This one is for all of those like me (and looking at that map, there's a lot of you) who don't come from Chicago, generally aren't American or Canadian, grew up somewhere that doesn't play hockey and still found themselves fans of the Blackhawks.. I'll tell you my story, please feel free to add yours.. and those of you lucky enough to be able to go to UC or even frequent the bars and write on SCH: be happy that for every Bandwagon-Jumper with his hastily-purchased-and-suddenly-worthless Byfuglien jersey, there's some guy or gal fighting the timezones, lack of sleep and lack of interest of our peers to make the 'Hawks a worldwide thang..
Reasons I got into Hockey and the 'hawks:
1) In a Christmas stocking from a department store Santa I got a book entitled "How To Play Better Hockey". I was eight years old. This was Ireland. At the time we only had one ice-rink in the entire country and that was given over to 'Ice-Disco'. Clearly these stockings (my brother got a book entitled 'How To Play Shortstop' in his) were American and bought at a cheap price by the store. However, my little bookworm-self happily read about checking and zones and assimilated a certain amount..
2) They started showing European Hockey on late night sports programs. This is the early 90's when I was a teenager. In Ireland we didn't really have cable and such so seeing Finnish Hockey highlights was a buzz. Then they attempted to introduce, nationwide, a new schools game called 'UniHoq' This basically was Hockey played with plastic sticks and a puck on a gym floor with no contact allowed. It lasted four weeks. My buddies and I had been watching crazy Scandinavians checking each other and wanted a piece of that. We'd also been brought up on Hurling, the 'Fastest Field Sport In The World' which is more like a Martial Art than a sport, so we had our violence ready to go. Two broken collarbones and one broken arm late they cancelled it. But the bug was there...
3) In 1986 Irish TV screened their first ever live Superbowl. People like William 'Refrigerator' Perry became legends. I was allowed to sit up and watch it (it went on till 3AM over here) at the age of nine and, despite the Irish-American connections with the Pats (remember when they were awful?) I sided with those mean, black-clad bruisers from Chicago.. there was about a five year massive boom for NFL over here after that and I stayed on when it died down.
4) In Limerick City, Ireland there is a small diner and bakeshop called 'The Wild Onion'. It is run by a sixtysomething husband and wife team from Chicago who are called Bob & Rith DiGirolamo. They have brought US style breakfast food, reubens, omelettes that could fed an army and, above all, the concept of endless coffee refills to a small city in Ireland. they also have maps of Chicago's transit system on the wall, an autographed photo of Mayor Daley and various views of the Sears Tower. They also have an umbrella bin with a certain familiar logo on it.. they're 'hawks fans and were feeling the pain round about 2000-2003
5) So, all this came together, I started seriously taking an interest in Hockey a couple of years ago, saw the 'Hawks fail with honours for a couple of years and have suddenly been rewarded with a cup. In a way I feel like a Wagon-Jumper because I don't have 'Dad took me to games' stories: they barely even play hockey here. But trust me, I was watching live on a shitty internet stream at stupid hours of the morning when Hossa scored, when Buff got stuck in, when Kaner got that goal and went crazy on the ice with what only he could see..
So, yeah, other 'hawks fans round the world: how did it happen?