In one week: I’m ordained a priest, and the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup.
Doesn’t get much better than this.
I have a sordid hockey past.
Growing up for a few years outside of Ann Arbor, the sport is very much a part of the culture. The Red Wings are huge everywhere given their two-decade history of success, and people come out in good numbers to watch the University of Michigan. Living in proximity to Detroit and not supporting the Wings is tantamount to living in Nebraska and not supporting the Huskers. Where the Michigan/Michigan St. rivalry divides, Red Wings hockey unites.
Moving to central Illinois made it hard to follow the Wings. Televised coverage was limited to national broadcasts alongside those few games where the Wings battled it out with their division rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, at Joe Lewis Arena.
Still, I loved the game of hockey. I found myself watching the Hawks play other teams besides the Wings, and would discuss these games with a classmate and lifelong Chicago supporter. I gradually became what my childhood mind would have thought impossible two years prior: I became a Blackhawks fan.
I even started hoping they’d beat the Wings.
Not that the Blackhawks teams from my youth (or early adulthood, for that matter) were any good. They weren’t. Some were mediocre. Some were less than mediocre. And from 2003-2007, they were horrible. I mean, really, really horrible. Worst franchise in all of professional sports horrible.
Still, if being a fan of Chicago sports teaches you anything, it’s patience. You suffer in hope that one day, you’ll be rewarded for your faithfulness. In the meantime, you enjoy all the free tickets you’re offered, and take advantage of discount prices for students.
The Blackhawks aren’t the Cubs, the third-most popular team in the league, playing in the historic and beautiful Wrigley Field, with national exposure through WGN. The Hawks play fifth fiddle in this town, behind the Bears, Cubs, Bulls, and White Sox. Unlike the Cubs, when the Hawks are terrible, nobody pays attention to the fact that they are terrible. Prior to the Western Conference Finals this year, nobody talked hockey on Chicago sports radio, which is understandable: nobody was interested.
But people are interested now, thanks in large part to owner Rocky Wirtz’s dedication toward winning. Blackhawks mania is everywhere in Chicago, and people are starting to take notice of what a great game hockey is.
Some will call it bandwagoning. I suppose it is. But bandwagon fans can only be a good thing for hockey in this city; increased interest will lead to increased expectation, and hopefully we won’t see another Hawks team with 43 losses in a single season. Mainstreaming hockey in Chicago stands to benefit old-time hockey fans the most, since we will no longer feel like our interest is slightly less obscure than those who care about the MLS Chicago Fire. And we’re all but guaranteed a better product on the ice.
So, if you’re in Illinois, hop on the bandwagon. As far as I’m concerned, we’re happy to have you.
Some will, no doubt, accuse me of counting my chickens before they hatch by claiming victory for the Chicago Blackhawks, and maybe I deserve it. But with a 2-0 lead in the series as of this evening, I feel fairly confident calling this one for the Hawks.
And if I’m wrong, and the heavy underdog Flyers come back to pull things out?
No problem. Chicago sports teaches patience.
For some odd reason, I get a dozen or so hits per day from folks searching for information on mullets. So for all of you mullet hunters out there, this post is for you.
First: “[Patrick] Kane’s mullet is playoff ready,” from the Toronto Sun.
Second, this t-shirt, available for purchase from the NHL store:
Third, a picture of the man’s mullet itself, which he acknowledges as “trashy”:
And finally, what the mullet means for Chicago:
Nearly every year I’ve blogged, I’ve written some bit of hopeful enthusiasm regarding the upcoming baseball season. Hope Springs eternal, and a new season means new chances.
Not this year. I predict the Cubs will be a medicore, .500 ball club, once again falling short of the requisite 90 wins needed to make the playoffs. This rundown on all MLB teams seems like a pretty good summation of what to expect at the ballparks, based upon offensive production alone.
The White Sox look equally (if not more) terrible, but may have better relief pitching than the Cubs. The Cards bring an awesome offense, but will once again struggle in the playoffs due to a lack of solid starting pitching.
So no trash-talking this year. The Cubs, Cards, and Sox all look poised to greet another cold October.