I had lived in or near Chicago practically all of my life when I decided to make a pretty big, life-changing decision. The company I had been working for downsized, and my job was one of the many on the chopping block. Something that was just a fleeting idea only a few months earlier began to take shape and become a reality: I was going to make a huge career change and become a lawyer.
The next decision was where to apply for law schools. No doubt, Chicago has many fine institutions, so I didn’t really have to move. But the opportunity was there to experience life in another part of the country for an extended period of time, and as much as I love Chicago, my wanderlust was making me a bit restless. In early 2010, I applied to law schools far and wide. In the end, I settled on Boston.
Around the same time, the Blackhawks were making a historical run through the post-season to earn their first Stanley Cup in nearly half a century. It was certainly a time of immense pride for the city and vindication for faithful fans.
Unfortunately, I had to be a not-so-faithful fan when I moved away. Not due to changing loyalty, but rather to the hell that is the first year of law school. I barely had time to come up for air, let alone follow the Hawks throughout the season from afar. I did manage to catch the last few games of the series against Vancouver in 2011, much to my chagrin. Disappointed as I was, I understood just how tough it was to repeat in the salary cap era, and hoped that the team from my adopted city could give me some vicarious vengeance.
It took them all 7 games, but the Bruins triumphed in the end. Many of my law school classmates are locals, so you can imagine how the euphoria of the fans was not unlike the feeling we had in Chicago the previous summer. Although the wait was not nearly as long as Chicago’s, the Bruins had quite a long Cup drought of their own: 39 years. I was happy for them, not just for having beaten the team that handed my Hawks an untimely exit from the playoffs, but because they fought hard and played well.
Despite having two skilled teams, I would never have imagined that Chicago and Boston would face each other in the Finals, especially while I was still living out here. But that is exactly what happened just 3 years after the Hawks’ last Cup win and 2 years after that of the Bruins.
I had a paid clerkship position at a Boston law firm that summer, and was surrounded by avid Bruin fans. Things were harmonious enough until June, when it was clear that the two teams would be battling for all the marbles. I was outnumbered, so it was difficult to respond to the chirping, not to mention a bit risky from an employment standpoint. I simply nodded and smiled, and kept to my work.
One of my coworkers posted the series tally on the window of his office, with a modified Indian Head logo that had a teardrop near the eye. “We’ll see who is crying in the end,” I thought to myself. Although Games 2 and 3 made me a bit nervous, I nonetheless donned my Hawks jersey and headed to Game 4. The final, Cup-winning game was certainly more epic, but I don’t think there was another game in the series that was quite as crazy, or as hard on one’s nerves and blood pressure levels.
The 6-5 score wasn’t the only impression that I took away from that game. Just a few rows in front of where I sat was a young couple, fully decked out in support of the respective teams: Blackhawks for the woman, Bruins for the man. After the Hawks won the game in OT to tie the series at 2 each, the couple turned to each other, smiled, and hugged.
I thought that was pretty symbolic of how both teams viewed each other, with genuine sportsmanship and respect. After the Hawks won the cup and sent what was essentially a “Thank You” letter to Boston, I was immensely proud of my home city and my team – even more so than I already was from the win. And from speaking to Bruins fans, no one seemed to take it the wrong way, as though Chicago was merely rubbing it in. They appreciated the sincere gesture, and to the extent the two teams are rivals, it is more from a “business” than a “personal” aspect.
Here we are, nearly at the end of another season, with the Hawks having led for most of the first half, and the Bruins leading the charge down the stretch. There are at least 12 but possibly 21 games before we will see if there will be another Chicago-Boston rematch in the Finals this summer. Of course, I am confident that the Hawks have the ability to go the distance again this summer, despite some occasional periods of misfortune. But if they thought last year was tough, they will have to work twice as hard this time around – not only to get past some solid Western Conference teams, but also to prevail once again over an extremely motivated Bruins team looking for redemption.
Losing the Captain to injury recently may have made things seem a bit bleak, given that the team was already missing Patrick Kane and a few others. If you pray, keep praying. If you don’t pray, just keep the good thoughts flowing. The Hawks will need all of the big guns healthy and firing at 100% to become the first team in 15 years to win back-to-back championships. Winning two Cups in a short span would indicate that the tenacity and will to win is there. And even if the odds are slightly less favorable for the Hawks than they were last year, I fully believe they can beat those odds and do it again in 2014 – just in time for me to come home to Chicago and finally witness a victory parade in person!
As always, thanks for reading, and LET’S GO HAWKS!