Last April, my brother spent four nights in Chicago with an elaborate sporting event itinerary for us both. We spent a cold evening in the bleachers at Wrigley, watching the first night game of the Cubs season. We watched the Bulls play the Cavs in the first round of the NBA playoffs; anti-LeBron chants were in the air, while everyone prayed under their breaths that Mr. James would sign with the Bulls for 2010-2011. But by far the most memorable event was Round 1, Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Having been raised in Virginia, I hadn't seen much hockey growing up. My only memories were of a friend who went to see the Hampton Roads Admirals play at Scope because she liked watching the fights. As a lanky and timid kid who was frequently (a) scared and embarrassed in gym class, (b) confused by everyone's obsession with football and (c) told by coaches that I needed to be more aggressive, her summation of the sport didn't exactly prompt me to ask if I could tag along with her. (She later went on to become an NRA enthusiast, I believe.) So when my brother inquired before his trip how interested I would be in going to a Blackhawks game, I answered I would happily go because he wanted to, hoping that both his enthusiasm and explanation of the sport would make it interesting for me. What I got was the most incredible sporting event I have ever personally attended.
Round 1, Game 5 against the Nashville Predators was an important home game. The best-of-7 series was split 2-2, meaning if the Blackhawks lost Game 5, the Predators would be playing Game 6 to win the series at their home rink. And it looked like that less-than-desirous outcome might just be in the Blackhawks future...until just under 14 seconds before the end of the final period.
In other sports, when the game is near its end and one team is losing, the only option is to "play harder." While teams have many times persevered with this hollow strategy, it's nothing compared to the competitive edge that is offered in hockey. In the final minute or two of hockey, when a team is behind they will often pull their goalie in order to put another offensive player on the ice. While this can backfire, it certainly did not when Patrick Kane scored the game-tying goal with 13.6 seconds left. The crowd "Da da-da-da da-da-da"ed
loud enough that I believe more than one honky-tonk in Nashville erupted into flames. The game went into overtime and the Blackhawks scored again, effectively winning Game 5.
I instantly became a Blackhawks fan. I watched as many of the remaining playoff games as possible for a guy who doesn't get any channels on his TV and loiters in sports bars without buying anything . And while I have never had the privilege of eating ice cream from the Stanley Cup, I decided to create a Chicago Blackhawks ice cream. Pictured is Phase 1: chocolate cookies and cream with marshmallows, craisins, and red and green sugar crystals. While tasty, this flavor did not accomplish what I hoped it would. I'll explain more when I write about