I began my drive up to Chicago after a 50 hour work week. Roughly a 300 mile drive from my home in Southern Indiana. Tired, cranky and sore, I begrudgingly shoved pairs of thick socks, thermals and sweaters into my duffle bag. My fiancee turned me around for another hug and looked at my luggage. “Do you think you packed enough layers for the game? It’ll be cold.”
Sorry, Danielle. I could’ve had a propane heater under my seat — it wasn’t going to matter.
The scene walking up to Solider Field was something to behold. Fans moving in droves through mounds of slush, dirty snow and drainage. I checked my pockets every 50 feet hoping to God I didn’t forget the tickets on my buddy’s coffee table. It was his first Blackhawks game and my first since God knows when. And we couldn’t have picked a better game to pop his proverbial ‘Hawks cherry.
Thanks to our sponsors, we were nestled in the 400-level seats right at center ice. BRP and Can-Am Spyder are official partners of the NHL and throughout the season are bringing special experiences to the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series outdoor games and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
I was pensive watching the ‘Hawks warm up. They looked flat in their final game before the Olympic break against Phoenix and looked equally uninspired for the first two periods against the Rangers last Thursday. There was something different about the ‘Hawks soon after the puck dropped. Maybe they were amped up by a truly mesmerizing display from Jim Cornelison and his rendition of the National Anthem, a moment that I’m filing away as one of the most unreal things I’ve ever witnessed at a sporting event. I’m not ashamed to say I was brought to tears.
Despite heavy snow throughout the first period, this was an immediate return to form for Chicago. The Blackhawks came out aggressive, with 14 shots in the opening frame, versus just five from Pittsburgh. When captain Jonathan Toews found Patrick Sharp for a slapshot to give the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead, the stadium erupted. The flood gates opened up in the second, with Toews burned Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and inched one past Marc Andre-Fleury. Kris Versteeg also scored his 100th career goal during the second.
Even with Toews’ masterful performance and signs that the Blackhawks are back on track to battle the Blues and Avalanche for a Central Division championship, the elements stick out to me as the dominant force of this game. Chicago wasn’t letting anything get in the way of righting the ship. It didn’t matter if banks of snow on the rink caused passes to sputter to a stop or for guys to misplay the puck, it was a game that seemed sealed from the moment the puck dropped.
For me, I’m grateful for the opportunity to witness such a surreal event. Since most NHL fans are inherently adventurous and thrill-seeking, it makes perfect sense for Can-Am Spyder to bring its newest exhilarating three-wheeled vehicle to NHL games throughout the year. At ChiCitySports, we’re looking forward to more opportunities like this in the future.
The Blackhawks return after a two-day layoff to face the surprising Colorado Avalanche at home.