Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The glory days in Hawkeytown

One of my first jobs out of college was at Hyatt Regency Chicago. We used to run an event called The World's Largest Office Party. We raised money for a The Neediest Kids Fund, a charity championed by WGN-AM radio. The World's Largest Office Party had dozens of "bars" where celebrity barkeepers poured beverages for guests. Everyone who was anyone was there from radio personalities to sports figures to politicians. It was a huge event that raised thousands of dollars every year.

My favorite booth was the Blackhawks Standbys. This featured the Chicago Blackhawks Alumni Association with all the players we grew up following from Keith Magnuson to Bobby Hull to Cliff Korroll to Stan Mikita. For a hockey fan like me, this was heaven.

My Dad loved my World's Largest Office Party stories. He knew all the players, their styles and game stories. I tried, but I couldn't get him to come down to an event. It wasn't his thing, even if all his hockey heroes were there.

One night we were sitting at a Chicago Blackhawks game. It was between periods so we were watching some on-ice entertainment and talking about the game. Suddenly I heard Keith Magnuson say "I told you it was Shari." I turned around to see a couple of the Blackhawks Standbys settling into the seats behind us. I stood and started talking to them about this and that. I introduced my Dad, who was stunned into silence. The players told Dad how much fun they had working with me on different projects. They talked about the team and the game and the 1960's glory days. Dad was in heaven.

We were sitting at dinner recently when we started talking about what time the Blackhawks game started that evening. I looked at the brunette twin and said, "You know, it's only recently that you can watch hockey on TV." We talked about how hard it was to follow the Blackhawks back when games weren't televised. We talked about how you had to listen to games on the radio and read about them in the newspapers. We talked about how, at one point, the team had so few fans that the Blackhawks paid a local radio station to carry the games. I told them the story about Grampa meeting the players at a game.

The girls couldn't believe any of it was true. The Blackhawks weren't on TV? You had to listen to the games on the radio? Fans didn't flock to the players when they came to visit us? The players just walked down by themselves without security?

I told them that when the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup, my first thought was that they won one during my Dad's lifetime. He was sick at that point. We knew things weren't going to get better for him. When they won another in 2013, someone wrote a column about how these are the glory days for Chicago hockey fans. They nicknames Chicago "Hawkeytown." I'm so glad the girls have been able to build great memories so far of watching the 2010 Stanley Cup victory with Grampa, celebrating the 2013 victory with Grammie and all the smaller moments in between. Of course I hope the Hawkeytown glory days last for a while longer, but if not, at least I know they have a lot of stories to tell when they have their own children.

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