guest contribution from Shelby Bryniarski - editor of Welcome to Hawkey Town
A couple weeks ago, January 14th to be exact, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw a tweet from the Chicago Blackhawks announcing an “Olympic Sendoff” video. It briefly explained to submit a short message to one of the 10 Olympians and your message could randomly make the video.
I picked Patrick Sharp and submitted the following, “Hi Patrick, I just wanted to congratulate you on making team Canada. I've been pulling for you all season long. The city of Chicago is so proud of you for bringing back the Stanley Cup in the last couple months. Even though we already know, go out and show the world what a great player you really are.”
All I had to do was submit my name, twitter handle, age and email. I figured my quote would be in the video with my twitter handle. I thought a lot of people would pick their favorite player for the video, but I had a good reason behind my picking.
Ever since Patrick Sharp was selected for the Olympic camp, I was pulling for him. A lot of analysts assumed he wouldn't make the roster, but I really hoped to see him wearing the Maple Leaf. Once he was announced, I was ecstatic, and I knew he was who I wanted to submit my message for.
Later that evening, I was watching the Blackhawks game and checked my email during a commercial break. I had a new email from the Blackhawks Media Department. They explained that they felt that my message was genuine and asked if I could be at the United Center the next day to film my message for the video. Of course I said yes, already getting butterflies in my stomach.
Making the hour long drive to Chicago, I was churning my mind over what was going to happen. I had little expectations, I just figured that I would go in, film, and leave. I also expected there to be at least 20-30 fans there, thinking I would be fortunate to make the video.
I was surprised to find 5 other lucky people and we all shared the same enthusiasm for the Blackhawks. We were brought in to the bowl, being able to watch the Junior Blackhawks tryouts. We were each brought a complimentary copy of the Blackhawks Magazine and were able to talk with some of the staff assisting with the video, who were all extremely nice and welcoming.
From then on, we were each taken one by one to the bowels of the arena and each person wouldn't return. I ended up going last, so the nerves were able to sit and build. I've never been good at speaking in front of a camera, I tend to talk fast and stumble over my words. I was thinking this was a bad choice, strictly from a nerve standpoint.
Finally, I was brought down to the family room of the United Center, it's located next to the Blackhawks locker room, and serves the purpose of housing the wives, kids and families of the players.
The night after the Blackhawks game, I practiced in front of my web cam, trying to get the feel for being in front of the camera, but nothing could prepare me for the nerves I felt after being mic'd up and standing in front of two different cameras. I ran through my message a total of 4 times, messing up twice and nailing the other two.
Just when I finished, they informed me that Patrick Sharp had recorded a message for us, since the team was off for the day, and I turned to the television to my left. I was finally relaxing as I watched Patrick talk. I thought it was pretty cool that he at least acknowledged our messages.
Right after he finished, I smiled and said “That's cool.” until he started talking again. He said my name, and you can see exactly on my face when my stomach dropped. My face blanked and I began to breathe heavily. I didn't register that he might be around, I just figured that they read him my message that I submitted online.
I was again, nervous, but tried to relax until he commented about my Andrew Shaw jersey. I sort of blacked out, the video refreshed me of what he all said about the Shaw jersey and me muttering “Oh Boy..” (I don't even remember saying that). I then realized, he was watching me, somewhere and I was shaking like a leaf.
When the door opened to my left and he walked in, it felt like a dream. Cliche, but I really didn't expect something like that to happen. He walked up and introduced himself, to which I answered back that “I was Shelby?” I don't know why I said it like a question.
Luckily, for myself, they cut out the part where I said, “Oh my god, I already know who you are!” right after I introduced myself. Smooth. My total interaction with Patrick was probably about 5 minutes or so.
Right after he first hugged me, he kept one of his arms around me and said, “I really just want to thank you for your message. That meant the most to me out of all the ones I got today.” and gave me another hug. In the video, the entirety of my message wasn't shown, but he was able to watch the entire thing live.
He then started to dig at me about my Shaw jersey, which in my defense, I totally wore because my pink hair shows up the best on it. He kept joking that I needed his jersey, which I promised I would soon buy once I had the funds. We then shot a mini promo for the Illinois Lottery and I got 4 scratch offs, which I only won a dollar on. Lame. But I have these hung up on my Blackhawks wall as a memory.
Once we finished the promo, I looked to him and said, “I just wanted to let you know, I didn't say what I said to try to get on this video, I actually meant it.” To that, he hugged me even tighter and smiled really wide, telling me that again, “It meant a lot to me, and I'm glad we have fans like you cheering for us.”
I then joked with him that I'd be cheering for the U.S in the Olympics and he shrugged, saying he was happy I didn't leave a message for Patrick Kane. After that, we took a picture and he hugged me a few more times, thanking me once more and we said our goodbyes.
I do want to say that, I am really thankful for this opportunity. I often joke of my bad luck. I never win a contest, I lose 80% of coin flips and I probably couldn't hit water if I jumped out of a boat, but for all of the times I've lost a Blackhawks related giveaway or contest, It was worth it to be selected for this.
Not to start the sob story, but I have gone through a lot of very tough problems within my immediate family in the last couple of months. The Blackhawks mean a lot to me, I have them tattooed on my skin, I use them to push away my problems for a couple of hours. So to have something as wonderful as this happen to me, it made me feel like I went through these difficult problems for a reason.
I cried when I got to my car and felt like I was in the Twilight Zone the entire drive back to Indiana. Did this really just happen? I really cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for the Chicago Blackhawks and Patrick Sharp for doing things like this. It shows how much they care about their fans and for that, I will forever cherish this day for as long as I live.
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