The Blackhawks’ bandwagon is like every plane I ever boarded.
Only middle seats available. NFL nose guards flanking me on the window and aisle. A snot-nosed 8-year-old kicking my seatback. Baggage bins full.
Did I mention overbooked flights?
Go ahead, sue me for waiting until the last minute to take the Hawks seriously, but it takes awhile to impress me after all these years.
Ah, but I’m smitten now. One ticket to paradise, please. Yes, OK, standby if necessary. I’ll wait over here in the boarding area for my name to be called.
You have heard of Christmas in July. The Hawks are providing local sports fans with the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first week of March.
The Hawks’ record run has injected every game with that postseason feel: The volume is up, the speed warped and the tension thick.
It’s freakish, of course. The worst team is never as bad as a long losing streak and the best team is never as good as 19-0-3.
But thank goodness for the Hawks trying to convince us they are the NHL’s all-time best team, for helping the league squirm away from the memory of the lockout and for creating so much interest at this time of year.
It’s a bonus around here if only because otherwise we might have to resort to following that cockamamie World Baseball Classic.
Instead, newspaper space and radio talk shows are full of hockey. Only a fan hibernating for winter wouldn’t notice what the Hawks have accomplished:
There’s that 19-0-3 record (longest point streak ever to start an NHL season); 28 games with at least a point dating back to last season (tied for the league’s second-longest streak ever); 41 of a possible 44 points this year; currently 9 straight victories and counting ...
No wonder the Hawks boast 200 straight United Center sellouts and record television ratings.
What all the numbers add up to is every Hawks game being an event whether it’s here or in Joe Louis Arena or Columbus or California or Canada.
Normally games this time of year merely signal one more off the schedule on the way toward the playoffs and one more day off the calendar on the way to spring.
In most years the Hawks play maybe 10 regular-season games of interest — against Detroit, against Vancouver, against whoever is the best of the east, against Sidney Crosby if he comes to town.
Now every game matters. Not having lost in regulation is the hook, of course, because even if the Hawks were a gaudy 18-1-3, the casual fan could go back to checking spring-training box scores instead of hockey summaries.
The sport still is just hockey, you know, and even Hawks’ executives would admit that hockey still isn’t football or baseball or quite basketball even in relatively hockey happy Chicago.
Not to worry for now, though. The Hawks’ run remains intact going into United Center outings tonight against Minnesota and Wednesday against Colorado.
Talk about must-see stuff. Talk about a cure for the wintertime blues. Talk about a nice diversion while waiting for the baseball season, the NCAA Tournament and Derrick Rose.
So much more than 2 points is at stake every time the puck drops. History and the record book are, too. The Hawks are competing against the Philadelphia Flyers’ all-time-best 35-game point streak.
So far they’re keeping pace very nicely.
March madness isn’t customary in the NHL, not even at the Madhouse on Madison, so relish the ride.
This bandwagon is fueled by fun, drama and heat on these cold, snowy, winter days.
By the way, my name wasn’t ever called but that doesn’t matter.
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