Sport, an amazing and even more interesting beast in its vaguest of terms – pending which official definition you’re referencing from Webster’s – sport, allows the opportunity inside ones otherwise mundane existence to expose their greatest attributes. Such as courage, character, wisdom, their resilience and of course, their shear talent. Just to mention a few. But as it goes in professional sports, a team may and in return, does… represent a city. Not only as one of it’s sports team, but of its cities people. It can represent who they are, where they’ve come from, what they’ve gone through – that team, whichever sport, will undoubtedly become the pulse of the people. Especially in the moments when they are tried and subsequently succeed.
Chicago’s a very rough and tumble city, it doesn’t take things easy or lightly for that matter. The populous doesn’t usually arrive late to anything – unless of course, the snow gets in their way or even the wind, potentially. They smile at people on the bus, they shake hands – and firm. They may not be the strongest or fastest in the room, but they are always the toughest – the Midwest is not something to mess or joke with. Chicago is as blue collar as they have ever come and is smack dab in the middle of it. They work, they sacrifice, they bleed – they do what’s right. They hold their heads high… why?
That answer is simple… because they know who they are – they, will always be here.
Enter the Chicago Blackhawks and their third straight Western Conference Final appearance, their fifth in seven years. With only two cups to show for all that so far, for example, does it look like they go away? Whether you want to make fun of them personally, or the way they talk or the bleachers and the moustaches and the broken thumbs, the changed lyrics of take me out to the ballgame or that they love this country and our anthem enough, to celebrate it loudly and admittedly, quite obnoxiously – while the rest of the country seems too scared to even give themselves the chance to feel what that moment feels like – yet a flags burning in Baltimore right now.
Sometimes sport, can help remind you of what’s important. Like I hopefully just did there.
Michael Douglas, among others, has hit the proverbial nail directly on its proverbial head – he once said, “I’m impressed with the people from Chicago. Hollywood is Hype. New York is talk. Chicago is work.” Further, “Chicago ain’t no sissy town.” said anonymous somewhere, at some fragment in time. My personal favorite… “Chicago is a town where no one forgets where or how the money was made. They picked it up off the floor still slippery with blood…” anonymous continued.
All be it, that blood may have been that of the slaughtered – Chicago may be one of the only “big” cities remaining where hard work, guts and glory still ring true to its populous with old fashioned sentiment. I’m not here to tell you that it’s the greatest city in the world, or negate that it’s often donned “Chiberia” and “Chiraq” – pending the time of year. But it remains true – Chicago’s true Champions – the ’85 Bears, the Bulls in the 90’s and the Hawks’ current stature from ’08 – present… they work. I don’t need to remind you the types of people Ditka, Payton, Pippen and Jordan were… they were the type to shut up, put in the work and I’ll be damned if you couldn’t hear them scream from St. Louis when it paid off.
Because let’s be honest… on the field of competition, on the field of battle and most importantly, that field we call life – that hard work, always pays off. Somewhere, some how.
Enter again, the Chicago Blackhawks – the stage… another Conference Final Game 7. The difference… the boys off Madison avenue are very sour. If you’ve watched any hockey this post season you’ve heard that the Hawks have yet to lose when leading after two periods throughout this season – over thirty games in total. I tell you that to remind you this… in that 2014 game 7, which has left them and the city for that matter, incredibly sour – they squandered a two goal lead in the third period and allowed the Kings to force overtime.
Enter the second most important lesson in life, sorry I mean sport – regardless – learn from your mistakes!
Like wise people do, the Blackhawks have worked to fix what’s broken – at least until now. It wouldn’t surprise me if the hockey Gods forced them to prove it once more this evening in their Game 7 match-up with the Anaheim Ducks. Here will be the true battle of will for these young men. When all the stats and wins and goals mean very little now. All that remains today, is one game – one win and you get to compete for the Stanley Cup. This is and will remain the biggest game of their season – if you wish to hoist it, first have to get to the big dance. John Cooper, the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, said in a press conference prior to their Game 7 against the New York Rangers, “that it wasn’t just any other game, and one would be silly to see it as such.” Wise words from a man that’s come a long way in his life.
“At the end of it, that was probably the toughest loss of our lives… the disappointment that we exited with, is something that should now get us excited. ” – Q on losing game 7 to Kings
“Once you win the Cup, you feel like it’s yours. You don’t want to give it up.” said Jonathan Toews at media day before the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013. Well, now it’s been twice for seven of them, another Gold Medal for a few more and all but a couple have been to the big dance before. All of them know the defeat of being so close, and not knowing what might’ve happened next. For the Blackhawks, the entire year is pointless if victory is not achieved. To fail, period.
The Captain isn’t the only one feeling that way in Chicago. And the city has experienced it for the first time with him. The Cup hadn’t been back to Madison Ave for fifty four years when Toews & Co. brought it home in 2010. Five years later they’re here yet again, with the whole city wanting it back – and subsequently less inclined to give it up.
It did something more than just “hurt” while basking in the Southern California sun before a crowd of three hundred thousand. Sir Stanley deserves more – he could’ve been before two million, packed shoulder to shoulder in muggy Grant Park. Smack dab in the middle of the city, he at that point, could certainly call his second. Oh the irony in it all.
Who will win? I don’t know, got a coin? This series is that evenly contested right now and believe me I know that there are many stats that I could be rattling off. Or talking about lines, and the goaltenders and what I think is going to happen. To be honest with you, tonight, I haven’t the foggiest idea who’s going to win the game. Tonight, we get to watch an incredible group of men play a hockey game. And I’d expect the Blackhawks to recognize what they’ve scripted for themselves – the opportunity they have yet again. I think this years book is just about to get exciting.
But the task at hand still remains – one shift at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time, and ONE GOAL at a time. For the Blackhawks the “ONE GOAL” slogan is 25% about winning the cup and 75% a description of who they are as people. The standard that they are held to and hold themselves to – the true meaning of the word Champion, on and off the ice. A champion may lose at times, most likely more than they will win. But they realize the only thing that matters, is how you compete. During the game, at the sport and you guessed, IN LIFE. Sure, they play fantastic hockey, but that’s not why I’m a diehard fan.
10 hours til puck drop, do what you do and try to stay calm.