On the first day of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, before the puck drops, the Blackhawks flag is hung on the pole at the front door and "The Shrine" is constructed in our sacred home viewing area.
This ritual has become our tradition and we never mess with tradition.
Bobble heads, shirts, towels, hats, beads, sock monkey, scarves and blankets all have precise locations of placement. Certain lucky chairs are designated for specific people. Everyone knows not to call during game time. No other plans can be made. Recording a game to watch later is unthinkable.
Our superstitions are intense.
Simmer down. Don't panic. It's still early. We're only down one game.
I'm the biggest Blackhawks hockey fan on the planet. I know you think you are, and that's ok. You can be, too. There's enough room for all of us to love this team and they won't mind.
Everything really gets fired up during the playoffs. The skating is faster (if that's even possible),the checking more intense and the energy and fierce competitiveness melt the ice quicker than a Zamboni needing a tune up.
My favorite story involving the Blackhawks didn't even take place on the ice. In late November of 2008, after an always grueling road trip, then General Manager, Dale Tallon, lost his father. Two busloads of the Blackhawks front office, staff, trainers, coaches and players traveled over 100 miles to Gravenhurst, Ontario to pay their respects at his wake.
A private charter was waiting for them in Toronto for the flight back to Chicago. Instead they chose to do the right thing and take a detour on their day off. This took the Tallon family completely by surprise. They were overwhelmed, but gratefully touched. This was a gesture unheard of in modern day sports. Not looking for photo ops or creating a publicity stunt, this quiet story quickly spread like garlic mustard in the hockey world.
There are no big egos in hockey. Marcus Kruger is just as valuable on the ice as Andrew Ladd and they all know it.
Hockey players are a tough group. Wearing 452 pounds of equipment, maneuvering a 3 inch wide puck with a 5 foot long stick, all while trying to shoot that puck into the net, with finesse, at the highest speeds possible.
Your opponents, weighing 200 pounds + and also wearing 407 pounds of equipment are trying remarkably hard to steal that puck and also crush your body into the boards, all while wearing skates. On ice.
No, that wasn't a typo. Our equipment is much heavier than our opponents because we wear three Stanley Cup Championship rings. They can only hope.
Duncan Keith took a puck to the mouth and lost seven teeth during the playoffs series with the San Jose Sharks in the 2010 run for the Cup. After a brief visit to the locker room, he was back on the ice and had an assist on the game tying goal like it was just another typical day at work.
Had this happened to Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears quarterback, it would have been a season ending injury.
It's just not a hockey game until Andrew Shaw leaves some of his blood on the ice as it streaks down that road map, vintage hockey face. Our cat loves this scrappy player. So do I.
That's hockey, baby.
If you turn your head away from the game, even for a brief moment, you may miss the entire outcome. There is no downtime during a hockey game. We all remember what happened in Boston in 2013 in the span of 17 seconds.
I become so obnoxious during the playoffs. Swearing, screaming, pacing, singing "Chelsea Dagger," grabbing strangers by the arm and making people move their seats, to change the momentum, if a game isn't faring well. During a series with the Anaheim Ducks, I'll even ratchet up a few notches. It surprises me that I have any friends left by June.
Our most delightful neighbors, Teresa and John, have a statue of an angel in their garden. During the playoffs, they dress her up with a Blackhawks shirt and crown for good luck and hang two Blackhawks flags to keep her company. Teresa believes the Hawks won the Stanley Cup last year due to her bold outdoor display. Superstitions thrive in hockey.
Last June, in the midst of the finals, John's mother Peggy, age 87, came to visit from Nevada.
In the course of Peggy's visit, my dear friend Kathy was standing outside, about 50 yards from Teresa and John's home, noticed the statue and wondered aloud of that was John's mother standing in the garden. This is a true story. How could I make this up?
I don't know how you feel about your mother or mother-in-law, but I hope she doesn't resemble anything like this well dressed, 3 foot tall, clay angel.
Thankfully, Peggy has a great sense of humor and laughed heartily at the story. We now refer to this statue as "Peggy" and she's become somewhat of a legend on our street.
Nothing compares to a home game at the Madhouse on Madison, better known as the United Center. All other hockey arenas pale in comparison. Loyal, passionate fans, pulsating music and exhilarating graphics on the video screens, let you know red sweaters are on the ice. The organization just gets everything right, polished and done so professionally. We have Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough to thank for that.
Jim Cornelison blows the roof off the building performing the "Star Spangled Banner" and not a living soul sings it better. Listen here.
Did you notice Jim's Stanley Cup Championship ring on his left finger?
He has three. The organization thinks so highly of our National Anthem singer, they present him with a ring every time they have won the Cup. Pretty classy, don't you agree?
Our core players are still thankfully together, salary cap and all. Toews, Hossa, Kane, Seabrook, Keith and Hjalmarsson bring the intangible edge of championship experience.
Crawford is having his best season at goal (minus the late upper body injury). Panarin should be the recipient of the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie). Kane's trophy case just made room for the Art Ross Trophy (leading scorer in the league) and the first American to win this award.
Keep those playoff beards growing, guys. Stay healthy and avoid any injuries. Hold your sticks down and hit just as hard as the Blues.
Your biggest fan is cheering your every move and sending steady eyes, quick wrists, penalty kills, face-off wins and fast breakaways to help you achieve your One Goal.
If you can keep Coach Quenneville calm on the bench (we know that won't happen) and the goal buzzer lighting up all through the playoffs, I'll be hoarse but tearing up as you raise the Cup, once again, on a warm summer night in June.
Let's Go Hawks!