Ever since their historic Stanley Cup victory in 2010, the Chicagoland area has seen an influx of new Blackhawks fans. Never before had I seen so many people wearing Blackhawks sweaters, hats, and t-shirts. For the first time in my experience of listening to sports talk radio in Chicago, a Blackhawks game was a lead story.
In the approximate five years since I've become an invested fan of the Blackhawks (having gone to my first Hawks game at the request of my roommate Ben in 2007), I have found that my love and appreciation of the game continues to grow daily.
In 2009, when the Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference Finals and eventually lost to the Detroit Red Wings, even I, the casual observer, knew that this team had the chance to become something special.
I found myself glued to the television during the 2009-2010 season.
It wasn't a matter of, if the Hawks would win the Cup, but how quickly they would advance through the playoffs. The 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs were an unbelievable adventure for a guy who knew very little about the sport.
I watched a team overcome adversity (tying up the game against Nashville with just 13 seconds to go while being shorthanded and following that up with a Marian Hossa game-winner just seconds after leaving the penalty box), completely dominate a team (sweeping the San Jose Sharks) and finally finish off the Philadelphia Flyers in dramatic fashion to win the Cup.
Last season's playoffs were a disappointment despite taking the No.1-seeded Vancouver Canucks to a game seven.
This season had its share of ups and downs, but here they are, locked up at a game apiece with the Phoenix Coyotes after having tied the game up with less than 20 seconds left in regulation in both games.
I am starting to get the same feeling I had back in 2010; I wear my Blackhawks gear with pride and find more and more people talking about not just the Blackhawks but the NHL in general.
Will I ever quite understand icing? Probably not.
But I do understand that when a team like the Blackhawks are winning, it boosts interest not only in them, but in the NHL.
Even if the Blackhawks do not advance and win another Stanley Cup, they have given me the desire to sit down and watch a game, no matter who is competing.