bars Blackhawks

Emotional Trauma, Triumph Watching Blackhawks Games at 6 Degrees

Saturday, May 31, 2014 Rob Samuelson

6 Degrees, a bar located at 1935 N. Damen Ave. in Chicago, is the perfect place to watch a Blackhawks playoff game, with hardcore fans and bar regulars forming a sea of red. The ups and downs one experiences while watching a team fight for their survival are amplified by 6 Degrees' intimate setting. Halfstack staff writer Rob Samuelson's friends had a perfect 6-0 record of watching their beloved Hawks at the establishment, so he chronicled game 6 of the Western Conference Finals Friday night.



2:57 left in the first period, Dwight King of the Los Angeles Kings scores to put his team ahead in a game that can eliminate everyone's favorite team at this bar, 6 Degrees in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood. We're despondent. Faces droop. Beers are chugged in despair. Is this the end?

As soon as the first intermission horn sounds, I'm in the bathroom, washing cheesy goop from my hands. Pictures of, I suppose, families hang around me.  I don't know these people, but they're smiling at me.  That's comforting, I suppose.  And I need it.  My stomach's ready to burst after a couple beers and a large order of the house specialty, 6 Degree pulled pork nachos. It's a happy gastrointestinal meltdown, mind you, but there's a food fetus kicking inside my belly nonetheless. Water alone will be my drink of choice the rest of the night, thank you very much, Anne the amazing bartender who already knows my name; nothing else will fit.

The second period starts. Everyone remains tense. Conversations turn to other topics as a coping mechanism. Job offers, funny screen captured images from Snapchat, and recent vacations are suddenly far happier thoughts than the dread of seeing this season end without another parade. The draft coming from outside is decidedly cooler than earlier. Summer has not quite arrived, and it's the Chicago Blackhawks' fault for not going far enough into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The jerks. How dare they not win it all every season?

18:48 left in the second period, Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks scores a power play goal to tie the game. Cheers erupt around me, and the sound reverberates from the sturdy brown bricks that border everyone. The noise that emanates from my 5'9”, 135-pound boyish frame sounds like a Medieval warrior after performing a gory horror on an enemy. The crowd buzzes. Things are looking up. Adrenaline flows, drinks are ordered, chips are crunched with delight.

17:11 left in the second period, Ben Smith of the Blackhawks banks a shot off Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick to net the Hawks a lead. This time the noise that emanates from my body is like Louis Armstrong defeating a bear in a wrestling match.  The black table in front of me is slicker than before, which is probably due to the celebratory fist slamming causing the drinks to slosh out of their glasses.

Things are great. Everything is right in the world.  My bar compatriots order shots. Laughter and taunts are directed at people hundreds of miles away on a television. It makes sense in the moment, we swear. The discomfort in my stomach is now ignorable. I steal a chip and guacamole from my friend Arturo to honor the moment.

The period ends contentiously, with goaltenders Quick and Corey Crawford headbutting each other – lightly, and with the protective padding of their goalie masks, but they still did it – after the horn blows. We at 6 Degrees love it. Claps flutter and cheers rise from the crowd. It feels good. They're going to pull it off for real. Down three games to one less than a week ago, a series defeat staring them in the face, and the Hawks are on their way to forcing a decisive seventh game.

14:29 left in the third period. Maybe that seventh game isn't such a sure thing. Drew Doughty of the Kings ties the game at two goals apiece. My head hits the table. The sky is falling. Nervous laughter permeates and slow sips of beer are now the norm around me. “Edgy” would be the word of the moment. My tummy hurts again. I think that the godawful Cubs will be my only sports entertainment until October, which is a thought no one should ever contend with.

12:22 left in the third period, Alec Martinez of the Kings scores a power play goal to put the Kings ahead 3-2. The game, season, and possibility of a Blackhawks championship dynasty – in my estimation, three or more titles in five years would constitute a prototypical dynasty – are up in smoke. It's time to reminisce about the glories of 2010 and 2013 while the seconds tick off the clock on the greatest era of Chicago Blackhawks hockey. Thoughts of watching more Cubs games become stronger. Ugh.

8:27 left in the third period, hope springs eternal! Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks scores the game tier. It's not over yet. Anne the bartender returns to see if I want any more drinks.

Oh, no thank you, I'm still too full,” I say. In reality, my stomach is in knots, but I can't tell her that. That would be weak. And the Blackhawks are not weak. Therefore neither can I be. This is what it's like to be a sports fan (and bug nut insane).

Nails are bitten and we wait for the inevitable excruciation of a sudden death overtime period (or three). Of course this would happen.

3:45 left in the third period, Patrick Kane scores his second goal of the game to put the Hawks in the lead. 6 Degrees is a nuthouse. This time my voice is akin to Tom Waits with bronchitis while eating flaming garbage.

Can they hold on? Will they? Time crawls. The Kings pull Quick to replace him with an extra skater. They're on the hunt for another game tier. A couple close calls erupt as the seconds tick, three, two, one, horn, cheers.

Game seven is a reality. It happens Sunday night at 7 p.m. I will be back at 6 Degrees. If you like the Blackhawks, nachos, or alcohol, you should join.  

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