Saturday, June 20, 2015

Puck Dynasty

Ice hockey isn't a sport I participated in as a kid. Oh I strapped on some figure skates, bought a stick and played around at it when the vacant lot across the street flooded and froze over during winter with a few friends but that was about it.

That may explain why it's hard for me to become excited about the sport of hockey. My interest in any sport is because I once played it myself.

In the early 80's the official Blackhawks team photographer was also a commercial photographer friend of mine. The payment for his services was season tickets and full access to the old Chicago Stadium, it wasn't the money. He took me to some Blackhawk games where he had four seats front row on the glass in the northwest corner of the old Chicago Stadium. I must admit that it is incredibly exciting to watch live and up close. Another observation were the women. It appeared that many rich sugar-daddy businessmen were accompanied by much younger dolled-up gals wearing furs and diamonds used the stadium as a place to meet up before a fling. At least that's what I saw a lot of on the lower level. Attending those games was a great experience.

We watched Gretzky live at one game and it was easy to see with my own eyes he was far and away superior to the others. His speed was blinding. He would steal a puck then simply skate away from the others to score one-on-one. Often. When watching on television there appeared to be no organization or plays (to me) or play making. Probably because I never made the effort to figure the game out. What really turned me off during my early years of trying to be a hockey fan were the fights which led me to believe it was not much different from pro wrestling.

The gloves would off and a few "athletes" would pummel the others while the officials skated around in a circle to observe the blood then after a long while assigned a penalty or two before wiping up the blood and picking some teeth up off the ice. The old saying "I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out" made sense to me. Recently when I have taken the time to watch games the fights seem to have been minimized during my infrequent observation. That's a good thing.

Two years ago on our Canadian fishing trip all the others would head to the lodge in the evening to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs via satellite. They are dedicated fans. Out of camaraderie I would go along for a night or two but after a few minutes got bored with it and went back to the cabin to relax. The same happened again this year.

When I arrived home I made the attempt to watch the final game last Monday night. I fell asleep at 9:30pm in my recliner while they were one goal up. The Blackhawks won and good for them. It makes me happy to see a Chicago team except the Cubs win something.

The following day there was little if no mention of this accomplishment in the national media. Unlike the SuperBowl, NBA Finals of the World Series NHL Hockey appears to remain one of the minor professional sports. I would go so far as to place NHL behind NASCAR in mass interest.

Another recent observation I made is that todays typical Blackhawk fans are under thirty females, my guess would be 50-60% with mouths agape screaming WOOOO! This observation was made due to watching coverage of the downtown parade/celebration and post game street riot which centered around Wrigley Field.

It was not too different than watching a concentrated live version of Drunk Bear Fans ten times over or a typical Cub crowd that leaves the game and heads for the local bars after the sixth inning. I may be wrong but all this leads me to believe the current Blackhawk popularity is not due to the popularity of hockey so much but today's youth looking for the slightest reason to join a large crowd wearing licensed jerseys, get drunk in public and raise hell.

Are these feral youths honestly interested in the game itself or is it just a Chicago party thing? Since the owner of the Blackhawks is also the major liquor distributor in Chicago this weeklong binge had to please him. Local news treated us to nightly footage with crowds of young fans chasing the cup hugging Blackhawk players from bar to bar to bar.

Please don't misunderstand me. My intent here is to deliver my own observations not snark. I do not hate the game of hockey, it simply doesn't interest me. I respect the game and the team which seems to be getting better all the time. 

While I am not a fan or follower of the Chicago Blackhawks I appreciate their determination to bring a consistent championship winning franchise to Chicago, something the other Chicago pro franchises have failed to do. Those franchises should be taking notes on how to build a solid professional sports franchise with a lust for winning. Three championships in six years is a great accomplishment.

Congratulations to The Chicago Blackhawks and to all their true long-term dedicated fans who deserve a championship after decades of futility. Enjoy, and may this team win many more.

1 comment:

Dan from Madison said...

"Three championships in six years is a great accomplishment." It is actually pretty stunning since the NHL is a cap league like the NFL. In the era of the cap, winning that much is extremely difficult.

Good on 'em.

I used to be a crazed Blackhawk fan in my early 20s. Went to the old Chicago stadium a lot, followed all the players, enjoyed the rivalry with the St. Louis Blues. Even went to a few away games at the old St. Louis Arena and the Met to see the Minnesota North Stars.

Those were good times. But as life has moved forward, priorities get in the way and I can't honestly remember the last time I watched a hockey game. Now, if the 'Hawks won it every single year I still wouldn't care one iota. Sort of like women's (insert sport here except for beach volleyball).