I was lucky enough to be one of about 600 people to attend an autograph signing in Orland Park today, involving one of the best players on the Blackhawks this season: Patrick Sharp.
It was quite a spectacle. I was probably No. 30 in the line of people when I got there at 12:30 PM, and by the time the event started, the number had swelled to many times that.
As I came up to Sharpie, I noticed something striking about him (no, not his eyes, ladies). I noticed that he was smiling from ear to ear, seeming genuinely happy at the immense turnout that greeted him.
You wouldn't think that an electronics store on a busy thoroughfare on a Saturday afternoon would be an ideal place for an autograph session, but people showed up, young and old, in order to catch a glimpse and snag a signature from the Blackhawks' winger.
Now, for a preface. When I normally see athletes at signings, they are generally very subdued, almost eager to get their appearance over with so they can relax on a rare off-day.
Not Patrick. He was jovial and happy from what I could see, and when I approached him, he asked ME how I was doing, rather than the normal other way around. I told him how much I appreciated his contributions to the team, and he thanked me for being a fan and for coming to the event. I told him to take care of himself, and that was the end of our interaction.
This may sound like no big deal to some of you, but to me, it made me think of a couple of things.
First off, if the NHL did more to showcase players like him, they would have a massive influx of new fans. The majority of the American sports fans think of hockey players as mostly goons with missing teeth and little redeeming quality as human beings.
Not only is Sharp accessible to fans, but he counteracts these assumptions with his "matinee idol good looks", according to Jill from Naperville, and his style of play. There may have been hoards of women there in Sharp jerseys who were there merely to stare into his eyes, but the majority of the fans in attendance probably view him in the way I do: as a guy who plays the game right.
He plays with a good deal of speed, which the new NHL style demands. He is a good skater, a pinpoint shooter and passer, and a tenacious defender, especially on penalty kills. With all of these qualities in mind, he certainly has become my favorite Blackhawk, both on and off the ice.
You can tell that Patrick absolutely enjoys what he does for a living just by his body language and facial expressions while he's on the ice, and with the broad smile he carries around with him off of it.
As a precautionary measure, let me assure you, my readers, that I have not developed some sort of odd, obsessive man-crush on Patrick Sharp. Okay, I may have written two recent articles about him, but that is besides the point. I will wax poetic about ANY athlete, provided he meets the following criteria:
1. Nice and polite in person
2. Enjoys themselves while playing the game
3. Committed to playing the game the right way
Since he fits these criteria, I will hereby name Patrick Sharp, center of the Chicago Blackhawks, my first ever recipient of the soon-to-be-prestigious "Waxing Poetic Achievement Award." Congratulations Sharpie! Your award will be arriving via FedEx, once I can afford it.
It is truly amazing what a difference a day can make. Yesterday, I was fuming mad at the 'Hawks and vocally fretting about their direction. Today, I met a Blackhawk, and it's like my outlook on everything hockey-related feels sunnier.
This I know to be just a delusion of grandeur brought on by a guy I really respect, but it still does feel a lot better than being angry. It is good to know that this guy is one of the leaders of our team.
In response to this overwhelming feeling of 'Hawk Pride, I'm embarking on an epic quest. The quest will be the following:
Starting at 12:01 AM on Tuesday, I will attempt to vote 1,000 times in a single day for the NHL All-Star Game. You read that correctly. A Blackhawks representative told me at the Sharp signing today that the limit on votes on a single day is 1,000. This number seems excessive, considering the short time span that most normal people are available to sit diligently at their computers and vote, but I am not one of these people.
I have nothing planned on Tuesday. Nothing. Zip. Nada. My goal is to vote 1,000 times between 12:01 AM and the 8:30 PM start time of the Blackhawks/Coyotes game. If I have not reached this goal, I will continue to vote throughout the game.
I would also like to invite you to join my crusade to get a Blackhawk elected to the All-Star Game via the fan vote. If you want to vote a couple of times, or even a bunch of times, you can let me know in one of three ways:
1. Post a note on my bulletin board
2. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. IM me via AIM at illinicublover
Please tell as many of your 'Hawk-loving friends about my mission and my insane undertaking on Tuesday. If we work together, I guarantee you that we can do this. Chicago is a HUGE city, and we are really embracing this team. This is doable.
I will keep a ticker with my total number of votes between now and the deadline for voting. My goal is to hit 10,000 votes before this date, and if that seems impossible for a mere mortal with no cheat codes or anything, just remember this: In Chicago, the old saying goes "vote early, vote often."
We have voting multiple times down to a fine art form. Hell, we even let the dead vote!
I will be voting for Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp (write-in), Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith (write-in), and Nikolai Khabibulin (write-in). I will write on Wednesday to discuss how my day of non-stop voting goes. Take care all, and VOTE BLACKHAWKS!