At the inaugural Chicago Blackhawks Roadwatch Party at the Libertyville Sports Complex last year, Raymond and Melinda Clark scored tickets to their favorite hockey team's regular-season finale.
At the second annual Blackhawks Roadwatch Party at the Libertyville Sports Complex, the Gages Lake couple showed up toting around their son, Edward.
Edward is 3 months old.
Try to guess the math that was going on last Thursday. And it wasn't about the combination of Blackhawks wins in regulation and Detroit losses required for the Blackhawks to secure a higher playoff seed.
"He came out with a hockey stick in his hand," Raymond, a man of hockey-enforcer size, said proudly of his son, who was appropriately decked out in a Blackhawks beanie and T-shirt and bootees.
"He's got a Blackhawks diaper on, too."
"No," Raymond said, laughing.
Talk about a growing fan base.
For the second year in a row, Blackhawks fans of all ages and sizes, mostly wearing jerseys or T-shirts with player last names on the back, came out to cheer on their hockey team, watching its road game against the Minnesota Wild on a giant-size TV screen. Jim Cornelison belted out the national anthem again. Hall-of-famer Denis Savard showed up to sign autographs again.
"We knocked it out of the park again," said a beaming Connie Kowal, the complex's director.
If you were lucky enough, you left with a puck signed by Brent Seabrook, or an autographed picture of Patrick Kane or Dave Bolland, or a Marian Hossa signed jersey, or two tickets to a Blackhawks playoff game.
Or, maybe you operated the large scoreboard hanging on the east wall.
Nate DeBolt, a soft-spoken 15-year-old from Waukegan, got that gig. He made sure the scoreboard was synched up with the game clock.
"Someone walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to do it," said DeBolt, wearing a Bolland No. 16 red T-shirt and a -- gasp! -- St. Louis Cardinals cap. At least the colors matched.
Coolest look of the night?
Got to wave the black rally towel for Ken Whitman.
The wonderful die-hard fan from Wonder Lake sported a red-black-and-white Indian headdress.
It was so cool you barely noticed his black Duncan Keith jersey and Blackhawks scarf.
He sat, mostly alone, on a bleacher bench watching the team for which he's rooted for 40 years.
"When I was about 7, my dad took me to a (Blackhawks) meet-and-greet," said Whitman, who's 48. "The two players I met were Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. That's something that's always stuck with me. I'm a lifelong, die-hard fan.
"I never quit being a fan," he added, noting he stayed loyal to his team even when they were bad. "This was always my team."
The Roadwatch parties, which are seemingly becoming more and more popular, particularly at suburban bars, continue to "shoot and score." Libertyville's complex provides young fans the opportunity to play floor hockey, and adults to socialize and connect a little more to their team without having to head to the United Center.
"It's bringing people, family and friends together," Kowal said. "They're all experiencing a memory, and that's really special. And to do it in our sports complex, where memories are built, what a great thing to have."
About 500 people who attended last Thursday's event surely will agree.