As Game Five ended in the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night, I had a tear welling up in my eye.
I have been drawn to tears by several sporting events in my life, happy and sad. I remember emotions overflowing when Michael Jordan hit his final shot over Byron Russell.
I let the tears flow when the Patriots' perfect season came to an abrupt halt.
I had to wipe my eyelids when the Hoosier faithful stormed the field with me after beating Purdue on a field goal.
I can even imagine myself buckling down to the floor when the Cubs finally come out on top.
Never did I have to bite my lower lip as hard as I did Wednesday over a hockey game. Although I fought it back, it easily could have come out.
Perhaps it was because the constant moving I've done in my life made it tough to follow all four major sports. Maybe it was because hockey was the one sport I never tried to play.
Most likely, it was because Bill Wirtz let my favorite player, Tony Amonte, test free agency, took the team off of television, and did everything possible to keep anyone living outside of Chicago (and those in it) from enjoying his hockey team.
"It" is my love of the Chicago Blackhawks vanishing, causing me to almost completely lose touch with an organization I truly liked when I was younger. The well-documented torment brought forth by Wirtz came in the prime of my idealization period, and the Blackhawks, outside of scarce highlights on ESPN, were nearly the odd team out as I grew up.
Then I found a girl who had the largest passion for sports I had ever seen in a female, my girlfriend Kymberly. I met her at Indiana University, me coming form just outside of Ann Arbor, she from just outside of Chicago.
The No. 1 team in her life was the Blackhawks, and I rolled my eyes upon hearing this. I knew of Patrick Kane being the Rookie of the Year, Jonathan Toews being the youngest captain in team history, and Nikolai Khabibulin being dubbed the "Bulin Wall."
But, thanks to the souring taste in my mouth from the previous ownership, I was completely turned off. Then, Bill Wirtz died, followed by Kym teling tales of celebrations her friends had over the news.
With the news of the organization getting a second chance with a new owner, I decided to give them a second chance, myself.
From the first game, I was entranced. I fell in love with Duncan Keith's scrappy play, Martin Havlat's gliding moves, and Patrick Kane's baby face. I got a Keith shirt, wore it as many times as I could watch the 'Hawks from Indiana, and became a full-blown fan again as they marched for the playoffs.
I found a way to watch games on the computer and watched every minute of every playoff game. I found myself screaming at refs again. I was dancing to "Chelsea Dagger." I let out a deafening "YES" after every goal again. I ran around the staircase in my basement three times and collapsed to the floor—like MJ after winning his fourth ring—when Kane scored his series-clinching hat-trick goal against Vancouver.
I was a fan again.
With Kym by my side, I watched Game Four of the Blackhawks-Red Wings series, and was as depressed as anyone could be. I knew the series was over, but I rooted for my boys.
That's when I realized I was way too attached. I called them my boys. I previously only said that about the Patriots, Cubs, and Bulls. The Blackhawks were back on the list.
As Game Five rolled around, my stomach turned as always. My Red Wings fan family was in a separate room, and I sat alone on the edge of my seat. With Kym on the phone as she drove form work, I described to her the great save Christobal Huet made to force OT and told her for the umpteenth time how bad I wanted them to win.
Then, Darren Helm slammed the door in my face with an OT goal, and I turned the TV off and sat in the dark. I called Kym again after getting a text message reading ":(" and told her I wanted to cry. She laughed as if I was kidding.
When I attended a game against the New York Islanders this season, the scoreboard told me that hockey never left Chicago, but it has returned. I never fully understood what that meant until that moment of silence in my basement.
Now I'm in too deep. I'm hooked, and I'm afraid I'll be tweaking out come November.
When that time comes, I'll be sure to have the Kleenex nearby.