I watched the ceremony in a tiny dive bar in Wrigley, just me, two friends, and a few strangers who had some deep misunderstandings about hockey and how it’s played. The bartender, Mike (Matt?), was nice enough to cue up “Chelsea Dagger” in anticipation of the first goal. I’m new to the city and to the team, so the whole idea of sitting through the banner-raising ceremony wasn’t all that appealing, to be honest. I mean, what is it except a reminder that my teams didn’t win?
Which is obviously the wrong attitude to adopt going into the situation. I’m trying to be open-minded (and open-hearted) about this whole “new city/new team” thing. The issue is that while my brain is totally onboard, my emotions keep doing that thing where they betray me at the last minute.
But I’ll tell you what, there is nothing that gets to me quite like the triumphant string music they always use in Planet Earth documentaries, and I guess the Pens PR guys have the same problem because when those boys skated out onto the ice with the banner spread out between them and the music started to swell . . .
Look, I’m not proud of it, but before I knew what was happening I had chills all down my spine and one hand pressed flat against my heart as if I was trying to leave a bruise. And that’s the thing about hockey–about sports in general: somebody always wins. There are 29 losers and 1 champion at the end of every season, and there is no way to feel defeated when that banner rises.
(Well, okay. I’ll bet the poor Caps were feeling pretty defeated in the locker room. Can you imagine that conversation? “Hey, Ovie, do you mind just waiting here a sec while we commemorate our Stanley Cup victory? Xoxo, Jonathan Toews.”)
(Haha, just kidding, Jonathan Toews has never signed anything “xoxo” in his life.)
(Patrick Sharp totally would though. Patrick Sharp probably did.)
So there we were. The banner was hanging above the ice, Patrick Kane was too short to be the last one left touching it, and just like that, it didn’t matter anymore. Last season was over, the footprints of its ups and down stitched into fabric and hung over the UC. An incredible season and a tough Cup run wouldn’t have any effect on the upcoming game, or the season it heralded.
Though, I don’t know. There might have been a little magic left on the ice. I know because Brandon Bollig scored the first goal, to the surprise of everyone (probably including Brandon Bollig, to be honest).
We (look! I said “we,” not “they,” because I belong here now, which means I get to pretend that I get to use the first-person plural as if Duncan Keith and I do brunch) still need to work on our power play. There were moments where last year’s victory seemed obvious. Patrick Kane does things with a hockey stick that are so amazing that it’s frankly offensive to watch. Brent Seabrook scored and fell over, because whoever said that hockey players were graceful has clearly never watched a game.
Corey Crawford–who, despite excellent stats last season, has been the subject of much debate in the wake of his contract extension–let in four goals, but also kept a calm head and made a few saves that suggested that the Blackhawks made a smart move in locking him down. Honestly, I don’t know what kind of black magic Crawford worked during the lockout, but he’s improved by leaps and bounds in the last season-plus-one-game.
So there it was: french fries, beer, a bum that started bathing in the bathroom during the second period, and six YouTube clips from Mike/Matt the Bartender of the Fratellis grinning out at the near-empty bar and shouting, Chelsea, Chelsea. I believe.