An Open Letter to All You Young Blackhawks Fans Out There
Yes, I used an Eddie Olczyk catch phrase for the title of this letter: don’t let that deter you. The Eddie O you know now is very different from the Eddie O I first knew. The now-redundant color commentator was just an aging veteran making his triumphant return to his hometown back in the late 90’s as I, myself, was solidifying my appreciation for the red-headed stepchild of sports franchises here in Chicago.
That’s right, your superstar Blackhawks were the team everyone in this hockey-loving town forgot about. This is no secret. Anyone that labels him or herself a ‘true Blackhawks fan’ is the first to point to this period of time as proof of their undying loyalty.
“Back when I was your age the Blackhawks sucked and weren’t even on television. We went to Wolves games to see real hockey.”
I admit, that sentiment has come out of my mouth on more than a few occasions- because it was true. While I loved the Blackhawks as a child, my main motivation for attending games was solely to scam my father into buying me some cotton candy and watch grown men fight (legally) on the ice like my schoolyard friends at recess. My dad loved it because he could see an NHL game for less than $10 a ticket. I would then go home to my desktop PC and waste away hours playing Eric Daze on my first line on NHL 2003. Yes, Eric Daze was my Patrick Kane and you’ve probably never heard of him. He did win the All-Star Game MVP in 2002, just so you know.
This letter was sparked by a conversation I had where a coworker of mine said following the Blackhawks has lost its luster because they just always win. They are predictable. I gaped at him. How could someone be bored with these Blackhawks? If I could find ways to be entertained in the late 90s with THOSE teams, surely you can find things to get excited about with THESE teams. It got me thinking more, however, about the young fans that are growing up and viewing the Hawks in their present state. What must that be like? Oh yeah…
There was something else going on in the mid to late 90’s that took up the majority of this town’s attention, in the same building, in fact: the Chicago Bulls and the Jordan Era. I grew up and developed my sports acumen during the prime of the greatest athlete to ever play the game of basketball. When I was really little, maybe about five or six, I actually thought the ‘B’ in NBA stood for Bulls. I thought it was their league and the other teams competed to play them in the championship. How was I to know any different? They were in it almost every season. The one season they didn’t win, I was living in California that year and actually thought it was my fault for moving away. I always had a great sense of responsibility when it came to sports, I guess.
I’ll admit, I took these years with MJ for granted. I didn’t understand half of what I was witnessing. But one thing I never was: bored. I begged my dad for every championship t-shirt, watched every game right alongside him and whoever happened to be over doing the same. I drew the Bulls logo in my art class over and over and over. I once won a pair of Bulls tickets at a church raffle and gave them to my dad for Father’s Day. He took my uncle. That remains one of the single most devastating things to happen to me in my childhood.
The point of this is: I understand. I understand you may not comprehend this ‘Golden Age’ of the Blackhawks right now. I understand you have no concept of how hard it is to win year after year in the Salary Cap Era of the NHL. I know you don’t get the fact that Coach Quenneville is now sitting as the 2nd All-Time Winningest Coach in NHL history and how big of a deal that is.
But even if you don’t understand I hope you get excited watching every Seabrook slap shot from the blue line; every impossible dangle by Kane and every laser snipe by Panarin. I hope that if you happen to get the chance to go to a game you don’t sit in your $220 lower bowl seat playing Candy Crush on your iPhone. I hope you get a set of Blackhawks shinny hockey sticks for Christmas and play until you have rugburns on your knees in the basement or better yet: build your own mini ice hockey rink in your backyard.
And I hope you never, ever get bored.