The Chicago Hockey Scene
The first thing you think when you get off a plane going to Chicago from Phoenix is: “holy crap it’s cold”. Compared to the usual Arizona get up (most likely a t-shirt and shorts, long pants if the weather approves), the amount of layers one has to wear in Chicago is way more than the typical Arizonan. But the weather ins’t the only difference between the two cities, it is also the hockey atmosphere. If you were to ever visit Chicago for a day or two, I can guarantee you will see around 70-100 Blackhawks fans out in public. Since up north they can actually skate on frozen ponds during the winter season, more people can take up the hockey lifestyle.
The competitiveness is also a big factor. Being good at hockey could put you on a good track towards college scholarships and offers to junior teams due to numerous scouts visiting to showcases and tournaments of the higher level. If you were to look at all the Americans in the National Hockey League, it is evident that a majority of them came from up north, and not to mention 2% of the active players in the entire NHL have come from Illinois. With that information, you can tell it’s a highly competitive state for hockey.
When we arrived to the first rink (Leafs Ice Centre), it was clear they were elite. All over the walls were banners of multiple high level elite tournaments such as the silver stick and the presidents cup. Once my team took the ice in our first game of the Chicago Mid-Winter Classic, you could tell a good chunk of the opposing team probably learned to ice skate before they learned to walk. They scored in less than a minute after puck drop. They could move the puck and executed plays nicely. I could only imagine how much coaching they have gotten on one single play. We did end up making it a close game, losing 3-2, but that is beyond the point. As far as the rest of the tournament goes, we won the next game 3-1, but then lost the next two 1-3 and 0-1. The last game was in high tension with us playing a team from Palm Beach, Florida. Their play was a bit sloppy but they were good at applying pressure. That just shows how diverse the country is when it comes to hockey programs. I must also mention how “passionate” the player’s parents are. They truly do care for there kids and they make sure every knows it. The tournament ended up being won by a team from Ann Arbor, Michigan, they went 6-0-0 the entire tournament if I remember correctly.
Now all hockey players know they don't just go on a tournament to play hockey, they go and make it a mini vacation out of it. One aspect of every vacation is of course the food. I was referred by a friend to go to Portillo’s hot dogs, and he did a good job doing it. The chili cheese dogs were great and the “chocolate cake shake” was amazing as well. We then also went to the world famous Lou Minaltis for an outstanding Chicago style deep dish. Another great activity is to take a walk down by the river to see how it freezes in sections and in other parts it is still moving rapidly. The streets are surprisingly clean and the people there are very nice. Our accommodations were outstanding, and it is highly recommended to take a trip there for no less than 4 days. Great memories and great times.
Chicago hockey, and well, hockey up in the northern states all together, is vastly different than hockey down south in AZ and California. The love and passion for their teams is shown strong just like back in Arizona. The outskirts of the city are great towns such as Elgin and Mount Prospect. The city of Chicago itself is amazing. Walking downtown while there is snow that covers the ground and continues to fall is just bound to create memories. Of course, I made sure to show my support for AZ hockey, and very soon, you'll be able to represent any state’s hockey program with enthusiasm and most importantly, pride.