I have a bone to pick with the world.
Perhaps it isn't the entire world - merely North America - but I've got a serious bone to pick, nonetheless.
As a born and raised Chicagoan, and therefore a fan of all things Chicago sports, I'm kind of irritated with fans of all other teams (and in particular, NHL teams) - NOT based in Chicago.
During this playoff season, we've been accused, ad nausea, of being "bandwagon" fans. We have heard from no less than Sharks fans, and Canucks fans (and the occasional Red Wings fan) that we have not faithfully supported our team. They imply, insinuate, and outright declare that we are only now coming "out of the woodwork" as a result of our teams' recent spate of success.
Well, to the rest of the world I say: GO TO HELL, and COME GET SOME!
We are Blackhawks Nation! We've been fans of the Men of Four Feathers for generations. Literally.
If you want to talk about band wagon fans, let's look at our Playoff opponents this season alone; The Nashville Predators, the Vancouver Canucks, and the San Jose Sharks. They have existed (collectively) for a total of 71 years (a number distinctive to the San Jose Sharks, holders of the NHL record for number of losses in a single season, you guessed it - 71). We are Original Six. These three teams have combined for a total of 39 playoff appearances. The Chicago Blackhawks have more players enshrined in the Hall of Fame, than that (45 - and we have made 55 trips to the postseason ourselves).
Our team is one of The Original Six. We have weathered more storms than your franchises can imagine, and have existed long enough to go through ups and downs as a franchise. We've enjoyed seasons of tremendous success, endured seasons of tremendously poor performances, and survived a love/hate relationship with an owner that seemingly tried to kill the loyalty of the Blackhawks fans for decades.
None of these things are the fault of these other teams, or their fans. We hold no malice towards them (certainly not towards the good-natured fans of the Nashville Predators), we harbor no ill will. We simply have the passion, understanding, and history that only fans of an Original Six team can have.
Were there many seasons where the Blackhawks were insignificant in the NHL, and even in Chicago? Yes, most certainly there were. During much of this time in recent history, the Blackhawks were not even televised locally. We have had to endure stretches that lasted longer than the Predators or Sharks have existed, where we made a token playoff appearance here or there, but were nothing more than a doormat for the league. We have been the welcomed guest in opposing arenas, a road-trip destination that was a welcomed respite from the difficulty encountered in other cities. We have been an insignificant team during the lowest lows that the franchise has known.
Several things have transpired within the last three to four seasons that have helped to right the ship. Blackhawks fans know exactly where this began, and out of respect for the current ownership, I won't mention the particular instance that sparked it. WE all know of exactly what I speak though - We are Blackhawks fans. Since that time, OUR team is back on television locally. OUR team is a consistent contender. OUR team is no longer a welcomed guest on the road, and OUR team is definitely not one that any other team wants to have to come and visit (and WE are a big part of that). The ROAR is back, hockey fans. The New Madhouse on Madison is an imposing sight on a road-trip schedule, much like the original was.
Where were you, Shark fan, during the National Anthem of the 1991 All-Star game? Every last one of us can tell you where WE were. We have a history, a proud tradition of supporting the men in the Indian Head sweaters, and we are back in full-effect.
So go ahead, North American NHL cities. Delude yourself into believing that we are "Bandwagon" fans. Tell yourself this, and sleep softly in your beds at night believing it. One day, you too will have a history rich with tradition, worth speaking of, worth taking pride in. Until that time, bank on this:
We are Blackhawks Nation. Hear the National Anthem begin in the United Center, and enjoy the roar!