Chances are if you've been to a Blackhawks Playoff Game this season, you know who Chris Pisani is; but you don't know him by name. You probably just know him as “The Crazy Dancing Blackhawks Fan.”
In the middle of the third period of Blackhawk home games, it is now traditional for the Dropkick Murphys song “I'm Shipping Up To Boston” to play loudly over the speakers in the UC. That's when Chris springs into action, jumping up on the concourse, or sometimes just into the aisle, and breaking into his own interpretive Irish Jig.
As soon as it starts, the cameras search the crowd for Chris. He can usually be found with his friend Ryan Shearer, and sometimes Ryan's dad Jeff, in the 100 level, which are Jeff's season tickets. The dance has gotten so big, that sometimes either Mr. Shearer, or Chris himself, will buy a single game ticket to make sure he can be there to pump up the crowd.
Wherever he is sitting, they get the spotlight on him, and then the crowd goes nuts, reaching 106 decibels of cheering during Sunday night's Game Five performance. The National Anthem on Sunday night, peaked at 114 db. People clap, scream, yell, cheer, sing along to the song, and all the while Chris pounds out his signature jig for all to enjoy.
Before Game Six, I got a chance to talk to Chris for Bleacher Report about the dancing, and what it means to him and the fans.
B/R: First of all Chris, how long have you been a Hawks fan, and have you always been this pumped about the Blackhawks?
Chris: Well, we used to live in New York until I was about eight years old, and I never got really turned on to hockey when I was in New York, so as soon as we moved to Chicago, the Hawks were a big, big hit. My family decided to take me to a Hawks game when I was a kid and all my friends were Hawks fans.
So I guess it was right around there, and as soon as I went to that game I got turned on to hockey; and played a bit as a kid, though I was a little bit better playing on the field than I was on ice, so I stuck with that. But ever since I was a kid I've been a Hawks fan. Die hard.
B/R: When everyone sees you at the games, they see your number 19 Jonathan Toews jersey, and obviously he's your favorite right now, but if you had the chance to meet one Blackhawk of all time, who would it be?
Chris: Well, I've already met Denis Savard, and he's a great guy. I'd really like to meet Bobby Hull. You know, he's at all the games all year, and I know he's seen the dance, so I would just like to tell him that it's great watching highlights of him and to hear his thoughts on what he thought the dance was about, that would be pretty cool.
B/R: So obviously I have to ask you about the dance. So first of all, how many times have you done it at the UC?
Chris: I'd say last year I did it about maybe 10 to a dozen times. And this year I'd say I've done it close to 25 to 30 times.
B/R: Wow, that's impressive. I'd been hearing about you, “the guy who does the jig in the third period,” and I got to see it myself at Game Five and I have to say, it was pretty amazing. I think what a lot of people want to know, of course, is how the whole thing started, and how you started doing it at the games because when you do it at the UC, the crowd goes nuts.
Chris: Yeah. The crowd gets pretty loud. The dance started a couple of years ago when the song became popular from the movie The Departed. My buddy Ryan Shearer and I were just out at the bars one night and that song came on and we were just listening to the words and we just put it together. It was almost interpretive, and when we were doing it out that night, the people in the bar were going nuts for it and they thought it was a really cool dance and people were clapping and all that, so that was pretty cool.
Then, I don't remember what game we went to last year, Ryan and I, and the song came on in the middle of the third period and he was like, “You should get up and do the dance,” and I said, “You do it with me,” but he said, “No, you do it!” So I got up and did it and the crowd absolutely went crazy for it.
B/R: It seems like they like it more and more every time you do it. Having done it now in front of that crowd so many times, is there one performance that just sticks out in your mind? Possibly something involving an inflatable shark?
Chris: I would say that Game Four against San Jose was pretty cool, the crowd got really intense it was a little bit longer of a dance, about two minutes, and some guy handed me this inflatable shark because I guess he wanted to see basically what I would do to it, and I just punched it and the crowd, I mean, someone was saying that it was almost as loud as a goal score. The crowd was going nuts, and from what I've heard from the Blackhawks organization, that has been one of their favorites.
Either that one or this past game, Game Five. The whole game everyone was saying, “We're gonna need you on Friday!” And I just told them, “You're not gonna need me Friday because this is the last dance of the year. Game Six, that's it.” I'll be out, and do the dance and everything, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm not going to have to do it on Friday. So I think the crowd realized that it could be the last time I do the dance for the year so they got really loud.
B/R: It seems like there's a lot of energy in that building when you get up there and do the dance for the crowd.
Chris: It's actually pretty emotional. It's an honor, to tell you the truth. It has become so surreal with all the attention it has gotten, and it has been really exciting at the same time. I love doing it, I love pumping up the crowd. Hearing the crowd scream like that during the commercial break, in some regards you'd think that it pumps up the team. They're hearing the crowd, they're hearing the fans go crazy, and that pumps them up; and at the same time, it distracts the away team.
I've had friends who have watched, and they say that the away team is standing up, staring at the Jumbotron wondering what is going on, and why is the crowd cheering so loud? It takes them out of their rhythm. This past Sunday [the Flyers] scored a goal and within a minute and a half they went to a commercial break and the song went on and that kinda took the wind out of their sails.
It's an honor and I thank the Blackhawks a thousand times over for allowing me to do it; and in the same regard they've been nothing but great. And they love it because their fans love it, and the more the fans love it the more I love to do it. It's been pretty great.
B/R: Do you ever get nervous as the game goes on knowing that people are excited about it and hoping to see it and knowing that at some point the song is going to come on and everyone's going to be looking for you?
Chris: I don't get nervous anymore. Now it's routine. By now, even when I'm just out on the town, I get a lot of people who come up to me, and they always ask, “Are you gonna do it tonight?” And I always tell them, “Yeah, I'm gonna do it.” So it's not so much nervous, it's more of an excitement. It makes me really excited when I think about how all these people are excited to see it, so I gotta do well.
There have been a couple of times where I have been worried and thought to myself, “Alright, please don't slip or get pushed.” At some of the games I've been able to do it at the top of the concourse, so there's more of an area there where I don't have to worry about tripping on something; but when I'm dancing in the aisle, on the steps...they're not really wide, and they're not very big. So to do that dance right there, there have been times I was worried that I was going to hit the edge of it or something and fall.
B/R: Obviously you enjoy doing the dance, and the crowd definitely loves watching you do it, but who would you say has more fun with it?
Chris: I would say, me. You know what? Call it a tie. I know the crowd loves it and I know they're screaming and clapping, but that feeling inside, it feels amazing. It's gotta feel like the Hawks when one of them scores a goal, when the crowd is going crazy for them.
It is so surreal. It is an absolutely unbelievable feeling to have that cheering going on and then after, high fives and stuff like that. It's an honor to have people come up to me after the games or before the games or even out, around town, and say “Hey! You're the guy, can I take a picture with you?”
And now that everything has gone online with the videos and the interviews, I have people just shouting my name. It's pretty cool. I would say that I know the fans love it, I know they have fun with it, but I would say I have just as much fun as they do hearing them scream.
B/R: Now, you play for the Chicago Slaughter, you've been in football and sports in general basically all your life. Is it a different feeling to be in the middle of the cheering crowd as opposed to in front of it?
Chris: It's a different feeling, when I get a sack or a touchdown or something like that because there's that quick intensity; but the game goes on and you gotta stay focused. I think maybe doing it in the crowd is maybe a little bit more special just because it is that one instant. People are looking forward to it, it is anticipated during the game, and as soon as the third period starts people are asking me in the stands, “Hey, when's it coming up?” And then as soon as they hear that drop, that Dun-Dun, everyone is immediately standing up to see where I am.
When you're in the game, there are different aspects of it, the game is longer,and there's that one quick jolt after you make a sack and you're celebrating with your team and the fans in the stands; but when you're doing a dance for two minutes and you've got people screaming for you for two straight minutes, that's...that's pretty cool.
I've actually incorporated that into the dance where I start off doing the jig and then I do the part where I'm pointing at my leg and I'm climbing up the sail, do another little jig; and then I turn and face the crowd and I wave my hands to get them involved. It seems now that when I do that is when the crowd gets really loud.
This dance is not about me. It's not like I'm trying to get celebrity status out of it or anything like that. I'm doing it for the team. I'm doing it because now that I've met some of the players, and the coaching staff, and other people in the organization like Rocky and Mcdonough; I've met them in the stadium, and they've told me that they love it.
They love it because of how much the fans get involved and that's why I do it, I do it for the team because the more that I can get the fans involved and the more that I can get them excited, I'm sure that in relation gets the team excited.
B/R: So how much longer can we expect to see you jiggin' away at the UC?
Chris: I'll do it as long as they want me to do it. Obviously last season wasn't as long because I started towards the end of the season. It's all on the Hawks. If they play the song, I'm gonna get up and do it. There's no problems with that. As long as the crowd likes it and enjoys it, I'll do it.
Who knows, maybe down the road they'll think of another song and they want me to think of a dance for it. Maybe it'll just become Chris The Crazy Dancing Fan who likes to get the crowd involved, but I'll do it as long as they want me to do it, and as long as they allow me to do it is the important thing.
B/R: Any chance of us catching a glimpse of the jig over at the Sears Center next season?
Chris: I've already done it at the Sears Center. I did it this year, two weeks ago. They asked me if I would come in and do it between the third and fourth quarters during the time-out break. It was pretty cool. Obviously it's a little bit different of a crowd than doing it at the UC, but it was fun, people got involved, and there were a bunch of Hawks fans in the stadium who knew who I was and they really enjoyed it. It was fun to entertain a different type of crowd.
B/R: It seems like you get asked for a lot of repeat performances as the night goes on after the game. How many times is the most you've done it on a game night?
Chris: On a game night, I've done it before the game out around town, I've done it at the game, and then a couple times after the game when we go out again, so maybe four or five times on a game night. It all depends. If we're at a bar and the owner comes up and asks, “Hey, Chris, I'd really appreciate it if you could do it for the people at the bar,” then of course I'll do it, no problem. If people ask, I don't mind doing it.
In some regards I don't want people to get tired of it, because I still want people to get excited when it comes on, so I don't want people to ask me, “Hey Chris, can you do it every hour on the hour?” I think people would get bored, or they're gonna ask, “Why's this guy trying to be the center of attention?”
That's not what it is about. Whenever I'm asked, I'll do it. I enjoy doing it, it's fun to do. The most important thing to me is that the more the fans enjoy it and the more the fans get involved, the more that I'll do it.
B/R: For the fans then, anywhere specific that you'll be dancing for Game Six?
Chris: I'm going to be in Philadelphia. Hopefully we come back with the Cup and my life . We're leaving tonight, Ryan, his dad Jeff, and my buddy John and I are flying up there tonight, and we're gonna go to the game tomorrow. I had planned to be at the Road Watch at Joe's, but I can't pass up the opportunity to see my team win the Stanley Cup live.
I'm a die hard Blackhawks fan. I played five sports collegiately and throughout high school, but hockey has always been my favorite sport to watch. I went to Fenwick High School and I was fortunate enough that three out of my four years, our hockey team went to the State Championships. My sophomore year they went to state, and they lost.
But then my junior and senior years they went to state they won, and my senior year I went to every single one of their games, except the games when they had tournaments far away, like in Minnesota. They played something like 80 games that year and I went to every one of the Fenwick games, even if it was an away game that was an hour away, I drove and I was there.
It's is my favorite sport to watch, it's non-stop, it's action packed; and I honestly believe that there is not one other arena anywhere in the world that you can watch a game better than the United Center. The intensity that the fans bring, from the start of the game. Big Jim starting with the Anthem, and it is the best Anthem in sports. I've heard the National Anthem ad ever kind of sporting event you could imagine, World Series Games, the Super Bowl, and I've never heard a national anthem like that. It gives you chills, it makes people cry in the stands, it's emotional and amazing.
Then you have a goal scored and Chelsea Daggers comes on by The Fratellis and get excited with the fans there, on top of in the third period when I do the dance; it's a great environment and stadium to be in, it's a great town with all the fans in Chicago, I'm sure it is a great town to play in for the players, and it's great for the fans to cheer for.
That's why I love going to the games. I love the Blackhawks, and that's why I'm so excited that I'm going to have the chance to actually witness them win the Stanley Cup.
B/R: I know you've got to get going because you've got a long night of travel ahead of you, and I know that none of us want it; but if we do have one, you have any plans to be at the UC for Game Seven?
Chris: I will be there. It doesn't matter if I have to pay tons of money to get in, I will be at the game. I don't know where I'll be sitting, but the only thing that matters is that I will be at that game to watch them play.
I was being selfish earlier in the series, hoping that they would win it in Five so I could see them win it in Chicago, but now I'm gonna be more selfish and say that I hope I don't have to dance again this year, because no one wants to see a Game Seven. It would be so great to see them win it in Chicago, and see them raise the cup in front of all their fans, but I think it would just be great for Chicago in general for them to win the Stanley Cup.
Game Sevens are scary, and to tell you the truth, I think they're going to kick their ass in Game Six. I think they're absolutely going to blow them out of the water, and I think it is going to be an intense game, I think there's going to be a lot of hitting, but I think they're gonna win tomorrow.
You can check out Blackhawks TV's feature on Chris here: