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Friday, October 22

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Blackhawks Sat May 16 2009

A Hockey Conversion

For a long time I have claimed that I am the problem with the NHL. Growing up in Chicago, I was hockey obsessed. For nine months a year, I was on the ice five to six days a week, living and breathing the sport. Yet, I have spent most of my life not caring at all about the NHL. It is the sport that I have the most experience playing and the one I can best understand the strategies involved, but I let the professional game completely fall out of my life sometime during the 90's. Amid all the expansion teams and unrecognizable faces they brought, the clutch and grab defense that slowed down the game and inability for the Blackhawks to produce a competitive team, my interest in professional hockey simply waned away. When the Stanley Cup was canceled in 2005, it didn't even faze me. I figured if the NHL going down the tubes could not affect me, a guy raised by the sport, what chance did professional hockey ever have of coming back into prominence?

But suddenly hockey is back in Chicago and the reemergence of the sport sparked my interest. Maybe, I thought, the NHL is not dead after all. I followed passively during the regular season; just enough to keep tabs on the sport but not enough to care if I didn't like the outcome. But I had forgotten about one thing about professional hockey: the playoffs are one of the most exciting times in all of sports. The intensity, the rivalries, the incredible combination of brutal force and extreme finesse; they all peak together to produce a month of fabulous games. It was like a slap to the head, "Oh yeah, THIS is why I loved the sport!" Certainly having a home town team to follow made watching the playoffs easier at first, but once I was back I wondered why I had ever left. And I would like to use this opportunity to thank the city of Chicago, for being ahead of the curve on hockey and proving to me that this sport is not dead. No matter how this next series turns out for the Blackhawks, I am excited to see a classic, original six rivalry take place on such a high level. Of course, I am hoping that I will be able to see the Hawks make it to the finals but in some ways, I am just grateful the game has returned into my life and I have only the good sports fans of Chicago to thank.

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