Wednesday, April 09, 2008


This is the time of year where I write an essay telling everyone to watch the hockey playoffs. Usually it involves tens, if not fifteens, of youtube clips. Well, none of that this year. Except for a short essay of course. But sadly, it is not about the playoffs.

You may know that my team is the Blackhawks. And essentially, for the last nine years, or ever since I graduated from high school, the Hawks have slowly been killing my hockey soul. The team sucked, the ownership sucked, and basically everything about the Hawks was pathetic. Original Six to Original Shit (or something like that). I still paid attention even though I have spent seven of the last nine hockey seasons out of the state. I could not pick a new team. I am no sports bigamist.

This year though, things were different in Chicago. Ironically, it began with death. As a consumer and a fan who spent around 25 years devoted the Hawks, I am not sad that Bill Wirtz died. It is nice that he did charity work, took care of his former players (at least the guys that got paid jack shit in 60s and 70s), and was responsible for 1/3 of the alcohol imported into Illinois. Oh, and was a multi-billionaire. But he single-handedly destroyed hockey in Chicago. And, together with Jeremy Jacobs, is responsible for hockey moving from being America's fourth sport to a fringe sport.

And so it was that "Dollar Bill" was gone. Rocky Wirtz took his place. Toews became my favorite player, and along with Kane, are the best nineteen year olds in the league. This is new. This is huge. (And it bears mentioning that they have this guy named John McDonough running the show.)

We thought we had a foundation in the past. We remember Tyler Arnason, Mark Bell, and Kyle Calder, the ABC Line, that was going to lead the Hawks to the elusive promised land (Not the Stanley Cup, we just want to make the playoffs). That did not pan out. In truth, they were all only average, at best players. (check out their stats this year. Arnason, the best of the bunch had 31 points.)

But Toews and Kane. These guys are the real deal. They are own Crosby and Malkanin. OK, they are not that good, yet, but they are both the real deal. And Bill will not be around to run them out of town like he did to Roenick and Belfour. Toews and Kane make Chicago a destination for free agents again. Because, hey this is novel, Hawks home games will be televised. Attendance is up. I went to this game, and it was un-fucking-believable. The best one I have ever been to.

In short, for the first time since 1992-ish, Hockey is back in Chicago. And for the first time, I know that I will not be.

You see, this was going to be my divorce. A clean break. I would be a hockey widow, albeit for a short period of time, but unattached nonetheless.

The Washington Capitals, whose history is just about as disastrous as the Hawks, have this dude on their team named Alexander Ovechkin. And he is fucking good. Not Crosby good, but close. Very close. And he will likely be playing a 20 minute metro ride from where I live. Over the summer, the first week I was in DC, I went to a hockey Bar in Alexandria to watch a game of the Stanley Cup finals. And though the bar was small, hockey is alive and well in DC, even though the Caps missed the playoffs that year. This year they did not, but barely (do not let the three seed fool you, the got that because they won the divsion, and in reality, were only 3 points better than the Hawks).

Had I made the conversion then, it would have been understandable. If I declared in May '07 that I renounced my Hawk Fandom and moved on to the Caps, you all would have understood. But now, I cannot do that. Hell, after Dollar Bill died, I probably would have shifted back to the Hawks anyway.

But still, it is decisions like this that can shape the rest of our life. Slightly at least. I will probably still go several Caps games, they will be my back up team when in ten years this Hawk thing gives me an ulcer and probably colon cancer. But until then, I will just have to make sure that the Hawks are not playing on WGN that night.

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