Unless you’ve been hibernating this winter, you’re aware that Chicago’s hottest sporting attraction takes place on ice. The Blackhawks return to action on Tuesday, March 2 after a two-week, Olympic hiatus. But no matter what medals are won or lost in Vancouver, hockey’s stock is certainly rising in Chicago.
If you’ve never been to a hockey game before, and don’t know the difference between a check and that piece of paper you get from your office every two weeks, here’s a girl’s guide to the game.
Plan on getting into your seat about 15 minutes before the puck drops to catch the pre-game show, which includes laser lights and well choreographed warm-up footage that works fans into a lather.
For the national anthem, don’t place your hand solemnly over your heart. Standard operating procedure at Blackhawks games is to stand, clap and cheer while resident singer Jim Cornelison belts out another booming rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”. This roaring tradition is one of the best in the sport.
Never make the mistake of asking your neighbor what quarter it is because there aren’t any. Instead, three 20-minute periods are separated by two 17-minute intermissions. That’s when fans pour out of their seats to grab a beer or a bite around the United Center. The 300 level was recently dubbed the “Madhouse on Madison” and outfitted with glowing flat screen TVs, refreshed dining options and two open area bars with views of the ice.
When a game is tied at the end of regulation time, don’t race to the parking lot. Stick around to watch a five-minute, sudden death overtime period. If no clear victor is decided during that time, the game turns to one of the most exciting moments in professional sports – the shootout, which pits a single shooter against the goaltender.
Penalties: You want the other team to get them so they have to play a “man down” that gives your team what’s dubbed a “power play”. Otherwise known as a really good chance for the Blackhawks to score a goal.
Offsides: The ice is separated into three zones: offensive, neutral (center) and defensive. You’ll know it by the two blue lines that split the ice. Offensive players can’t enter the offensive zone before the puck. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t sweat it. You can still enjoy the game without getting it.
High-sticking: No secret here. Would you like a stick in the face?
Icing: A tool used to make sure the game doesn’t slow to a snail’s pace, icing means that the defending team slapped the puck all the way to the other side of the ice to get it away from an arsenal of shooters. When this happens, the refs stop play and set up a face-off (see below).
Face-off: It’s like a restart button and happens in a variety of places on the ice (just look for the red dots). It’ll make more sense when you’re there, trust me.
Fighting: Some people love it, some people hate it, but fighting remains an important part of professional hockey. Just keep in mind that players get five-minute penalties for fighting and even more if one is deemed the instigator of the brawl.
Six Blackhawks were named to Olympic teams and played for their respective countries in Vancouver:
Patrick Kane – Team USA
Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook – Team Canada
Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky – Team Slovakia
Victoria’s Secret named Hawks forward Patrick Sharp Chicago’s sexiest athlete, beating Brian Urlacher and Derrick Rose.
Say it with me: Byfuglien sounds like Buff-lynn and Hjalmarsson really starts with a “J”.
Impress others with your wicked hockey knowledge by dropping comments like “I’m not sold on the new black sweaters (hockey speak for jersey). I prefer the classic red sweater for home games.” Or confidently sing the circa ‘68 fight song “Here Come the Hawks” before the puck drops.
And when the Hawks score a goal, (and they will as one of the league’s highest scorers) join more than 20,000 others in joyously singing along to The Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger”. Just don’t forget to high-five your neighbors. You’re now part of the hockey family.
For ticket information, visit www.chicagoblackhawks.com