Quick apology to all of our SL readers for the break in sports content. As a sports writer and college student, I felt I deserved a little break to just spend time with the family back home, and enjoy a diet that isn’t solely comprised of ramen.
Two seasons ago, the city of Chicago was graced with another Championship title, the most recent since the ’05 white sox run and the first on ice since 1961. With the NHL experiencing a divinci-esque renesaince, Chi-city has reached full on infatuation mode with their Blackhawks, packing and rocking the United Center at every opportunity. The sports editor of Secret Laboratory (yours truly) was lucky enough to receive some Hawks tickets for a day after Christmas throw-down against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. And even though I currently reside in the stat of hockey, one experiencing their own boon of success, never have I been in a more engaging and overall entertaining arena for a hockey game.
For Blackhawks fans, these things will be old hat, but still take pride in the fact that a writer from Minnesota is giving you props. One of th first noteworthy items about the arena itself is the layout. We had 3rd level seats, which provided us an excellent vantage point (to really take in the complexity of hockey, I highly suggest you sit up high enough to see everything happening away from the puck). The concession stands were quick, and the design of the restrooms allowed for efficient ingress and egress.
As far as a fan experience goes, a Blackhawks game is second to none. First to note are their numerous introductions. The first promo video highlights greats of Blackhawks past (Stan Mikita himself was signing autographs at the game, more on that layer). After that you get a spectacular laser light show on the Ice, coupled with more hype on this years team, and an awesome video of them skating through the streets of Chicago towards the Madhouse on Madison. After all of that, the starters for the Hawks are announced to an uproarious crowd.
Did I mention the place is a madhouse? Perhaps the greatest and most electrifying tradition at a Blackhawks game is the singing of the national anthem. Any singer who has ever graced the ice at either old Chicago Stadium or the UC, big pipes are a necessity. Fans show their respect for our nation by cheering as loud as possible throughout the entirety of the song, but it’s easier to show you:
You’ll hit the national anthem at about 1:45, but feel free to enjoy the wonderful voice of Jim Cornelison as he belts out “O Canada” first.
The fans and players also took another moment to honor some of our nations heroes, as the referees literally put the game on hold as fans cheered for three honored members of the US military we’re shown on the video board. Player even took the break in action to salute the men with a tip and or point of their sticks, a very touching and respectable moment overall.
But let us not forget that hockey is a rowdy sport, and having a good time is usually one of the goals behind purchasing a ticket. One such way to enjoy the game is to sit back and listen to what the fans have to say. I overheard these three gems among numerous others during the game, and I quote:
“Hey ref, are you pregnant, ’cause you’ve missed two periods”
“Pepper the net boys, Swiss Cheese Mason (referring to starting Jackets goalie Steve Mason) is open for business”
“Hey Duncan, quit limp stickin’ it!” (referring to Duncan Keith, who legitimately looked about as excited as a 78 year old man without his little blue pill every time the puck came his way).
This isn’t to say that Hawks fans are only their to rail on the players. In fact, the fan base overall seemed to have a very high hockey IQ. Fans focused n the game away from the puck, and voiced their excitement about a developing play in unison the way a bunch of bees with a common hive mind can coordinate everything they do.
And don’t forget the on ice entertainment. I guess I should mention that the Hawks cruised the Jackets 4-1, and it wasn’t ever really close (despite the shot
totals, which the Jackets outdid the Hawks 39-19). The intermission entertainment was highlight by a stiff in a shirt and tie with a jersey hastily thrown over it winning 500 cool ones, and a youth hockey shoot out they displayed an array of youngsters imitating the goal celebrations of their favorite pros after beating their goalie like a rented mule. Oh, and the Ice Girls. The ice crew comprised of very able bodied skating (for lack of a better word) foxes. Lucky me, I was able to get a group picture signed by a few of the very talented ladies. Combine all of this with the roaming Tommy Hawk (a fan favorite) and its easy to see that the organization really caters to attendees of all interests and ages.
Hockey fans are a special bunch, and the arenas that they frequent are like shrines to the only remaining professional sport with a true sense of code and honor. So treat yourself to a ticket to a hockey game, and more power to you if you can make it down to the United Center, I guarantee it will be an experience you won’t regret (even if you just go for the Ice Girls, no one will blame you).