Jonathan Toews. Marian Hossa. Patrick Kane.
Chris Hine has covered some of the most polarizing hockey athletes in the world as the Chicago Blackhawks writer for the Chicago Tribune. His biggest story, however, came on Tuesday, March 8 when he penned a column ridiculing the National Football League and came out as gay.
Hine, a West Pittston native and a 2005 graduate of Bishop Hoban High School, started covering the Blackhawks this season. He wrote the column “NFL still in closet about anti-gay culture” after an Atlanta Falcons staff member asked an Ohio State player, “Do you like men?” at the annual NFL Combine, a weeklong scouting platform for college players.
Hine wrote in his column:
“As a 29-year-old gay man, I spent the better part of two decades agonizing over that question and finally, when I was 20, came to accept that the answer was ‘Yes.’ It took another two years before I could tell my family, another year after that before I mustered up the courage to tell my closest friends and, well, six years after that to finally write about it in the Chicago Tribune.”
Hine decided this was the perfect time to let the world know what he has been going through for the past decade.
“I kind of reached that point in my life,” Hine said while in St. Louis getting ready to cover a Blackhawks game. “My family has known for a while now and so have my friends. I felt like I reached a point where I was comfortable enough to let people know about it. I feel like it might help people understand where I’m coming from.”
Hine went on to ridicule the progress the NFL has made to cater to gay players. When he heard what happened at the NFL Combine, Hine said all he could do is laugh.
“It’s such a ridiculous question to ask,” he said. “That question is one gay men struggle with sometimes throughout their entire lives. I found the whole situation pretty comical and I felt like I had to say something.”
Hine has already had an extensive career in the sports media world. After planning on receiving a degree in history from the University of Notre Dame, he opted to add a journalism minor after working for the school’s newspaper. He then had internships at the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
Prior to working at the Tribune, Hine covered football and men’s basketball at the University of Illinois and Notre Dame. His intent wasn’t to go to Notre Dame to be a journalist. He wanted to study history and become a professor.
“I feel very fortunate to get to the point where I am and I realize that,” he said. “Some journalists would kill to have the career that I have.”
Growing up in Greater Pittston, Hine always had a connection with scholastic sports and remembered how a pair of Times Leader reporters covered his father’s basketball teams. Hine’s father, Chet, coached boys basketball at Bishop Hoban for 33 years.
Chet Hine won 564 games in his time at Hoban. He won six District 2 championships, five Wyoming Valley Conference titles and three appearances in the state’s Final Four. His 564 wins are in the top 50 all time by Pennsylvania coaches.
“I always admired the way Dave Konopki and Jerry Kellar covered my dad at Bishop Hoban,” Hine said. “By reading them I was like, ‘Maybe I can do this.’”
Konopki is the former sports editor of the Times Leader, while Kellar worked as a sports writer and columnist for nearly three decades.
Hine said the reception from fellow journalists in the industry, as well as the Chicago Blackhawks, have been completely supportive of his decision and the column he wrote. He doesn’t believe anything will change moving forward.
“I’ve received nothing so far from people associated with the team,” he said. “I don’t expect anything to change in terms of how I cover the team.”
Chet Hine teaches at Holy Redeemer and lives in West Pittston with his wife and Chris’ mother, Donna. The couple has another son, Matt, who is a sophomore at Penn State, and two daughters: Jennifer, Duryea, and Carolyn, Delaware.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick