My mom thinks hockey is a “goofy” sport what with all the fighting. She especially loves when they throw down their sticks and gloves after a face-off to fight on purpose. You should hear the way she loves it. But people like my mom don’t watch hockey with the kind of affection that I do. And an observant eye makes the difference.
I wait for the end of the period when the television camera shows Blackhawks team captain, Jonathan Toews standing on the ice while the team files onto the bench and into the locker room. He waits until his entire crew has gone before him and then he brings up the rear. For a youngster, he shows immaculate leadership and poise.
When all the fans are standing from their stadium seats to rush to the red line train and to their cars in the parking lot, I leave my shoes stuck to soda stains on the ground and wait for the Blackhawks to skate in a circle at center ice and salute the Madhouse on Madison fans with their sticks raised in the air. It shows true fan appreciation and a touch of humility.
At the sound of the final buzzer, with a big W on the board for the Hawks, the bench empties onto the ice and every player heads straight for the goalie, whether it’s Huet or Niemi. Some of them give him a jab to the chest pads or a push in the shoulder. Most of them tap helmet to helmet and exchange a few words. It’s all to say, in their uniquely “gentleman” way, nice win, because a goalie’s fate hangs on every puck that finds or fails to find the back of that net. Raw teamwork.
In tonight’s game vs. the Dallas Stars, it was a priceless moment to see Marty Turco from the visiting team hand over his hockey stick to a little Hawks fan in the front row after a forecheck had popped a glass pane out from the boards and scared this young fan half to death. That little dude will never forget the night an NHL professional skater handed a huge game stick to him through the boards. Turco didn’t think twice about it – he reached over and made this little kid’s night…life…in the middle of all the chaos. Selflessness, unity.
This is what I love about hockey.