It was the first, and hopefully not the last, game I've been to this year.
As a big Blackhawks fan, I'd love to go to more games, but, as some of you might know, tickets are pretty expensive. Not coming from a rich family—far from it—seeing a Blackhawks game is a special privilege.
This year I thought I'd treat myself to a game. I picked one out, saved my money and, once I had enough, immediately grabbed some good 300 section tickets for the game Wednesday night.
Parking for the United Center isn't bad at all. That said, you're going to have to spend around $12-20 but, if you're a sports fan, you're used to that already.
Across from gates two and three is a memorial sculpture added to the United Center in 2000.
The sculpture shows six, life-sized players all wearing different jerseys from the six eras in team history. It's the perfect photo opportunity for families or couples.
Once you walk into the United Center, you're immediately overwhelmed by Blackhawks jersey-wearing fans. The United Center is a huge place that is always bursting with activity on game night.
From the vendors selling programs, to the random tables trying to sell you stuff, to the ever-crowded Blackhawks store, there are many possibilities to choose from before the game begins.
Those who prefer to be in their seat early are entertained by fun facts and other Blackhawks trivia on the big screen, hanging over the middle of the ice.
But the real treat comes after the players warm up.
On the big screen they play clips of older and newer Blackhawks players scoring goals, accompanied with Pat Foley's infamous "GOAL!" screaming from the loud speakers.
The montage brings butterflies to the stomach and puts a smile on every Hawks fan watching. It's a great precursor to the game, as it only adds to the anticipation.
Next comes the national anthem.
What can I say about the national anthem at the United Center that hasn't already been said? If you've experienced it, you know what I am talking about. If you haven't experienced it, you need to. It's a staple in Blackhawks history and tradition.
The puck drop signals the beginning of the game.
Seeing a game live beats watching it on TV any day. The "Ooos" and almost jumping out of your seat after a close-scoring chance is only second to leaping from your seat, cheering, after a Blackhawks goal. All 21,000 or so fans cheer in unison, high-fiving the person next them.
All of this is great, but what I found to be one of the most rewarding things about the trip was staring at the 2010 Stanley Cup banner. I found myself looking at the banner for a good minute or two, relishing in the moment.
Looking at that banner brought back a lot of good memories. Who could forget Patrick Kane's game-tying goal with 14 seconds left in game five in the first round of the playoffs, followed by Marian Hossa's game-winning goal in overtime?
Just watching that video again makes me smile.
Watching the game might not be the best part of the whole experience.
No, what I think is the best part is waking up the next morning and going back to your routine and remembering the night before. Whether the Blackhawks won or not, there's always something good to remember from the night before.
It's that break from reality that makes going to the game so much fun. It's a night where nothing else seems to matter. All that matters is that you're watching your favorite team with friends, family or whomever.
So next time you go, keep the ticket stub. Let it be a reminder to you of good times.