For once, I don't really know where to begin, but I don't like leaving bodies lying cold on the ground just because the light is fading and I can't see things very clearly. There are all the usual cliches about how far they've come and they'll learn from this and now they know what it takes, but right now, overriding all of that, is the fact that I'm damn proud to call myself a Blackhawks fan. A little sad, maybe. Upset, yeah, and when Saturday evening rolls around and I'm aching for a double hamburger from the Goat and the quiet pregame chill of the UC, I'll take a moment to be upset.
But tonight. Tonight there was a sheet of ice, and a puck, and two teams sweating into their team colors. Some had to sit out, and spent the evening trying to will their pain away. Some chased their breath around the arena, trying their hardest to make something happen. Some saw the puck go into the wrong net; some saw it go into the right net; some felt its impact dozens and dozens of times. A game of hockey was played, just like every other night, but tonight it was kind of magnificent. In the end, one team won, and the other team went home, blaming their skates or their hands or their preparation or their youth, and probably feeling a hell of a lot more than they know how to describe.
This is why I love being a sports fan. I haven't been chuffing up and down the ice like the players have, sending my body into overdrive. Nor do I know the rigors of their daily routine -- the diet regimes, the workout methods, the little habits and superstitions. But I know what it means to be exhilarated and regretful and reflective and just plain relieved, and if there's one thing that connects a group of athletes to the people who obsess over them on a daily basis, it's this --
The moment, at the end of the season, when you can look at this team and feel nothing more complicated than pride.
This might have been one of the closest five-game series in awhile. Three of the games went to OT, two in Detroit -- the 'Hawks crack one of those, they're still in it. Only game four was truly out of reach, despite the ocean of years between where the Red Wings are and where the 'Hawks have yet to go. These kids found their identity in the Calgary series, and they figured out what their upper limit was in the Vancouver series. In these five games, they might just have caught a glimpse of their future.
Look hard enough; it's there.