Here’s a fact: change is scary. Here’s another one: change is hard. And here’s a bonus: sometimes you have to change anyway.
Today was my first day in Chicago. New job, new apartment, new city, and a hundred new ways to accidentally spend money on things I can’t afford, like tickets to the Blackhawks versus Penguins preseason game. I know two people in this city; what better way to get acquainted then to drag one of them to a hockey game? I come originally from rural Virginia, where the only kind of hockey anybody plays takes place on a field and all the sports teams belong to D.C. A city like Chicago — a hockey city — is new for me. There were 20,000+ people in the United Center tonight. At a preseason game. That’s more than my entire hometown.
My original idea for this series was simple. Mollyhall is moving to a new city with a new hockey team; she’s going to have to get to know them, right? Feel out their games, taste their beer, avoid their Kiss Cam? In a lot of ways, feeling out a new sports team is like dating: technique, personality and style all matter, but if there isn’t a spark you’re not getting passed Date # 2. Why not write about learning to love the Blackhawks as I learn to love the city to whom they belong?
The flaw here is that my first hockey tickets were to a game in which the Blackhawks played the Penguins. If we’re sticking to the date analogy here, that’s like running into your ex-boyfriend while on your first date with a potential new one. And then they fight, and all of a sudden you’re forced to ask yourself: who do I want to win?
I fell in love with hockey while watching the Pens play. Yes, CBJ will always be my best girl, but the Pens will always be a close second. After all, without them, I’d never have discovered the sport in the first place.
What I’m saying is: I get emotional about this team.
The thing is, I like the Blackhawks. I, along with the rest of the Internet, have seen the Patrick Kane Bauer video; I’ve watched all the BlackhawksTV footage of players’ Cup days (true or false: Jonathan Toews used his day to water ski while Lord Stanley lounged on the motor boat like a Bond girl); I cooed at my computer screen every time a new Joey the Junior Reporter video popped up on YouTube. They’re a fun team, the Blackawks. Dynamic, good-natured, and talented. It was fun watching Bickell and Kane and Saad skate tonight. It was extra fun watching Patrick Sharp attempt to fight and get rejected, presumably because no one wanted to scratch up his perfect face.
It was easy enough to root for the Blackhawks while surrounded by ‘Hawks fans — and while the Penguins had the lead. But in case you missed the game tonight, it ended in a tense shootout. In overtime, Beau Bennett in particular skated like a champ, and Crosby took a stick to the face, sending him to the ice for a dazed minute. (Sidebar: can we all agree not to make Sidney Crosby sit out of any more hockey games, please and thank you.) And suddenly, rooting for the Blackhawks got hard.
What had just been annoying drunk dudes shouting, “Crosby sucks!” and “Little Beau Sunshine” before, easy enough to ignore, suddenly made me want to drop gloves. I mean, there’s not a chance in hell I’d win that fight, but whatever, it’s preseason and losses don’t count.
My point is, I guess I didn’t realize until today how much teams matter — how attached we get, as fans. I don’t live in Pittsburgh and never have, but to me, the Pens embody hockey in a way no other team, not even my precious CBJ, manages to.
So, okay. First date with the Chicago Blackhawks: not awesome. Well, awesome, but mostly just because we ran into an old flame who showed off a little. Chicago might be my new home, and their team might be my new team, but sometimes loyalty means first come, first served, and before I knew what forechecking was, I knew who I wanted to watch doing it. Change is still as scary and as hard as it was in the first paragraph of this article, but it turns out that even in the midst of change you can find touchstones to hold onto.
Lesson learned, Internet. Now let’s see if either team calls me back for a second date. Is it too soon to send a text that says “sorry you got into a fistfight with my ex-boyfriend, but good news, the beer was great”?