I want to love this team again.
Last Thursday, my daughter called me and said she had an extra ticket to Friday night’s Chicago Blackhawks game against the Dallas Stars. I hesitated, at first, but ultimately decided to go.
In the wake of the Kyle Beach sexual harassment allegations that were brought forth this season, the Blackhawks have taken a back seat to the Bulls and the Bears this winter. As the details began pouring out and finding out what happened, who knew what and when, I just couldn’t get by saying, “I’m just rooting for the uniform,” anymore. This season, I’ve checked in on games from time to time, but not like I used to. I’ll be honest, the fact that they’ve struggled in the “win” column has made it a little easier to look away.
I thought about rooting for another team. My grandmother was a Penguins season ticket holder for years. I still have the “Patrick Division Champs” T-shirts she sent me back in the ’90s. That felt fake, however. I just couldn’t get into it. I kept thinking of the team I had come to love over the years. The team I started watching when I was eight.
I was at the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre in 1991 with my high school girlfriend. Had I not broken up with her in April of ’92, I would’ve attended at least one of the Stanly Cup games at the Chicago Stadium that year. Instead, my best friend and I watched it on scramble cable, because the home games weren’t available in Chicago unless you bought Pay-Per-View.
My family was in northeast Arkansas during the three Stanley Cup seasons. I drove eight hours from Blytheville, AR to Chicago in 2016 to take my daughters to their first game against Montreal. As a sports editor for the local paper, I wrote columns educating the hockey-starved region on the sport, and the team, that I had come to love over my lifetime. I always felt a sense of pride and accomplishment when a reader would see me at the store and say that they watched the Stanley Cup playoffs the night before or that they had become a Blackhawks fan. It helped me stay connected to my hometown.
Friday’s game against the Stars was not a roller coaster of emotions. It felt more like being caught in a wave pool. For a 0-0 contest, I wasn’t nearly as tense as I normally would’ve been. Between enjoying the conversation of the company I was with, I found myself drifting off thinking about all of the stories and details that had come out before the season.
I was thinking about the two young boys in the row in front of me wearing DeBrincat jerseys. I remembered how my love and excitement for the game was once as pure and innocent as theirs. Then, I thought, who was I to be feeling bad for myself like this? A young man’s (possibly more than one) life was ruined by Brad Aldrich and those who protected him. Nothing I was feeling could come remotely close to what his victims went through. Did my feelings even really matter?
As the game was winding down in regulation and the intensity increased as the teams struggled to score a goal, I could feel my emotions start to get caught up in the game again. The overtime was fast and thrilling. During the shootout, I was on my feet with the rest of the stadium.
I want to love this team again. I think one day I will. Just not right now.
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