My First Foray into the Madhouse

Pumpkins PA and NJ WHYY
Phil Gregory / WHYY

As I said, to fill in some time here I thought I'd trace my fandom from its very beginnings through games I saw as a kid until now.

Last week I told you about my first, which planted all the seeds that eventually grew the mutant that writes before you today. But what made them truly sprout was my first game in the standing room section of the Old Stadium.

If Chicago Stadium had a prison riot atmosphere, than the standing room was solitary confinement. While my mother was slightly frightened about me attending games in the Stadium at all at the age of eight or nine, she nearly disowned my brother for taking me up there. She was convinced that one game standing above the Stadium would lead to me being brought home in a bucket and a sponge. She wasn't totally wrong.

But I wouldn't have had it any other way. As I saw it, that's where the real fans were. And that's what I thought I was. I watched every game, I already identified as a nutcase, I cared as much as they did, even though I was a kid. I wasn't interested in souvenirs or popcorn. I wanted to watch the game. I wanted the street cred of being up with the loons. And so I marched up those stairs again, knowing I wouldn't get a rest this time in a seat. My brother found us a spot with his lacrosse buddies. And these guys were touched. While they were the same age as my brother, I couldn't fathom that these guys had parents or saw the inside of a school or anything. They were an after-school special.

This was probably not the game to introduce yourself, Dec. 20th 1989. It was a division game against the St. Louis Blues, and back then the rivalary with the Blues was even more bloodthirsty than the one we have with the Wings now. The Blues were riddled with guys who would cause your eyes to bulge out of your head. Hawks-Blues games were barfights, on either side of the glass.

Oh, and they had Brett Hull. Who scored like two goals per game. And against the Hawks, it seemed like six per game. And of course he had a hat trick, the third putting the Blues up 6-5 in the 3rd.

And then the Hawks set a team record with four goals in 1:56. You can't fathom the noise inside that building after goals three and four. You could feel your brain rattling. And after the fourth goal, one of my brother's buddies, and all you need to know is that everyone called him "Wart", picked me up and lifted me over his head. There was no doubt in my mind or my brother's he was going to toss me on the ice. I was fine with that, seemed like a great way to go, my brother couldn't get past being stabbed 147 times by my mother.

But Wart didn't have that in mind, he was just overtaken by the moment. He put me back down, and I knew where my people were for the rest of my life. I never watched a game from anywhere else for years. The asylum is where I belonged, with the worst of the inmates.

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 .

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