Feb 15, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) passes the puck around Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) during the third period at the United Center. The Blackhawks won 2-1 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
My girlfriend scored three last minute standing room only tickets for Sunday afternoon’s Chicago Blackhawks versus Pittsburgh Penguins game! She is the best girlfriend ever because she invited me and our other neighbor to go with her! Now I hope you’ve all had the pleasure of taking in a game or two in your time, but I wanted to go ahead and share our adventure with you. Perhaps we can give you some tips and/or ideas for your next trip to the Madhouse on Madison.
We wanted to make a day of it, so we decided to take the train in from the suburbs. We weren’t the only ones with this idea; the train was packed with red, white, and black sweaters. At every stop, a few more Blackhawks fans piled on. The mood was festive, and excitement was in the air.
My girlfriends and I had a couple reasons why we wanted to get to the United Center pretty early. The doors usually open an hour and a half before the game, so with an 11:30 start time; we were shooting for 10 am. There was a freak snow storm, so we were lucky we chose the train. Otherwise we would have been stuck in white out conditions on the interstate. We grabbed a cab from the station, and made it to the stadium by about 10:15 am.
Our first reason for an early arrival was to get our Blackhawks toothbrush holder. The first 10,000 fans to arrive received this free giveaway. Now don’t laugh; it’s not a Marian Hossa scarf or a bobble head, but it’s a memento nonetheless. It actually turned out to be pretty cool. It’s a replica of a goalie net with two “water bottle holders” for toothbrushes.
Our second reason to be there early was to see pre-game warm ups. For those of you who don’t know this, if the seats aren’t yet filled with the ticket holders, anyone can watch the warm-ups in the seats close to the glass on a first come first serve basis. The only seats that are off limits are the ones in the very first row.
We parked ourselves in seats right by where the players come out, and met Nikki and her son Ryan. Nikki’s husband is a firefighter, and he woke up his wife and youngest son this morning to tell them they were going to the Blackhawks game. It was Ryan’s 7th birthday, and his first Hawks game.
When the players were coming off the ice, I was lucky enough to be able to practically grab Brad Richard’s stick out of his hand, and high-five a couple of the other players. It was about at this time that I realized little Ryan was just above me and was too high up to reach the players outreached hands. So we managed to get him down to the row beneath me, and then he was able to touch Toew’s glove, and got a Blackhawks puck from one of the officials. I don’t mean to sound sentimental, but I’ll never forget the look on that kid’s face.
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I’ve been to a handful of games, but I had never experienced the standing room only section. I was anxious to see what it entailed. Well, let me tell you, you are pretty much parallel to the rafters. We were definitely up there. If the fans in the 300 section were standing up or just semi tall, it was hard to see over them. I’m pretty short, so I had to stand on tip toe most of the day to see what was going on. Not that I’m complaining; hey, we were there, and everyone was really friendly.
I’m not sure which is a better experience, a Jim Cornelison National Anthem, or a fly by at Soldier Field. Both are something I would highly recommend. Watching the anthem on TV is one thing, but being there is something special. Jim just belts it out, and the crowd goes wild. The decibel level in the stadium is insane. You can hear it, see it, touch it, smell it, and taste it. I’m not kidding. I had to pull myself together because I thought I was going to lose it. And I didn’t have the advantage of sunglasses like at a Bears game.
The pre-game video on the jumbotron isn’t too shabby either. My husband always just thinks that’s the coolest thing. His marketing background probably has something to do with it. It’s really too bad he missed it this time (do you think he’ll buy that or is it too obvious?).
You’re probably not going to believe this, but I have another girlfriend. And she was at the game too! She was with her boyfriend, and he splurged for Valentine’s Day and bought the good seats. Ah, the joys of new love! We met the lovely couple during the first intermission, and enjoyed a beverage from the bar right outside their gate.
We were on our way back to the top of the mountain when Niklas Hjalmarsson scored the first goal of the contest! So were took a hiatus from our trek, and danced to Chelsea with the fans at the 200 level. Pretty cool.
There wasn’t much scoring in this one, so the highlight of the day was when Sidney Crosby got called for a penalty. Oh, but wait, the call was reversed!? Can’t say you see that every day. At least the refs made up for it and called him for tripping later in the game, but the Hawks weren’t able to capitalize.
What’s the big deal with Sidney Crosby anyway? Why does everybody think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread? He’s only fifth in the league with 58 points; Patrick Kane is first with 63. He’s had 4 goals in the last five games; Marian Hossa has had 7. The last time Chicago played Pittsburgh, Sid the Kid wasn’t able to score in the shootout; but Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both did. Ok, so maybe he scored in the shootout this time, but so did Kane and Toews, again (and beautiful goals at that). Perhaps if Crosby was on my favorite team I would think differently about him. But he’s not, so I won’t.
Well, we certainly got our fill with this game; overtime and a shootout win! Let’s hear it for Toews, Kane, and Sharpie! Hawks win 2-1! But ugh, the St. Louis Blues won again too! Back to the drawing board this Wednesday, when the Blackhawks take on the Detroit Red Wings.
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