Everyone in the United Centre tonight thought that Toews scored a hat trick in the second period. It would have been the first hat trick for any Hawk this season, the first hat trick of Toews’ career, and there were some thousand hard hats from the balcony skidding across the ice to prove it. I was clapping for my boy, Toews, in the fuzzy silence of my car on the highway. The game was coming through on AM720, but not clearly and I had a choice: I could either listen through the fuzz or not listen at all. Despite the fuzzy, a clear choice. I heard, through the static, that the replay took Toews’ goal away. No goal, high stick, and still tied with the Pens at 2.
Satan broke the tie. He put a goal away seconds after Toews’ fake hat trick. I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t spiritual warfare. It’s pronounced Shuh-tan, even though I’ll call him Satan much like I call Byfuglien, Buh-foo-glee-en. It’s all about phonetics, folks. And you thought hockey was for missing teeth and gloves-off fights.
Not two minutes into the third period, there’s hard hats flying through the air, from the third balcony, I’m sure, onto the ice again and Toews first career hat trick is a legitimate statistic. He shoveled a pass from Barker into the net from the left side, scoring his 25th goal of the year on a Hawks power play. I’m caught clapping again, cheering for my choice player who might’ve married me in response to my sign if only he’d seen it from my Lexus-sponsored box seat in early January, when I watched my first live game with my Hawks-loving Dad.
The Pens are still ahead by a goal as the third period carries on, and the Hawks have pulled Huet for a rookie goalie. I thought I’d come home to squish my adult body onto the couch next to my Dad and watch the third period of the game, but he was already in bed. So it’s just me and Toby and the only two NHL teams whose players I know. I’m thrilled when Fleury saves the puck, and likewise when Toews sneaks it past him. How absurd. If I had the money for the jerseys, I’d wear Staal’s light blue Classic jersey over a red Toews jersey to be fair to my favorite players.
My loyalties are divided. I poured myself into the Pens with everything real. There’s nothing half-way about the way I love Penguin hockey. It’s not just Crosby, like all the fair-weather fans, but Malkin and LaTang, Fedatanko and Fleurry. And Jordan Staal is –of course – my boy. I’ll jump on the ice myself if anyone tries to mess with him. I don’t mind watching the Pens by myself when the playoffs come. I’d rather sit on the couch and watch the regular-season games as a part of the Pittsburgh hockey package. But I’ll open my text updates instead, they’re some of the only texts I get anymore. If you’re convinced I love the Pens, will you also believe that I’ll never quit watching the Hawks? I grew up a tomboy, with a Daddy loyal to his Chicago sports like a retriever to his master. The Blackhawks are a buncha young boys; Dad says they’ll be strong for a while now. I like to watch Toews play, and thrill to watch with one eye closed, Burish and Eager beat people up, protecting their young ones like they should. From Byfuglien to Khabibulin, I love every name I can’t pronounce on the Blackhawks.
Tonight my teams play each other on the South end of Damen Avenue, in an arena I’ve only been to twice, one precious time for a hockey game. I drew with liquid chalk on the windows behind the bar at my restaurant while the Penguins went up by 2 goals in the first. I drove home with the fuzzy radio and damp, hot cheeks in the second period and pulled into the driveway four goals later. Now, I’m watching the game end from the couch in my home, cheering for anyone who makes a play.
I’m supposed to be at this game.