Her First Blackhawks Game
by Scott King
You’re supposed to wait until your child is around five years old to take them to a sporting event. That’s the age they can sit still for a while and absorb and remember the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sunday night, when the Blackhawks took on the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center, was a time I’m glad my wife and I called an audible and told the unwritten rule to take a hike. A friend helped us get a pair of tickets to a comfortable, open area in between the 200 and 300 level where our 19-month-old girl could move around as she pleased, of course dragging us behind her.
After doing a bit of research, I discovered if a child is under 36 inches tall, you don’t need a ticket for them at the United Center. Lucky for us, she was 34 inches at her last check up and no one from the United Center broke out the measuring tape when we entered – her shoes could have done us in.
Her great aunt got her a dazzling red Blackhawks jersey with her name on the back along with the number 15 for the year she was born. It would be the perfect attire for her first game.
We figured we’d take her to the gift shop to get her a souvenir for the monumental milestone. As soon as we walked in, she grabbed a plush duck sporting a Hawks jersey and a hockey helmet, and she wasn’t letting go anytime soon. She has a loyal army of rubber ducks at our home and they were about to have a new fearless leader.
We got to our seats right before warmups started after our little girl said “hi” to everyone along the way. She has her mother’s social charm and “Ain’t life grand?” smile.
Soon enough, she pointed at the players and said a word she’d go on to say all night, “hockey.” It’s been in her vocabulary since she was just a few months old, my bad, and she sure seemed to use it properly Sunday night.
She put on a show dancing to the pregame music, her style is somewhere between traditional Irish Step Dancing and Flashdance. She watched in awe as Jim Cornelison sang his formidable but reverent rendition of the National Anthem. She clapped when everyone clapped, and even let out a “yay,” shortly after a Patrick Kane first period goal, perhaps imitating the excitement of some close by fans.
When she wasn’t dancing, cheering or running, she was watching. The truth is, if her first game were 10-11 years ago, she wouldn’t have had a stadium full of fans and the overwhelming jubilation that an organizational renaissance and three Stanley Cups in six years yields to soak in.
She watched the ice, she watched the fans, she seemed to look everywhere she could to take it all in. It wasn’t a building, it wasn’t a game, you could see her trying to process a whole new world.
While the Blackhawks, who were playing their third game in four nights, were struggling against the Avalanche in the first two periods, we were struggling to contain our undersized plus-one.
She would walk up and down the entire section, playing her own version of tag with a very kind United Center employee and waving at a nearby bartender every time she passed him, which he noted, may not be a good sign.
The Hawks were trailing 3-1 after two periods. They would have had a bigger deficit to come back from if Scott Darling wasn’t making big glove saves, foot saves, everything saves on shooters firing pucks from directly in front of him.
Our daughter had tired herself out right before the start of the third period. Her sitting on our laps for an entire period would be indicative of the type of miracle that was about to occur on the ice. The Hawks would score three goals in 34 seconds to take a 4-3 lead in the third period. Later they would add two more for insurance. The Madhouse would go mad and the final score would be 6-3 Hawks.
Our little girl made it through the entire game.
She didn’t realize what kind of a comeback had just occurred, that the Hawks have won five straight games, 17 of their last 20, and look like a team that’s about to make a red-hot leap into the playoffs, but she loved whatever the hell she saw and was a part of.
She sang along extra loud to the “na, na, na” part of Justin Bieber’s “Let Me Love You” in the car on the way home. She stayed up extra late Sunday night, probably for an unrelated reason.
After an LA Kings loss following Chicago’s victory, the Blackhawks would clinch their ninth straight playoff berth, and very likely, a new fan for life.
Monday morning would hear a lot of “hockey, hockey, hockey” from a little girl who seemed even more jovial than her usual happy self. She would pick up where she left off with her newest plush pet, again carrying the duck everywhere she went.
She may not remember going to her first game on a night when Chelsea Dagger played five times in the third period, where all the Hawks fans who attended got their money’s worth and then some. She may not remember the anthem, the applause, the music, the goal horn, but maybe on some level, in the future, a Hawks sweater, Chelsea Dagger, the anthem or a stick and a puck will resurface a familiar feeling. In case it doesn’t, we’ll remember everything for her.
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