Have you ever had that girl (or guy, since I can’t assume to know your gender or sexual preference) that you’ve pined for for many years, and then one magical night you run into them and you end up going home with each other?
It’s a pretty amazing feeling. Finally, all of the angst and waiting and frustration pays off as you realize you’ve finally broken through. Now that you’ve done it once, the sky is certainly the limit from here.
And then the morning comes. (I promise this will be the only time that I write a sentence that is also the title of a Smash Mouth song. Actually, you better not hold me to that). Instead of a replication of the awesomeness that occurred the previous evening, you get an awkward, “Uh, you should probably leave now, I’ve got a lot of stuff to do day.”
Oh. So that’s it.
And so when the Chicago Blackhawks traded Dustin Byfuglien on Wednesday, I was jarringly reminded of the instance in college when I hooked up with Laur — er, made up that purely hypothetical situation for readers to relate to.
Just two weeks ago, I witnessed something that I honestly never expected to see outside of the time I did it in NHL ’94 — the Chicago Blackhawks hoisting the Stanley Cup. At first, the moment was impossible to comprehend. For one, I was stuck at work, and it didn’t help matters any that Patrick Kane was the only person on earth that realized he had scored the game-winning goal. And since I currently live in Louisiana, it goes without saying that I was the only person in a celebratory mood when I went out after the game. It was a surreal feeling that I couldn’t quite get a grasp of.
Watching the victory parade and rally online certainly helped with the realization that this actually happened, though my inability to be among the 2 million who witnessed the event in person made me view it through a slightly bittersweet lens.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t until the U.S. Open that the gravity of the situation finally hit me. I saw KJ Choi’s caddy wearing a Blackhawks hat, and thought “Whoa! That’s awesome” and then being struck by the second thought of “Holy shit, the Blackhawks actually won the Stanley Cup.”
See, I wasn’t among the thousands of bandwagon jumpers that got behind the Hawks because it became the cool thing to do. I still remember being shocked the day they traded Denis Savard for Chris Chelios, though that would soon be erased when I learned how good Chelios was. I remember the Hawks being the top seed in the conference in ’91 and ’93 only to get swept away by the North Stars and Blues in stunning first-round disappointments. My first game, sitting right on the glass at Chicago Stadium to see a 3-0 win over the Whalers. The running off of stars like Roenick and Belfour and Chelios. The attempt to make up for it by overpaying for chumps like Alexei Zhamnov. Going to a half-empty United Center because you could get $8 tickets with your student ID.
I always knew it would take Old Man Wirtz kicking the bucket for the Hawks to be competitive again, but the swiftness with which they have reached this level of success has been stunning. Teams I root for aren’t supposed to experience this kind of glory.
With all of that shock involved, it understandably took me a bit longer to come to grips with the reality at hand. And once I had finally gotten used to saying “Chicago Blackhawks, 2010 Stanley Cup Champs,” the cruel reality that there will be a next season struck me in the face with the trade that sends Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to Atlanta.
Yes, it is a necessary move due to the fact the Hawks had their backs against the salary cap and need to find a way to free up money to resign goalie Antti Niemi. Personally I would have preferred to find a way to dump Kris Versteeg over Big Buff, who didn’t score much in the regular season but always seemed to score in the absolute most crucial playoff moments — not to mention the fact that he owns Roberto Luongo’s soul.
Reality dictates that Buff will never have higher trade value, and GM Stan Bowman made the right move. The linchpin on the Hawks end of it is Thrashers prospect Jeremy Morin, who could develop into a star in his own right a few years down the line. Let’s not forget my initial reaction to the Savard-Chelios deal was one of pain, and that ended up working out pretty well.
I was just hoping to be able to hit the snooze button and live the dream a little bit longer.