Blackhawks fandom reaches far and wide -- even as far as Florida, in the center of Tampa Bay Lightning country.
During Game 4 Wednesday night, one bar in St. Petersburg, Fla., will fill with hockey fans clad in Blackhawks jerseys. Out of the more than 100 official Blackhawks bars, only one resides outside of Illinois and Wisconsin. That bar is Engine No. 9 in St. Petersburg.
How did a Blackhawks bar end up in Tampa Bay and, more importantly, survive during the Stanley Cup Final this year?
The owner, Jason Esposito, has allegiance to both teams. Esposito's father is former Blackhawks player Tony Esposito, and uncle is former Hawk Phil Esposito. The brothers Esposito incidentally helped bring the NHL to Tampa Bay more than 20 years ago after their days with the Blackhawks were over.
Tony Esposito was a star goalie for the Blackhawks from 1969 to 1984. His brother played for the Hawks from 1963 to 1967 before moving to the Boston Bruins.
Today, Jason Esposito, who is a certified executive chef, honors his father and uncle in his restaurant, which is known for its burger and beer selection. In a nod to the family's Chicago ties, Esposito offers a Blackhawks burger (sriracha wing sauce, panko breaded chicken, muenster cheese and ranch dressing) and a Windy City burger (prosciutto, basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, giardiniera peppers and tomatoes) on his menu.
Engine No. 9 also carries some Goose Island beers on its drink menu to pay tribute to the Chicago brewery scene.
Despite the bar's connections to Chicago, Jason Esposito told the Tampa Bay Times he considers himself a fan of both the Blackhawks and the Lightning and hangs flags for both teams on the wall.
As for how Esposito is hoping the series will end? "Game 7, triple overtime," he told the Times.