By Sean Gallagher
[This article originally ran in the GT paper in February 2006 (you'll have to excuse the unbeliveable amount of pity for such a listless and shitty team that marks this piece). This is the first of an off-season series of "How I Became A Blues Fan" articles by our staff. We're also soliciting our readers' stories for how they fell in love with the Note. Send your intentions to write or your stories to our all-powerful gate-keeping online editor, Bradley Lee.]
I wish these Blues-Blackhawks tilts still meant something.* I know most of you agree with me on that, but we all know that it hasn't meant anything for a long time. The Blues had to knock off the Hawks in the playoffs a couple years back, but even that series wasn't terribly compelling.
*How glad are you that these games DO mean something again?
No matter how bad the Hawks have been for a decade, or how bad the Blues are now,* these games still have a special place for me, and they always will. It's time for me to tell the story of how I became a Blues fan.
*Hey! Hi! Welcome to the pity party!
Despite growing up in Chicago, or, more accurately, the greater Chicagoland area, my parents were not hockey fans and not Blackhawks fans, so I didn't really have any interest in the sport or the team. I never went to a hockey game in the old Chicago Stadium. Never heard the din during that National Anthem. Never got hooked on Al Secord and Denis Savard. Never cared about their chances, even when they were building around Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte, Ed Belfour and a backup named Dom Hasek. Couldn't have cared less.
Then, while attending that big state school in Columbia (the one that used to have a really good basketball team), I met a girl. And, unbeknownst to me at the time, the girl's grandfather was a pretty big deal in the St. Louis sports scene. When I first ventured to St. Louis to meet her parents and whatnot, I had a pretty big Chicago chip on my shoulder. Especially when it came to what I considered to be a wannabe town like St. Louis. That first night in St. Louis, the girlfriend borrowed her grandfather's tickets to the Blues game and said we had to go. It'd be a blast. I was skeptical, but the tickets were free and I knew they'd have beer there, so I was in.
The day and date are lost to me now, but this would have been in the 1992-93 season when the Blues finished right behind the Hawks in the standings. And due to the aforementioned chip on my shoulder, even though being from "Chicagoland" is like someone from Ladue telling people they are from "St. Louis" in order to sound more tough and less hoity-suburb-toity, and despite the fact that I had no idea about hockey at all, I flirted with the idea of being obnoxious and rooting for the Hawks in the Blues' barn.
That did not last long. I was captivated from the second I walked into the Arena to the second I left, chanting, "Let's Go Blues!" with all the other drunkards. What I'd witnessed over the previous three hours changed my life forever. The passion of the fans, the excitement of the game and (while I didn't realize it at the time) watching a classic Blues-Blackhawks battle had sunk a hook in me that I have yet to get out. I became an immediate Blues fan, which my friends back in Chicago(land area) could not believe.
Now, 13-plus years later, I'm just as excited to watch the Blues play as I was that day. That may sound stupid, considering the current sad state of the team,* but it's true. Everyone who was there on Monday when Dutchie Stempniak drilled that shootout goal to win the game and was jumping and screaming and slapping perfect strangers on the back knows the feeling. For me, as I screamed myself hoarse and traded fist-bumps and high-fives with total strangers, I was just as excited as I was during that first game. When we booed the other shooters and yelled at their goalie, I was teleported back to the first game, when I yelled along with everyone else, "Beeeeelllllllll-Foooouuuuurr!"
*Waaaa! Look at how sad we are. Please buy our paper and wallow in self-pity. I can't believe any of you paid good money for papers during this season. Oh wait, most of you didn't. Don't worry, I don't blame you.
I still love this game and I still love this team.* I wish this match tonight would be as exciting as my first Blues-Blackhawks game. Maybe I'll just try to convince myself that this isn't a fifth place team playing a fourth place team. Maybe I'll just do like my wife (the girl who brought me to that first game) wishes we would do and just yell, "Beeeeelllllllll-Foooouuuuurr!" even though I know it's Adam Munro** in net. In fact, I'm sure I'll do that. Because really, how mad would that make a Chicago goalie to be called Belfour? If I could make one rule at the non-Arena (Towel Boy related rules excluded, of course), it would be that Blues fans always chant "Belfour" at the Chicago goalie, no matter who he is.***
*Uck. This is almost like reading a teenager's diary at this point.
**Adam Fucking Munro? And the Hawks were better than the Blues somehow?
*** This, however, remains a great idea.
And so, despite the lowly status of the two teams, I still feel the same way: Let's Go Blues! Blackhawks Suck!*
-Sean "blue to the end" Gallagher
*Google image search this and we've got the number 2 and number 5 pictures. Rock.