actually began on Monday night at Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse. The players and coaches and broadcasters and the rest of the hockey operations department — as well as their significant others — shared a private room to enjoy dinner together.

“You go into Gibsons and get any steak on the menu you want,” said team captain Taylor Chorney, a sixth-year pro who just capped his first regular season in Chicago. “It’s a first-class setup. It speaks volumes about the Wolves organization. You hear about it when you’re on different teams — about how first-class it is here — and (Monday) night was a prime example.”

As delicious as the thick filets and the flabbergastingly large desserts happened to be for the party of 72 at Gibsons, the food actually served as a sidelight to the evening. The point is to forge every part of the Wolves organization even closer for the task at hand.

The tradition began in 1995 after the Wolves wrapped up their first regular season. At the behest of Wolves owners Don Levin and Buddy Meyers, everyone gathered for the pre-playoff feast. Meyers and a few others stood up and said a few words about the team before every single player did the same.

That’s the format that remains in effect today. Some players reminisce about something funny that occurred during the season. Others are as earnest as can be. The same 50/50 ratio happened Monday night with the Midwest Division champs.

“A lot of good and different responses,” said center Pat Cannone. “It was cool to see guys open up. It was pretty special.”

“It’s fun,” said head coach John Anderson, who has been a part of 11 such dinners during his Wolves tenure. “It’s nice to appreciate what has happened during the year and builds a little good feeling about each other and brings the team together.”

“It’s rare to get everyone together like that,” Chorney said. “We took a step back and reflected on the regular season and all the things we did to put ourselves in this position. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for as a team moving forward.”