I went over baseball playoffs yesterday, but there's another big happening in October that I'm pretty excited about, although because of the playoffs and World Series I probably won't be paying too much attention to until at least November. And that is hockey season. I feel like I might have written the following before, but given my usual readership, it probably won't hurt to write it again.
I don't really know how it happened. We didn't grow up watching hockey other than once or twice a year when my dad would get free Danville Wings tickets through work. But, somehow, both my brother and I became big hockey fans. If I had to guess, I would say it was video games. We had NHL '98* as our first "real" hockey game. Unless you count Blades of Steel, which I'm not sure I do. Fun game, but you probably don't get the most accurate picture of a real hockey game from that. I do know it was based on that game that I decided I was an Avalanche fan because of Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, etc. That group. Andrew decided he was he Penguins fan.
*Kinda going off memory here, so no guarantees on that being right. It wasn't the one featured in Swingers, though, I know that.
Now, as you might have guessed (assuming you were aware where we are) that neither of those teams are close to Indiana. That made it awfully hard to watch any hockey. Added to that, there really was no hockey to watch at all on TV other than scattered games on FOX or ESPN at the time. The Blackhawks (quite famously) didn't televise their games, which was such a huge missed opportunity (and such an obvious one) that it ought to be criminal. More on that later, but without Chicago and St. Louis being too far away for the Blues to be on at the time, there wasn't consistent hockey to watch. And yet, somehow, we both stuck to hockey. Again, mostly through video games. Andrew stuck (and has stuck, to his immense credit) with the Penguins, even through the lean years when it looked like they might leave Pittsburgh. I drifted away from Colorado as the band broke up out there.
I became a sort of hockey fan free agent. Also, somewhere in there, I developed a very strong philosophy that unless there is a very good reason not to, I should support my local teams. Indianapolis doesn't have a pro hockey team, so that gave me a little leeway. The teams closest to me were the Blackhawks and the Blues.* Also by this time, I had my own place and DirecTV, which happened to give me access to both of these teams. I first watched more Blues games than Blackhawks games. I don't really know why. Maybe because I have family ties to Missouri. Maybe because I liked (and like) the Blues announcers better. But I definitely watched more Blues at first. That was probably three or four years ago now. I was living in Lafayette at the time, I know that much for sure.
*These are the closest teams by a fairly wide margin. 3 hours to Chicago, 4 to St. Louis (with some extra ties there because of extended family). Detroit would be the next closest at around 6 hours, but no way in hell was I rooting for the Red Wings. And the Blackhawks were on TV by then, too.
Now, I'd sort of kept up with hockey, but it was kind of hard to stay really into it without a team. When I was living in Lafayette and starting to watch those games, I decided if I was really going to embrace the inner hockey fan in me, I was going to have to choose a team. Although the Blackhawks were better that year, it looked like it was going to be the Blues.* The Blues were still pretty decent, they made the playoffs that year. But, it took one playoff game for that to change for me. I had the TV on CSN-Chicago fairly far in advance waiting for the first playoff game to start (against Columbus, if I remember right). I was still sitting at my computer, which was in the same room in that apartment, when the national anthem started. I usually don't pay too much attention to the anthem. That night really gave me goosebumps, though. It demanded my attention. The atmosphere around the UC was already electric before the game, which had me drawn in. Chicago fans always cheer through the national anthem. That night was on a whole new level, though. It was deafening through the TV, I could only imagine what it was like in the arena. I haven't even heard it to that level during the Stanley Cup run. If pure bliss were a noise, it would be the arena in that moment. And the atmosphere just kept going. I don't remember the score, but by my memory of that game, I would say Chicago won 8-0. I'm sure that wasn't actually the case, but that's just how the building and the whole telecast went. It had me hooked. I was already a fan of Kane and Toews especially, but they very quickly became my favorites. That day, I became a Blackhawk fan.
*I do have a well-documented trend of picking teams that don't win anything. Of course, at the time, it had been 60 years since the Blackhawks had won, too, so it was a win-win for me. Or a lose-lose, if you want to look at it that way. Which is probably more accurate.
That decision paid off quickly as the team won the Stanley Cup the next season. I almost felt ashamed, I'm not used to my teams winning, and especially not without years of heartbreak invested into it. But it still felt good. And I don't think I was the only one who liked it. You can't watch any sort of game around Chicago without seeing Blackhawks gear, or walk around the city without seeing the Indian head. They've gripped the city. I'm sure winning and being good has an awful lot to do with that. You didn't see the gear around town before or at other games. You certainly didn't see Blackhawks gear outside of Chicago like I do now. And that will fade as the team fades, I'm sure. But, I do think a huge part of it is the access to the team. They're on TV now, they're in the greater Chicago region now where they weren't before. I wonder how many millions of dollars the team has missed out on because the old owners wouldn't televise the home games (which also meant their games weren't shown at all on bigger stations). It's just a shame, but I wasn't there for it. Maybe it made more sense at the time (though I hear it really didn't).
Okay, I'm getting long winded. Go 'Hawks, although I'll probably be tuning in after baseball. We also just got our bedroom furniture. I can't wait to get home and sleep in a real bed.