Player to Be Named Later: Make me a Blackhawks fan
Ever since the Bulls went down to the Celtics in game 7, life hasn't been the same. That series was so pressurized, when it ended, all that steam just seemed to disappear. As someone who hasn't paid much attention to hockey since the 1994/95 lockout, I've admired what the Blackhawks are doing from afar. But now that the Western Conference Finals are upon us, a different feeling has taken over my brain: jealousy. All those Hawks fans have something to lock into. A novelist I ran into today told me he started wearing a Blackhawks hat a few months ago and has struck up dozens of conversations with eager believers in the last month. My generally thrifty, sports-loathing pal recently dropped more than $100 on a Toews jersey a couple weeks back. It's madness. And I want in.
And I've been trying, but aside from admitting that the hat trick is more exhilarating than a triple double, and thinking about how "home ice" is freighted with all sorts of warrior lore missing from, say, "home field," I can't crack that egg. To that end, I cornered our resident Blackhawks fanatic, music editor Brent DiCrescenzo, and asked him enough questions to get me fired up. The man is convincing.
So as you know, I’m a big sports fan, but because of my love of basketball, hockey has basically eluded me. But I want to get in on this ‘Hawks action. What will following the Blackhawks bring to my life?
Well, for one, hope. Chicago baseball? Hopeless. The White Sox go theirs, the Cubs never will. The Blackhawks are the best all around Chicago sports team since Jordan retired, and they’re positioned to stay powerful for years to come. So jumping on now, it's just a two week thrill.
Yeah, that's what's interesting to me about this team. Their youth. Jonathan Toews is 21 and captain? How does that happen?
Hockey is like basketball in that way, rookies can come in and make an immediate impact, though it is a little rare for them to become captain so quickly. That's one thing I love about hockey: you get guys ranging from age 18 to 48 playing.
I saw Chris Chelios is still in the league? WTF? And Lidstrom?
This has to be the end of Chelios. But Lidstrom isn't that old.
He's 39! I used to play with these guys on my Super NES.
It's skating, less impact on the knees than jumping. But the Hawks have a lot of young players, and well beyond Toews and Kane. Versteeg is the current rookie hotshot, and he gets lots of ice time. Hjalmarsson is 21, he was called up late in the season, and he's one of their main defensive pieces now.
So that makes me feel like this Hawks/Wings series is a little like Bulls/Celtics: Youth vs. Age. Up-and-coming vs. Champs. Only with more historical resonance.
Yeah, there's a little of that, I suppose. It's hard to paint the Red Wings as an evil empire, certainly. There's no Yankees parallel. They're thoughtfully put together, with lots of guys from their system, and they're too damn good not to admire. The Red Wings are more like the Pistons of a few years back. Or the Spurs.
Huh. Old and savvy, then?
They're just always freaking good. Well-run, well-coached, etc.
So I tend to get invested in inscrutable players (Delonte West) or outsized personalities (Joakim Noah) or even empty mysteries (Mark Prior). Are there any on the Hawks?
The Hawks don't really have a goon. But if you had to pick one it'd be Burish. He's the enforcer. But I think the guy you're looking for is Dustin Byfuglien.
Yeah. I'm curious about that dude. Every time I see his name in the papers, he's described as "beefy" or "a bull."
Byfuglien is growing a playoff fro.
He's keeping the beard up top. He's an easy guy to like, because he's big and tough, but he's got O skills. They're really streaky, but he has them.
I read that the NHL changed the rules a few years back, to get rid of hooking, which let little, faster guys kind of take over.
Yeah, the game is faster than a few years back. What's interesting about the Hawks is that they're really adaptable. And this is what I like about hockey. The Hawks can play a fast skill game (which they did in the Canucks series) or toughen up now (which they did more of in the Flames series).
OK, you're convincing me. What about fighting, will we see some good ones in this round? I saw a Hurricane sucker punched a Bruin in the last round, and only got fined $2,500. That seems like nothing to me. I would pay $2,500 to punch a lot of people.
Well, there's no real goon on the Hawks, and the Red Wings certainly don't have one. The better teams tend not to throw punches.
So where's the drama in this series?
The drama comes from the david vs. goliath feel of it, and some retribution for the Winter Classic loss. But if there's a fight, put solid money on it being Byfuglien or Burish.
I like those names.
Yeah, they're good goon names. Names are part of the allure of hockey, it's just fun to say them. It's a nice way of separating the fairweathers from the fans. I've heard "Go Toes!" before.
You know, off-topic, but I typed Patrick Kane into Google, and the first search that Firefox autopopulated was "Patrick Kane's Girlfriend."
Who is it?
I don't know. The first link was to a message board about whether he had one. But it seems like he's the ladies' man on the team. What else can you tell me about this series?
Part of the allure of watching hockey is watching Brian Engblom in the intermissions. He often wears metallic paisley ties, picnic pattern shirts and pinstriped jackets.
I didn't know hockey hair was still a thing. This is really winning me over.
His mullet is gone a bit now, but he still has that windswept toupee look.
Now you're selling me. What else you got?
Do you know the Hawks fight song? It's the best song in sports. It's one of the most endearing things about the team. I have it on my iPod.
I love it. This single-handedly made me a fan.
Yeah, it's very swingin'. There aren't a lot of fight songs with a strings and horn break.
Well done, DiCrescenzo. I'm officially on board. So let's hear it, what's your prediction?
My common sense tells me Detroit in seven, but I think positive. Blackhawks in seven. The Canucks were a really, really good team, and the hottest team in the last half of the season.
You weren't kidding about hope.
What I'm saying is the Hawks can do this. This isn't some wacky hoax longshot like if the Bulls played the Cavs. They have a knack for coming back. Nothing seems to faze them
You're talking like they're Obama.
Yeah, a bit! He needs to show up, and show his love.