The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I grew up in a south suburb of Chicago, which basically meant if I didn’t grow up rooting for all of the city’s sports teams, I’d be committing a cardinal sin.
My mom even got gifted tickets to White Sox and Cubs games from work, and I grew up watching the pros battle it out right at the third base line and from the confines of Wrigley Field, respectively. Then there was that one random Bulls game where my dad tried to explain the significance of the Michael Jordan era, but at the time all my sister and I cared about was the giant Benny the Bull inflatable dancing around the arena.
And even though I’d never attended a Bears game, I knew every fall meant yelling at the TV and swearing we’d never watch the team again, only to walk into any game versus the Packers with complete confidence, even if the team was absolute crap that year.
Part of being a Chicago sports fan is that you learn to embrace something very important: loyalty. Though our teams may have their pitfalls and we may scream at the television that we could play better than the pros, a Chicago sports fan will sink with the ship. And there is no other team quite like the Chicago Blackhawks that I will swear allegiance to no matter who is on the roster or what the scoresheet looks like at the end of the night.
I, like most kids my age at the time, was first introduced to hockey in 2010. This was the year for a young Blackhawks team to bring Lord Stanley back to Chicago, and even though I didn’t understand all of the rules at the start, watching all of the players skate back and forth on the ice chasing that little rubber puck had me hooked. There was something almost indescribable about watching games. They were fast-paced and unpredictable, and the commentators were engaging and broke down important plays with enough jokes thrown in that I didn’t feel overwhelmed.
One game turned to two and then three, and eventually, my sister and I were begging to stay up late to watch games, even during our Disney World vacation. Even though we had just turned nine, we both sensed that the team didn’t just win the Cup, the city itself was winning the cup. And it felt so cool to celebrate a big win at the end of my first season of watching hockey. And for a while, it was only up from there. The Hawks managed to win three Stanley Cup championships in six years, which is practically unheard of and what ultimately led several Chicagoans and other fans of the sport to use the term “dynasty” to describe the organization at the time.
Obviously, if one was to take a look at the team now, “dynasty” would probably be the farthest thing from the truth. The only two veteran players still standing are Johnathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and there are rumors that this may be their last season. Regardless, despite controversies and less-than-stellar season records, I still tune in to watch. It almost feels like I’m breaking some unwritten code if I don’t, like tucking my jersey in the back of my closet would be like eating a Chicago-style hot dog with ketchup on it. To put it simply, it’s just not done.
And even though my allegiance to my Hawks will always prosper, there are other memories I have with the sport that cause me to have such a deep attachment to it. I hated college when I was a freshman, so watching games in my dorm was something my sister and I both looked forward to. I had nowhere to go during my sophomore year because of all of the pandemic restrictions, so I started watching new teams, and even found myself exploring the world of college hockey.
Then, this past spring, I braved the trek to St. Louis to watch the New York Islanders take on the Blues. The game, unfortunately, ended in a loss, but the point was that I got to see some of my other favorite players and meet people from a completely different city who loved the game as much as I did, even though I will always root against any St. Louis team (that also means you, Cardinals!) The Hawks even gave my sister free tickets to a game in the 100-level, and getting to see Kane and Hagel score hat-tricks (when a player scores three goals in one game) was just electrifying.
The camaraderie it brings to a group of people is truly indescribable. Whether it be in the NHL or Illinois State’s men’s and women’s teams, I never get tired of the feeling that washes over me every time I step foot into a rink. Suddenly the outside world fades away and I’m instead focused on the blur of bodies on the ice. So, even though some may say I just watch highlights in my spare time since I think the players are attractive and I’m just a puck bunny (though I would marry Mat Barzal tomorrow if he asked me), I keep tuning in every season. Not because I’m just out to find a boyfriend, but because of how much fun I have with every game, win or loss.
So, since I’m a Chicago girl at heart, I guess you could say I was destined to be a hockey fan. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.