Fan Waits a Lifetime to See Cup in Chicago | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Fan Waits a Lifetime to See Cup in Chicago

Before Wednesday night's big win, one of the last Blackhawks to win the Cup was Bobby Hull, in 1961. At the time, he says, he never imagined a 49-year drought. Hull is not the only one with longtime visions of Stanley Cup glory for the Blackhawks. WBEZ's Steve Waranauskas shares the reflections of a lifelong fan.

That kid could've been me circa 1972. When I was 8 years old, I wanted 2 things for Christmas…a hockey stick and a transistor radio. I got both. On countless school nights, my older brothers and I would huddle beneath our covers, plug in those little earpieces into our radios and listen to Blackhawks games. Like the kid in the commercial, we were busted every time they scored.

As we got older, my brothers and I spent our after school winter afternoons in the alley playing street hockey with our 3 best friends. Games were always spirited and exhausting as we would run around in heavy boots, parkas, and stocking caps. Every one of us would try to be one of our Blackhawks heroes…Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull. As we got older and started driving, we would head down to Chicago Stadium and see the real guys in person. I still remember my first Blackhawks game in 1977. I still have the ticket stub. I tried to match the pictures that my mind had been drawing for all those years while plugged into that old transistor radio.

As the years went by and our lives lead us in different directions, my group of friends all remained loyal to the Hawks. It was always a special night when at least some of us could attend a game at the United Center together. As the Hawks fortunes turned to mediocrity and worse, the passion never faded, the faith never left. The bond between us forged by our love of the team never vanished.

When the Hawks resurgence began a few years ago and new fans come on board, I said, the more the merrier. It doesn't matter when you joined, just that you have. Those of us who've been around for decades, those of us who wear our Hawks jerseys with C-C-M or Gunzo's stitched on the hem, with names like Larmer, Graham, Secord, or Bannermann sewn on the back, recognize each other. We know who's put in the years well before the newest fans sporting the 88 and 81 jerseys. We were there when the Norris Division playoffs were annual pitched battles against St. Louis, Detroit, and Minnesota. We were there when the mighty Barton organ was louder in Chicago Stadium than the assembled masses of screaming fans. We were there when Gretzky and the Oilers ended our Stanley Cup dreams on more than one occasion.

The just concluded Stanley Cup Final series brought me together with my brothers and my old friends once again, if not actually in person, at least in spirit. Last Sunday night, I watched the game with friends and the next generation….my friend's son who was about our age when the Blackhawks fever first consumed us 35 years ago. Time and space had separated us a bit. But when I reached my brother in Montana, he was listening to the post game celebration on the radio just like the old days. OK it was a web stream on his laptop computer instead of a crackly old transistor radio but you get the idea.

If I could go back and say something to the young fan I was back in the early seventies, huddled under a blanket with an ear piece, I'd tell him, “enjoy the ride kid. You're gonna love how it comes out in the end.”

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