Nothing feels better than a come-from-behind overtime win at home over your hated Canadian rivals. But for the Chicago Blackhawks, some hard liquor goes down just as smooth.
This was a team who just a month ago had tumbled from the top of the Western Conference standings and was in danger of falling out of the playoff picture altogether. Recently though, they've gotten back to their winning ways with improved play from goaltender Corey Crawford and more consistency from their top offensive guns, even without captain Jonathan Toews.
The Hawks, who extended their current winning streak to five games after Andrew Shaw's leg redirected Johnny Oduya's shot past Roberto Luongo on Wednesday night, had capped off three games in four nights the best way they possibly could: with six points.
What happened next, you ask? I'd imagine a few of them might have a hard time telling you.
While enjoying a few adult beverages at McFadden's, a Michigan State alumni bar in the heart of Chicago (a watering hole that is in no way, shape or form exclusive to the Second City), a few friends and I found ourselves sharing the evening with some of the Hawks, including star winger Patrick Kane.
Kane, who's famous for his raucous goal celebrations and rambunctious cab rides, makes certain to enjoy the height of his celebrity. While the 23-year old probably doesn't even remember being at the bar as much of anything but a blur, a handful of young ladies could thorougly compare his tonsil hockey skills with his on-ice prowess.
My friends and I were having a grand old time in Chicago and wouldn't stop gushing about the best regular season NHL game any of us had been to, regardless of city. Upon approaching the bar, we heard a familiar celebratory tune and began laughing and singing along. I wondered aloud if any of the players would be inside.
This year's Blackhawks rank as the 13th youngest team in the NHL, including 12 players aged 25 or younger. You'd be hard-pressed to find Toews, dubbed "Captain Serious" for his steadfast attention to detail with regards to everything hockey-related, out on the town after a big game, but plenty of others were happy to oblige.
Much to my surprise while walking through the front door, we found Kane and rookie Jimmy Hayes standing on the bar, fists pumped and lungs blaring the repetitive chorus of Chelsea Dagger.
They weren't alone. Scattered around the bar were the likes of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Nick Leddy, Bryan Bickell and Shaw all equally enjoying the thrill of victory.
Most of them were happy to take pictures with fans. Everyone except for Kane, that is. He's had more than his fair share of embarrassing drunkface portraits taken in his tenure in Chicago. Others listened to people gush about how great they played just a few hours earlier. This much I was quite guilty of, at least with Keith and Seabrook.
Corey Crawford even withstood some drunken criticism from a friend we met after the game. "Great game tonight Corey," she said. "Just wish you played like that all the time."
His reaction? He bought her a shot.
Granted, they weren't playing again for four days. The players were more than within their rights to go out and enjoy a quality win. But they chose to do it, more or less, amongst the common folk.
There was nothing stopping them from heading to a VIP room in a ritzy Chicago nightclub. They chose a college bar.
Now, I won't sit here and pretend that this is the first time a group of famous athletes have gone out and partied hard. But coming from New York, where you need at least a Mercedes and a rather large sense of entitlement to get into any club the high-profile stars frequent, it was refreshing to see this bunch of guys going wild like they didn't have a care in the world.
One would imagine Thursday morning's practice wasn't the most impressive, up-tempo or particularly high-functioning for Joel Quenneville's crew. But the NHL's hottest team since the trade deadline deserves a night out to enjoy themselves every once in a while.
Let their fans buy them some shots. So far, they've earned it.
I've always thought the Blackhawks were never as good as they could be, in part because they seemed to not work as hard as other teams or really make hockey the #1 priority in their lives, ahead of having fun or anything like that. This article just seemed to further that notion, but then I read the part where they didn't have a game for four days. That changed my mind a bit. At least it seems like they are being as responsible as possible, hopefully only partying when they don't have a game any time soon. Good for them (if that's the extent of it). Still think they could work harder and be more focused, though.