Hawks win surreal home opener, 4-1, against Red Wings

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Hawks prevailed 4-1 in their home opener against the Red Wings on Friday night, getting stellar goaltending from Kevin Lankinen and goals from Patrick Kane, Calvin de Haan and Andrew Shaw. It was their first victory of the young season after dropping four games (one in overtime) at Tampa Bay and Florida.

    The Hawks prevailed 4-1 in their home opener against the Red Wings on Friday night, getting stellar goaltending from Kevin Lankinen and goals from Patrick Kane, Calvin de Haan and Andrew Shaw. It was their first victory of the young season after dropping four games (one in overtime) at Tampa Bay and Florida.

 
 
Updated 1/23/2021 9:38 AM

If there ever was a time where it felt like you were in an alternate universe, it was Friday night at the United Center as the Blackhawks opened the home portion of their season against Detroit.

It began with Patrick Kane leaving the ice after warmups. With no young fan to flip a puck to, the superstar forward simply flung it over his shoulder and retreated to the locker room.

 

Next came introductions of the players and coaches. To an eerily empty arena.

Public address announcer Gene Honda then paid tribute to essential health care workers "for their incredible efforts in our community" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Every Hawks player saluted them by raising his stick skyward.

Finally, the national anthem -- normally a huge highlight of any Hawks game. Jim Cornelison belted it as loud and proud as ever (on tape, sadly) and was accompanied by a montage of fans on the UC scoreboard.

That truly was the strangest sight of the night.

Then, for the first time in 317 days, we got to see a hockey game at the United Center.

The Hawks prevailed 4-1, getting solid goaltending from Kevin Lankinen (30 saves) and scores from Patrick Kane, Calvin de Haan, Andrew Shaw and Mattias Janmark.

It was the Hawks' first victory of the season after they dropped four in a row (one in overtime) at Tampa Bay and Florida.

"Of course the performance can be better, but we did some good things," said coach Jeremy Colliton. "It's a lot easier to build on that if you get a victory, so happy for the guys. They're gonna feel a lot better going to bed tonight."

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Kane's goal, his third, came on the power play at 13:22 of the first period.

De Haan followed with a rocket at 7:53 of the second. The defenseman was set up by Dylan Strome, who neatly threaded a pass through traffic from behind the net and onto de Haan's stick.

Shaw put it away with yet another power-play goal at 6:17 into the third.

In the days leading up to this unique home opener, Kane, Duncan Keith and others reflected on how it would feel to play in an empty arena. When it was over, there was little doubt that Kane felt the void.

"You definitely miss the fans. That's for sure," he said. "We didn't have the best start tonight. I don't think we played the greatest and we were maybe missing a little bit of energy ...

"It's different. Hopefully we can get fans back soon. Obviously health is most important. But we definitely miss 'em."

Some game-day staples -- like the goal horn blaring after a score and the earsplitting pregame music -- remained the same. Lankinen and Kane, who were named the First and Second Stars, even took a postgame spin on the ice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Still, there were plenty of other odd sights. Tops among them:

• Fake crowd noise? Dumb.

• Tommy Hawk hilariously providing his best Bernie Sanders meme, mittens and all? Funny, but only to us in the seats and fans on social media.

• Announcers Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk finding the humor in calling the game from their very own penalty-box style partitions? OK, that was some good stuff.

• Media relocated to the snazzy Lexus 200 club level instead of the nosebleed section? Hey, that works too.

So it wasn't all bad. But it'll be so much better when the place is overflowing again.

Overflowing with die-hard fans ready to cheer. Or boo. Whatever they deem right.

That's the universe we all can't wait to get back to.

Here's hoping it happens soon.

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