My heart has returned to its normal rhythm. Blackhawks, thank you for saving me from another night of terror and palpitations. Also, thank you for giving this city a taste of excellence and discipline. Thank you for painting the town red, decorating our monuments, expanding our dreams. Thank you for your bruises and your lost teeth. We will never forget this long, exciting season. It is more special to me because my son Pat was in the middle of it, laboring, learning from an excellent management team. Expectations are high in the Hawks’ office: you wear a suit, arrive on time, respect the office space and never watch the time tick off. You work until your work is finished- and finished to the expectation level of a demanding administration. There are no excuses. No slacking. If you are not engrossed in a task, you are not working hard enough. It is a remarkable “graduate school” for Patrick, and antithetical to the writers’ rooms he inhabited in Hollywood. He loves his job every day. Last night, it loved him back. He will be forever changed by touching this magic.
The Blackhawks organization is a team- all the parts jigsaw together. “We” is the operative word. The team is like that, too. In this day of athletes who are self absorbed, it is refreshing to see young men realize that they must function as a unit. Weak links will doom them to mediocrity. Every person on that team makes a distinct contribution on the ice or off. Some may be a calming influence, others mad dogs. Some are laser focused and internalized- others are willing to fool around and cement the individuals. In post game interviews, I never heard “I” , just “we”- that is so rare.
They are all products of families that sacrificed countless hours and dollars to help them develop. Hockey is an expensive sport. For this reason, it is not a team sport in most high schools, it is a club sport. Parents need to buy new skates and equipment every year, and they have to rent ice. Most of the ice time is early morning or overnight. Only the most devoted Dad or Mom wants to be up at sunrise shivering on bleachers so her kid can be part of such a rough and tumble game. I know I wasn’t willing to do it- and it might be the only time I said ‘no” to a kid who wanted to take on an extracurricular activity. Matt has almost forgiven me, and now he rents ice with his brother and some friends and plays adult beginner hockey.
When I was a kid, my dad would drag a hose from our basement to freeze our yard. He used various methods- sometimes snowbanks, sometimes boards and plastic- but I can still see him out there, creating a winter pastime for us. He would mourn any thaw, as his handiwork evaporated. Getting us all outside was an ordeal- there were six sets of skates to lace. We learned to skate by pushing ourselves around with a wicker chair to balance us. It was so exciting to finally be able to glide, skate backwards,and twirl a little. Of course, we would get cold in 45 minutes, and the kitchen would become a warming shed. The best part was the cocoa Mom would make to warm us. I always think of these winter days with such gratitude, but think how deep the dedication of a hockey mom and dad goes. Dustin Byfuglien’s mom comes to mind: she left her job and moved onto her parents’ farm in Roseau, where she lived in a trailer. Why? Ice time was free there, and she wanted her son to have all the opportunities he could have. That is why hockey players are such unique athletes- there are no pick-up games on the corner field or lot. They are products of sacrifice. Parents – and in Dustin Byfuglien’s case, grandparents- are alongside these kids, molding, encouraging, enabling, and mentoring. Then they turn them over, at a young age, to Junior teams, where they are coached with an intensity that most parents would resist.
The city has embraced its hockey team, and would still love it relentlessly if the final Kane goal hadn’t landed. We can all see how hard they worked, how deeply they believed, and how they never gave up. They had One Goal, and they achieved it. I am thrilled and proud of their devotion to this journey. Most of all, I am glad that this magic touched my family through Pat. It has been a mother’s joy to watch him absorb the discipline of his office and ice teams. Thank you to John, Jay, Dave- you are Pat’s professors. This year has ended in a remarkable Commencement, and I don’t even have to listen to a bad baccalaureate speaker. Just the thousandth rendition of Chelsea Dagger- and I can sing along.