There’s no denying the enthusiasm and passion the city of Chicago feels for the Blackhawks. No matter where you drive, be it the suburbs, the neighborhoods outside the city, or the heart of downtown, you won’t get very far without seeing Blackhawks paraphernalia. T-shirts, flags, window clings, license plate frames—it’s everywhere. I have no shame in admitting I’ve got at least one of each. It sounds a little intense, sure, but I love it. This city loves it. There’s an undeniable connection between our fans. I, for one, always fight the urge to high five or hug any person I see rocking our logo.
In recent years, the Blackhawks have ignited a spark in Chicago. They’ve brought a youthful energy to the city. They’ve given us a reason to come together. They’ve inspired us to accomplish goals of our own (see: the One Goal campaign). I never thought my family would come together to watch sports. But in the last five years, this team has done just that. They’ve brought my entire family closer together. We make it a priority to reserve game nights to hang out.
What is it exactly about the Blackhawks that makes them so special? Our team is tough. Our team is respected. Our players push themselves to their mental and physical limits—not only to win, but also to better themselves and their teammates. Through the many ridiculously frustrating calls from the refs, season-ending injuries, and triple overtimes, our players repeatedly thank the fans for their support, no matter the outcome. That dedication and appreciation was no different after the Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 win, where every interview ended with a thank-you to the still-energetic cheering ocean of red in the United Center.
If you watched any of the Stanley Cup Finals games, you may have noticed a lot of red. That doesn’t sound unusual, right? At a home game, it’s expected. At an away game, it’s become frowned upon. Leading up to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, our opponents, the Tampa Bay Lightning, actively lessened the distinct overflow of red that would undoubtedly grace their arena by banning the Blackhawks logos from being worn in designated areas (note: that didn’t stop us). Meanwhile, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel countered with an invitation:
“Chicago Blackhawks supporters are known to be among the best in the NHL, and certainly we wish the Tampa Bay Lightning management would welcome Chicago fans to their city and not be afraid to let them into their arena for the Stanley Cup finals. As Mayor of Chicago, I welcome Tampa fans—and hockey fans from around the country—to fly to Chicago and enjoy our world class hotels, restaurants, cultural attractions, and then go watch Stanley Cup hockey in Chicago. It doesn’t get better than that.”
And he’s right. Being in Chicago, watching our hometown heroes struggle and fight to the finish on home ice, being surrounded by the LET’S GO HAWKS chants—it really doesn’t get better than that. There is no place like it. No energy to match it. I’m not sure how many other hockey fans can say that about their home teams, but when it comes to hockey in Chicago, we are obsessed. And when it comes to winning, we know how to celebrate.
With bars and restaurants packed citywide on June 15th for Game 6, it’s no surprise that headlines were made as soon as the final buzzer sounded. Thousands of fans filled the streets of Wrigleyville to celebrate together through the night. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The 2-0 victory against Tampa marked the first time the Blackhawks won the Cup on home ice since 1938, and Chicagoans made the most of the occasion.”
Back in the suburbs, fans kept tradition alive by TP’ing Coach Q’s house. Days later, after a little more sleep, the victory parade and rally was held downtown, with 2 million people in attendance. This year’s win was our third in six years and the celebration rally had a distinct theme: dedication to the giant support system in sweet home Chicago. From the many bars that hosted masses of fans on game nights, to the fans that traveled cross-country to represent the Hawks every person was thanked for being a part of such a memorable playoff season.
Some might say we’re a little intense. But we love our team. We love the guys who make the games memorable. We love Coach Q, who creates plays that result in game-winning goals. We love the teamwork and support we see on the ice. We love the personalities we see on and off the ice. We love the camaraderie—between both players and fans. We love Captain Serious. We love the cellys. We love Chelsea Dagger.
I may be a little biased in saying that Chicago is the best city with the best NHL fans and the best hockey team… but we must be pretty damn good if we can fight our way to winning the Stanley Cup for the third time in six seasons.
I think if there’s one thing the Chicago Blackhawks have done, it’s set a high standard for hockey as a whole. I respect this team more than I ever thought I’d respect any sports team. Call it a dynasty if you want, but what matters about the Chicago Blackhawks is that they’re already getting pumped for next season. Because why stop at three wins when you know you have the drive and the talent to make it four? Chelsea, Chelsea, I believe.