Hockey is not popular in the United States which is understandable.  It makes Canadians look like badasses, and it forces people to learn names like Niklas Hjalmarsson or Gustav Nyquist, names far more ludicrous than footballs down to
Earth monikers like Barkevious Mingo or Kyle Sackrider.  Furthermore, it requires a fairly constant amount of attention. Consider that the puck is always in play, meaning players are constantly having to make choices that will affect the outcome, whereas baseball, despite some games taking nearly 3 hours, has only about 8 & 1/2 to 15 minutes of real action.  While there is a meditative quality to baseball's lengthy consideration of what to do next, hockey is more about split second decisions that can win or lose the fight.  It's a hectic, deceptively chaotic, collage of blood, sweat, and human pitbulls. Imagine a combination of chess and demolition derby and you get close to its meaning.

However, this year the players have certainly betrayed the fans.  They've decided money is more important than the game or loyalty to the people who make their exorbitant salaries possible.  Still, I can't help missing the game.  Sports don't change reality, though they can offer respite from it.  With that in mind, and for those who miss the game, I offer...
 
 
Chicago BLACKHAWKS vs. Vancouver CANUCKS, 4-21-11, 9:20 p.m.
a stream of consciousness account of the NHL playoff game recorded as the game unfolded.

The Stanley Cup: one lord's gift to the world of immortality -- his way of making it possible for some to live forever.  After a stunning victory in their last game the Hawks are burning to turn the series around, and it seems more than possible.  Back to back goals, seconds apart, make first blood an arterial strike.  Defending the cup, the Hawks finally look like the team Chicago has been expecting.  While Vancouver proved why they're ranked #1, this game is shaping up as evidence of the Hawks' heart.  Perhaps it's that fact making fair weather fanatics, jerseys still smelling of manufacturing, not so foolish; faith has been placed on the proper shoulders... for the time being.
 
There are still 12 mins. left in the first and Vancouver is a formidable foe.  The first few games looked like a beat down set to end in a gang rape.  However, the Hawks have turned the tide.  Despite the miles in minutes, the series is far from done.  Some might be tempted to say the Canadian team is losing steam, though it's more likely the Hawks are finding their footing, seeing the chinks.  The long road to glory is often littered with bad decisions.  Fortunately, history is written by the victor; and mistakes become the fuel for success.  
  
Already the cautious are being told to relax.  "We got this," is the paraphrase heard round the room.  How smug it may be remains to be seen, though a 3rd goal looks to be the first real nail.
 
Yet, somber elders still fear of curses.  Few teams win back to back cups, and this may simply be the elevation setting hearts up for attacks when the floor falls out.  
  
The Hawks have built a team around speed, the merits of which have been much in debate. Barely making their way into the playoffs has put the Blackhawks in question from the start.  However, the come from behind, against odds & expectations is what real fans live to see.  These are the crucible occasions, when legends are made.  That being said, there is something about being a crushing hammer -- the juggernaut that inspires surrender on sight.  What many are salivating for now, here in Chicago, is that the evolution has begun, the transmogrification into an unstoppable onslaught.  3 to nothing is certainly a good sign but no certainty.
 
Zone defenses, set back around the goal, have worked well for Vancouver so far, such defenses shutting down the Hawks speed.  Yet, Chicago steel is owning the ice thus far.  They're making the Canuck's play the Hawk's game.

As the first period closes at three to zero one can only wonder, "What's next?" Two periods left, 20 minutes apiece, the future isn't as assured as some seem to think.  
  
At this point it's easy to talk about why the Hawks are doing well.  Already there are mutterings, "Those boys are just having more fun."  Of course, this talk easily fades, especially if things turn sour.  It only takes one goal to spoil the milk.  Victory certain to some, the bars are losing the fair weather, while those who remain hope this over confidence doesn't afflict the Blackhawks. The Canucks still have a considerable size advantage.  If it comes down to it they could take a page from the Broad Street Bullies and just batter the Hawks into submission.  Such viciousness hasn't been a hallmark of Vancouver's season, but noxious defeat has been known to birth ugly mutants.  And an early goal by Marian Hossa in the 2nd just spreads the toxic loss around.  Hopes run high however it affects the Canucks the Hawks can come out on top.  
  
A near goal against Chicago shakes the Hawks (and their fans) out of a mild complacency.  This is not the time to run idle.  Work the body to the breaking point and as such... another goal!  Now at an embarrassing 5 - 0 Vancouver is looking like the last dodo.  Chicagoans have already begun the first round of victory drinks.  But Joel Quenneville remains stern.  His serious composure a welcome sight, there's reason to think even a comfortable lead hasn't dulled their edge.  The previous defeats were too shameful to bear.  The only way left to salvage any dignity is to mutilate these Vancouver aggressors.  
  
The Canucks look bloodthirsty themselves.  Despite the deficit, they're playing to win.  In a way, it's an admirable stance.  Instead of wearing themselves out the Canucks could skate to a loss and redouble their efforts at the next game.  Of course, there's always the concern every Hawk's victory, especially such savage blows, will only reinforce the solidity of Chicago swords.  Gotterdammerung isn't guaranteed though it looms; and a near goal for Vancouver proves the point.  With a power play on their side, the Canucks are looking to split open this Chicago come back.... back to full strength, the Hawks continue to defy Vancouver desires.
 
If the truth must be told, as it often isn't wanted, it's frustrating to see the Hawks doing so well.  As nice as it seems, such triumphant games only inspire the tooth cracking wonder, "Where has this fine playing been?"
 
With a fight, the first of the game, closing out the 2nd period, the tone may be changing. Barbed wire was seen being sent to the Vancouver locker room, perhaps to wrap their gloves and make the third a genuine slaughter.  
 
But as the 3rd unfolds, it seems Vancouver has resigned itself to defeat.  A lackluster performance leads to an uninspiring end.  In Canada, Vancouver succumbed to some sense of inevitability and accepted defeated, one might even be tempted to say with a quiet dignity.  In Chicago, the Hawks hammered the fuck out of those bastards coming out on top 5-0; damn Canadians never stood a chance, and now they know:  Chicago is ready to bleed them dry and suck the marrow out of their bones.  It's all a matter of perspective, though one thing is definitely sure.  These two teams will have to meet again.  Who knows how the next battle will turn out?  At least they both look ready to fight.
 
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Unfortunately, despite dragging the series to game 7, things didn't turn out in Chicago's favor.  Vancouver won the series, but to the delight of many Hawks' fans the Canucks ultimately lost the Cup race to the Bruins.  The defeat would spark riots and looting in Vancouver, and quiet contentment in Chicago.
 


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