CHICAGO - MAY 31: A general view of the United States flag inside the United Center during the national anthem before Game Two of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers on May 31, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
With training camp two weeks away, our minds begin turning to the games of fall -- because the baseball teams round here sure didn't make us dream about fall baseball, did they?.
And while the Bears will keep us riveted, or disgusted, or saddened, or joyous, or just plain confused, for one day a week, those of us without anything meaningful in our lives need the constant distraction of a more regular sporting event.
But this year, there's a new twist. There might only be one. That's right, for the first time since 2000, the Hawks might be the only game in town at the United Center.
You may have noticed a derth of NBA activity this summer. Why didn't the Bulls launch Carlos Boozer to the moon, you're wondering. Well, they can't. Y'see, the NBA is done locked out. And it's probably not going to end any time soon. They're meeting today, which will be only the second meeting the union and owners have had since the chains when up on the gates. That doesn't indicate a lot of progress or a williingness to budge. While it may be due to some fuzzy bookeeping, if 21 teams are indeed losing money, there's a pretty large incentive to break the union. Which means an extended stoppage.
So for the first time, a lonely city may turn all of its attention to the red and black on ice. It happened before, obviously, in the spring of 2010. We remember that. But most of those eyeballs didn't come around until April, or more likely May. What would happen if the Hawks were the front page of the sports section from December on? Well, I may actually have to appear on TV for one, and that's not going to help anyone.
It's not something we've ever seen here. As for American cities, only Detroit and Minnesota have their hockey team be Winter Story No. 1. Maybe the Bruins now, but not before. New York has far too much going on, with the Yankees latest signing always taking precendence.
Could the Bulls fan make the leap? Hard to say, we don't like those suburban sweaters much. And there's not as much timeout silliness at our games. And most of the women who attend Hawks games can kick your ass instead of suck down a mai tai and check out what everyone else is wearing. It'll be an adjustment.
One physical thing that would be a bonus is that the United Center ice, one of the worst surfaces in the league, might not be as bad. For a team that wants to use its speed and skill to devour opponents, this can only be good.
But the rest of it? Will those Patrick Kane stories die down as quick if everyone's watching? Will a stumbled start be laughed off this time if more people care? Will Stan Bowman's bizarre handling of the media handle more intense scrutiny?
Will be fun finding out, but I'll miss Derrick Rose.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .