It’s the start of the second period and everyone is relaxed, in shorts, t-shirts, incongruously summery before the weighted down titans skating around on the shimmering screen. You can see their layers: the thick scratchy uniforms, padding like stuffing. At Bob Inn, the door is open unto Fullerton and Rockwell, where a light trail of traffic provokes only the softest momentary hum, like a radio wave that rises and falls.
“Wow, I feel like I’m playing hockey myself,” Grace says after mimicking a particularly expert Blackhawk pass on the TV. The puck is a pinpoint on the screen, its trajectory traced more by where the sticks point than any actual sighting.
“Don’t you think they look like swans floating on the lake?” Grace asks.
“The lake of the United Center?” asks her friend.
“It is kinda choreographed like a ballet.”
A few guys – of course they’re guys – have donned Blackhawk T-s with ¾ sleeves for the occasion. They look like long sleeping shirts, the loose shorts like extra large boxers. The guys actually look drowsy, no matter what’s on the TV. One guy is wearing a big sea blue Cubs shirt, the logo a target across his chest.
“Hmm, I’ve never met a Cubs fan who cares about anything but the Cubs, have you?”
“C’mon, the Blackhawks are the only hockey team in town. Where else are they gonna go?” says her friend.
There’s a score, the small, friendly crowd at the bar claps and cheers, all very politely. There are free hot dogs in a corner somewhere. The pool tables are empty, drowning in light to the side of the bar.
“Is there any kind of literature on Friday the 13th and hockey, you know, because of the hockey mask?” Grace asks.
“That guy’s just a murderer,” says her friend, who might be amused or annoyed; it’s hard to tell. “It doesn’t have anything to do with hockey. He’s just wearing a hockey mask.”
Almost immediately, there’s another score. While some fans get up, applaud and nod heartily, others blink; maybe they think it’s a replay.
“What muscles are important in hockey?” Grace asks.
“All of them.”
“You’re saying that hockey is cardio, is that what you’re saying?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
There’s a scuffle on the ice. Men are piling on men. An ump gets upended, tops the heap. Everyone at the bar leans forward, then straightens as the players get to their feet. There’s murmuring, some laughter.
“I just had this great idea,” Grace says. “Hockey is like a tragedy and the people at the bar are the Greek chorus.”
Then the folks at the bar scatter. Some couple up or cluster. Others line up for the hot dogs, get some fresh air, smoke.
Second period’s over.