Though it took me, and the rest of the City, a minute or two to process what happened, it sure feels good to be a Chicagoan today. Last night, after Buffalo native and youngster Patrick Kaine slipped the puck past Flyers’ goaltender Michael Leighton, for a 4-3 overtime victory over Philadelphia, and handed the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup championship since 1961, Windy City residents were stuck in a lengthy moment of determined disbelief.
In the first place, the final flash, the end of an eight month, bruising journey that is the NHL season, was a bit anticlimactic. I had to watch the replay several times to finally grasp that a puck had gone into the opposing net. My friend Ann said it best, likening the winning instant to “some one pulling the plug on a video game and then saying ‘oh by the way, you won.’” It was a bit disorienting. Even as I watched Kaine, possibly the only man in the free world who knew immediately that the Hawks had done it, skate down the ice in the midst of a war whoop, I was afraid to trust the emotion.
And that is because, in addition to the end of the game being somewhat unusual, Chicago denizens just aren’t used to winning that often. The last time we had a sporting victory parade was in 2005, when the Chicago White Sox won the World Series. But let’s be honest, some of us (Cub fans – 102 years and counting) felt a little left out of that soiree. Prior to this, it was the late 1990s, the end of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls dynasty, when the City last united in drunken revelry with a side order of good natured taxi tipping.
My husband and I discussed the euphoria we experienced on election night 2008, the night Obama stood before hundreds of thousands in Grant Park to become the first African-American President-elect. I suppose many parallels could be drawn between politics and sports, but comparing a momentous moment in American history to a Stanley Cup victory seems to cheapen Obama’s accomplishment. I will never forget that unseasonably warm November evening as long as I live, but it’s still different.
Today is the rare day in this violent, corrupt and financially troubled City when we can all set our differences, factions and grudges aside and enjoy being fellow members of Blackhawks nation. For just a moment or two, the local media has turned its head away from the sideshow of the Rod Blagojevich trial to celebrate something positive and unifying. The parade that will stream down Michigan Avenue tomorrow, as our heroes hoist the Stanley Cup high for all to see, is not a protest, demonstration or some other form of social unrest. The only thing to fear Friday morning is litter, or the vomit piles of over-served revelers.
There just aren’t enough moments like this. I plan to milk it as along as I can. Blago isn’t going anywhere.