Before I can tell you why I’m a Blackhawks fan, I have to tell you how it all started.
It was the middle of the 1990s when a combination of the Mighty Ducks movies and Sega Genesis video games put hockey on my radar. During the 1996-97 Hawks season, my dad casually mentioned that he’d been offered four tickets to a Hawks game. Now, football was — and still is — the first sport in my family. But hockey was my shiny new toy and I told my dad to take the tickets.
The first game I went to was a Hawks/Ducks game in March 1997 and the Hawks lost 4-3. But my seats were two rows off the ice, just close enough where I thought the boards were going to come crashing down on top of me for much of the night. Sometime in the third period, Tony Amonte tapped home a rebound right in front of me. I’ve been hooked on hockey ever since.
Of course, much of the next decade of Blackhawks hockey was forgettable as the team trekked along in relative anonymity on the Chicago sports scene, but I still wore my Eric Daze sweater so much that the orange feather faded to pink. I followed the team religiously, but it wasn’t until this current run got going in the 2008-09 season that I fully immersed myself in the Hawks — and into the rest of the NHL as well.
I don’t have to tell you the rest of the story from there. But what I can tell you is something that I’ve come to realize over the last 2-3 years, and it’s why I’m a Blackhawks fan. Because Blackhawks hockey — and sports in general — is one of the best tools I’ve had to get together with friends and family while watching a team that’s become so beloved in and around Chicago.
So many of my Blackhawks-centered memories are tied to the people who shared the same experience them with me. I watched Ben Smith’s Game 6 overtime goal at the United Center with my twin brother, a friend from high school and a friend from college. I watched the Hawks win the Cup in 2013 with a group of guys from my beer league hockey team. Some of those same guys were also with me in St. Louis when Brent Seabrook decapitated David Backes and it felt like 15,000 Blues fans were about to jump us.
It hasn’t just been my personal interactions, either. The online community for the Blackhawks has been a perfect go-to whenever I’d be watching an important game by myself. The Hawks’ blogosphere is what really helped my Hawks fandom — and my knowledge of the game — take off. Places like this site, Hockeenight, Cheer the Anthem, Faxes From Uncle Dale and others only added to the fun I’ve had with this team in the last decade. Plus, Twitter feels like a virtual sports bar with the amount of hockey talk — and drinking — I’d see on it when the Hawks are playing. And now that I’m a part of this wonderful site, I only see that part of it getting better.
Here’s the easiest way to sum it all up: it’s the people I’ve met because this team and this sport. That’s why I’m a Blackhawks fan.