Stranger in a strange land

Stranger in a strange land

Friday, June 4, 2010
2:38 AM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

When did everything change? That would be Monday, May 24th. While I was enjoying my Flyers win in the Eastern Conference Finals, the reality soon set in on where they were headed, on a collision course with the local heroes. This Blackhawk team has captured the imagination of all of Chicago and the nations hockey fans. I get it. Theyve captured me also, to a point, I just never thought that point would ever have to be dealt with. Well its here and the weirdness for the guy in the red bow tie is everywhere.

MONDAY 524: The Flyers beat the Canadiens 4-2 to win the Easter Conference Finals in five games. It was the Flyers 3rd playoff series win this year, in the 3rd series that they were not supposed to win. There is something about this team. They dont quit. As Ive told people at the bar many times, if you changed the sweaters of the teams, you would still like your team just as much. As soon as the game ended, I received plenty of texts offering congrats, and the obligatory trash talk. Game on! I also started getting ticket requests. Honestly? Good luck with that.

TUESDAY 525: While minding my business at the bar, I was informed that some of the Hawks were in the dining room, including Patrick Kane. Not one to be shy, I went back to say hello to the boys. Upon reaching the table, which also included Adam Burish and Brian Campbell, Kane kind of gave me a smile and asked who I was rooting for. I let them know that if was anyone else, I would be behind them all the way, like I have been for the last 2 years, but I cant quit on my team. Then I wished them luck and all of the tequila they could drink at the bar! YOUNGBLOOD! The collective response was @&&!!

I love hockey players.

WEDNESDAY 526: After much consternation, I turned down an offer from a very good friend to go to Game 2. It was a very hard thing for me to do, but a decision I felt good about. My buddy is a season ticket holder, who sits with a bunch of other season ticket holders. They have been waiting for this most of their lives. To be invited in to their party, hoping that every one of their hockey dreams was dashed, would be bad form. Now if a fellow Flyers fan had made the offer, then it would have been time to represent!

THURSDAY 527: The anticipation is starting to take over. I just want to get on with this. Its very strange for me to listen to my radio shows, read my papers and watch TV and have everyone bashing my Flyers and talking about how the Finals are going to be a cake-walk for the Hawks. For some reason, this is starting to chafe me. I guess blood is thicker than water, or should I say cheesesteaks are thicker than Italian beefs!

FRIDAY 528: One thing I notice during my day shift is a shortage of Philly fans coming into the bar for the big weekend. I do have my Philly regulars, and that helps, as we dare to dream the dream, but there is safety in numbers and all Im seeing is Cardinal fans who are remarking about all of them tall buildins.
On my weekly Chicago Tribune Live bit, I pick the Flyers in six,(What? Im supposed to back down?) and that goes over well. NOT!!
During the way home, as Im talking to my mother, I have to explain to her that I dont want any Eastern Conference Champions gear. Besides making myself more of a target, thats not the gear I want and if the Flyers lose, do I really want to wear any of that stuff AROUND HERE?! I get enough grief for wearing a red bow tie!

SATURDAY 529: GAME 1! The series finally starts, but its be careful what you wish for. The energy in the bar was incredible. Unfortunately for me, I was the only person in a room of 250 people rooting for the bad guys. Working big Chicago games during the last 15 years is something that makes me love my job as much as I do. This game though, was easily the most difficult. We were playing that Chelsea Dagger song at ear-splitting levels to celebrate each Hawk goal, and that seemed to happen about every 5 minutes. I especially enjoyed seeing folks in their new Hawks gear that they bought that day. Nothing like a true fan! Am I bitter? I dont know about that, but losing sucks, and having to get your nose rubbed in it makes it worse. If were going to lose, I hope its quick, and preferably not as excruciating as this game, which the Flyers had every chance to win. I did have two guys come in at the very end of the night wearing Flyers hats though, and at least I left knowing that I wasnt alone. Do I have any beer at my house?

SUNDAY 530: Tough to get out of bed. At my age busy nights take their toll, time to get back at it though. One good thing, I dont have to work on a game night again until Game 5, better to suffer at home. I cant believe the Hawks make the Finals and it has to be against the Flyers. When I start my shift, I see my Flyer guys from the night before. Whats your story? I ask. It turns out one of them is Flyer Jeff Carters father. How cool is that? He tells me that the boys arent down and their confidence remains high. Thank you! I needed that. How about a coldie? Then for me, I had a few other fly bys that were kind of cool. Two writers from my hometown paper (The Delaware County Daily Times) came in the bar looking to talk to me. They made a small video thats in the papers website. Check it out! I pick the Flyers in six, AGAIN! Then some radio guys came in. Well not any radio guys, but the popular hosts of the 610WIP afternoon show, Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow. Ive been listening to and reading these guys for years. In fact Gargano came in looking for me. He is a long-time friend of Jay Marriotti and Jay has been telling both of us for years that we need to meet each other. I guess he thinks all crazy Philly sports guys should meet! Good guys!

Also in was the Kane family. Patrick often comes in with his folks and three sisters. I always enjoy visiting with them. When I went back to the table they were finishing up dessert and Mrs. Kane teased me that I was avoiding them. I would never do that! Of course I shared the inner conflict that wasis marring my life. We all agreed that Game 2 was definitely not going to be as loose as Game 1. The whole time Im wondering if my heart can take more of this.

Mr. Carter left for a couple hours, then came back to enjoy a few cold ones before we closed. I love hockey dads!

MONDAY 531: GAME 2. Spent a nice quiet day with the family, took the kids to see the new Shrek movie. Watching them react to the 3D was hilarious. Game time was spent nervously in front of the TV. I still cant understand why everybodys not a hockey fan. The action in the series has you on the edge of your seat. Well into the second period, you started to get the feeling that whoever scored first was going to have a huge advantage and probably win. I especially thought so as soon as Hossa scored. Then to follow it up 28 seconds later with Ben Eager? Really? The Flyers dominate the third period, but to no avail as Neimi stands on his head. One thing about a Philly team: They are NEVER going to take the easy route! Down 2-0? Been here before. I need more beer! And I know where to find it. It would seem that Im not alone here in my plight, vastly outnumbered, but not alone. After the game as I was taking out the trash, I was skimming through my Monday Tribune and I stumbled on an article that brought a huge smile to my face. Mad River Bar & Grille in the Lakeview neighborhood is a Philly bar. A Flyers bar! If I ever get clearance from the tower, Im there! Theyre going to love This Guy! But definitely after a win, otherwise, it would be too depressing, just like home.

TUESDAY 61: Im still trying to decide, as I open my mail, if the fact that my aunt sent me all sorts of Eastern Conference Champions paraphernalia is a good thing or a good sign. At least I know she cares. All of my co-workers cant wait to say hello and check out my mental state as I come in to start my shift. I still have faith, I tell them. They just smirk and nod their heads at me. For some reason, I dont think, they care! For the love of god, if the Flyers are going to lose, please have it end soon! Its hard to explain, well not if youre a Cubs fan, how you can go from such a positive, euphoric state to utter despair in a matter of days. Never the less, maybe some good can come from it. I played the Philly sympathy angle all night with my customers. It was cathartic and profitable at the same time. Hey! Whatever it takes, Ive got mouths to feed!

WEDNESDAY 62: GAME 3. Because of a commitment I made to my daughter 6 months ago, I had to go the Sox game instead of working my usual Wednesday night shift. I was kind of glad not to have to face all of the Hawks fans at the bar, but then again I did have to watch the Sox. Took her and her friend early so we could catch some BP and walk around the stadium. The left field stands were pretty empty when we got there, just a few others, like us, trying to get a BP home run ball. We didnt have much luck with that, but as he was shagging flies, the Texas Rangers Neftali Feliz gave in to my daughters pleas and threw her a ball. Whatever it takes! Maybe this will be good night after all. I secretly show her that under the Sox jersey Im wearing is a Flyers shirt! Her eyes grew wide. Can I tell anyone? She wanted to know. Nope. Thats our secret. Dont need daddy getting pounded in the stands. After eating a beef sandwich(good) and a grilled polish with onions(very good!) it was time to settle in and watch Gavin Floyd, once again, implode, by the tune of 6 runs in less than three innings. Wheres my phone? My phone was a little behind the live feed, which a large crowd was watching on the concourse at the top of my aisle. The loud cheers out of nowhere told me what the phone was about to. With a tie score to start the third period, I was jonesing to go to the top of the aisle, but the girls were having a great time watching the game, oblivious to the score. Oh, to be young again! Then I heard the cheer, Hawks were up 3-2 in the third. This was not good. Then in what seemed like two seconds while everyone around me was cheering, a girl says, Wait! The Flyers just scored! I love that team! As the constant drizzle started on the 56 degree night, that was my cue to head to shelter, and a flat screen! The girls sat next to some of their other friends who were at the game and had fun in the rain. That while daddy did not belie the fact of his rooting interest with the large group at the top of section 116. Then, the game was over, just as regulation was ending in the hockey game. Time for some pictures along the field and the long walk back to the car. I would let the reaction of the people around me tell me my fate. As we neared the car my phone blew up. Hopefully this could only mean one thing, and it did. This would be a fun ride home. Would you ladies want to get anything on the way home? Daddys buying! I found it much easier watching the game after I got home, already knowing the outcome. What a relief.
THURSDAY 63: A perfect day outside. The mood in the house was fun, as the kids anticipated their last day of the school year on Friday. For their father it might have been the last day of fun that I would have during the hockey season. It was a day full of hope as for what might be. Either way, I know the next week is going to be strange, I just hope its strange in a good way. Never a dull moment!

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.