Chicago, IL —As a birthday present my very best friend in the world gave me a gift I will not soon forget. We went to see an Original Six matchup at the United Center in Chicago. The match up had this season’s hottest team the New York Rangers playing against my beloved Chicago Blackhawks.
Earlier in the day the team’s practice was held at the UC instead of the normal practice facility Johnny’s Ice House and was streamed live on BHTV (Blackhawks’ TV). There was more media presence than normal for a team practice. The best sight however, during the practice was seeing team captain Jonathan Toews skating on the ice. Toews has been out in what feels like forever battling concussion symptoms. Even though Toews would not be playing in the game against the Rangers it was really, really good to see him back on the ice.
I’m not sure if this had the team and the crowd primed for the evenings affair or maybe it was because it was feisty Dave Bolland’s bobblehead night or the Original Six pairing. The crowd I could sense from the jump was going to be into this game. The game had a playoff atmosphere from the opening Jim Cornelison national anthem, that is in my opinion unparalleled in delivering enchantment to a fan base to the thrilling seven minute finale of the game.
What made this a special night was maybe a combination of all of the above coupled with a come from behind Blackhawks win. Sharing this experience with my best friend and 22,029 of my fellow Hawks faithful put this game in the stratosphere of sublime for me. Unless you have been to a Blackhawks game at the United Center, which I highly recommend for anyone, it is almost indescribable what happens between this team and the UC crowd.
The bond that exists between true Blackhawk fans who stayed when it looked like the Hawks would have a tough time coming back from a 2-1 deficit to a stingy NY Ranger defense were rewarded with a magical turn of events in the last seven minutes of the game. The Hawks also were facing the best goalie in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist, yet somehow the power of the fans that stayed to yell at a deafening roar of LETS GO HAWKS sparked the team unto a another mythical Blackhawks game at the UC.
The last seven minutes started first with a tying goal executed perfectly by the superstar players this team has Kane to Hossa to Sharp on a picture perfect play. This sight is something Blackhawks fans have gotten used to but should never take for granted. This trio is certainly capable of some dazzling feats of legerdemain. While this trio was executing this goal on the ice in the stands fans were trying to empathically lift the team with not only their cheers but their belief in this team.
What pushed this game to epic status was the go ahead goal by newcomer Johnny Oduya. Johnny welcome to the world of prestidigitation where the seemingly impossible is more likely than not. Oduya is not a big goal scorer but then again he has never played at the United Center in front of these fans either or worn the Indianhead jersey before. It was after the puck went into the net from his blast from the point that I lost not only my voice but my mind as did 22,049 others. I turned to my friend and we celebrated together and no words were necessary just singing along and dancing to Chelsea Dagger. Insanity on this large of a scale is something you have to experience for yourself as words just do not do it justice. A couple more goals by each team were scored but it was the Sharp and Oduya goals were the Hawks magic was evident.
My emotions had run the gamut the night before and I was exhausted and drained but in a good way. I have to admit the next morning I lost my voice from all the screaming and my hands were sore from all of the clapping. I also will admit I woke up with a silly grin on my face and a general overall feeling of warmth and contentment. I was content not that my team had won an important game over a very good team but with a deeper sense of contentment. One that comes with a belief that no matter what my team faces it is never out of it.
I’ve seen too many inexplicable things with this team and around this team happen to know you should never stop believing in them and their skills and their will to win. If my friend and I and the UC crowd helped the team in any way get this win that made my gift even better. A couple of years ago Denis Savard a former Hawk star and at the time coach went on a tirade about “committing to the Indian”. He was referring to the players at that time giving back to the team after the organization committed to them as players.
I as a fan now understand what he meant. Committing to the Indian is to have respect for the logo and everything it stands for. The traditions and players of the past honored. It means the team playing the game of hockey the right way and hard every night and as fans relishing in the emotional roller coaster this teams season and hopefully post season will put you through but above all else supporting them in good and bad.
As a fan you can never give up on your team and the magic it can conjure up even in desperate times. When the team needs you the most, try to lift them with your hearts and voices. Most of all Committing to the Indian to me means as a fan, in the face of all odds you help the team with a spellbinding bond that turns the unbelievable into belief.