If there’s one thing I love more than travel, it’s hockey. I take the Chicago Blackhawks with me everywhere I go. In every country I visit, I wear a Hawks shirt or hat to show my Hawks pride. I’ve woken up a few of my neighbors in Istanbul celebrating goals at 4 or 5am. I’ve even taught a few students that “Detroit Sucks”. And through over three years of living abroad, I’ve maintained the season tickets I’ve had since the 2002-03 season. Even back in high school, people laughed at me for supporting the Hawks. When we were terrible, I couldn’t PAY people to take my extra tickets. But two Stanley Cups later, I’m having the last laugh. It just shows that loyalty and persistence can pay off.
When I found out during my visit to Chicago I would have the chance to skate on Blackhawks ice at the United Center with a behind the scenes tour of the locker room and press box, I jumped on the opportunity.
I started out with a quick picture next to the Zamboni, the machine that cleans the ice. I think one of my dream jobs is to be a Zamboni driver.
Next, it was up to the press box to get a firsthand look at where the game is reported from. I peered into the radio booth and got a good look at the ice from way up at the top of the stadium. Actually, the view isn’t much different than what I get at my seats (but Section 301 is much better).
I got to see the door to the secret room where the NHL replay official sits and sometimes (often) makes terrible decisions. Then it was a quick walk through the Blackhawk Alumni Room, where pictures of Hawk legends are up on the wall.
After that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, the scoreboard control room. Lots of lights and buttons and monitors – it reminded me of when I was a radio DJ back in high school but way more complicated. The view from the sound room was also interesting.
Also up there is the room from where Blackhawks organist Frank Pellico has entertained crowds for several years.
I had a quick break for lunch and to watch the first half of the Bears vs Packers game (don’t wanna talk about it), then it was down to the ice for 20 minutes of skating where the Blackhawks play. Every inch of the ice I skated on brought back a memory of a great moment I witnessed. I kept thinking things like “this is the spot where Patrick Kane scored the hat trick against Vancouver in the 2009 playoffs“, “this is where Andrew Shaw was standing when he scored the famous shin pad goal!”, “this is where Seabrook let a shot go in OT to complete the comeback against the Wings“, or even further back to “this is the spot where Steve Thomas beat the crap out of Sean Avery in 2003!“. When my 20 minutes were up, I didn’t want to get off the ice, but at the same time, my feet were killing me. Yeah, time to get off the ice.
Finally, I got to visit the Blackhawks locker room. I had to walk down into the bowels of the United Center and through a long corridor to get there. Once in the locker room, I saw where the sticks are kept in the tunnel that leads to the ice.
The locker room was immaculate. It was all prepared for the next night’s game against the LA Kings. Jerseys were hung up, skates and pads were lined up, and it smelled like roses. Well, not really. It stunk like sweaty old jock straps. But that’s what championships are made of.