Seeing Red: Shark infested waters

San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE — As soon as the 2013-2014 San Jose Sharks schedule was released, I quickly skimmed it looking for the day the Chicago Blackhawks would be in town.
“Feb. 1?” I thought. “I have to wait all the way until February?”
I entered it in my phone, wrote it on my desk calendar and almost tattooed on my forearm. There was no way I was missing that game.
Let me backtrack a little bit for you.
For those of you that don’t know, your sports editor is a diehard hockey fan — but I was born and raised in Chicago.
I cheer during the National Anthem.
My closet is full of black, red and white apparel.
I find a toothless smile attractive. (Given that those teeth were lost to a puck to the face or an on the ice fight.)
I don’t call it a “hockey jersey.” It’s a sweater.
I remember all the empty seats at the United Center when hockey was Chicago’s forgotten son. After winning two Stanley Cups in four years, that’s no longer the case.
The sound of bodies crashing into the boards is music to my ears.
No “time out” for my future kiddos. They’ll have a penalty box to go sit in.
“Two minutes for tripping your sister,” I’ll shout.
I think you get the point.
Let’s fast forward to tonight. I’m writing this from high above the ice at the SAP Center. I almost had Bob Burch, one of our reporters, pinch me as I stood five feet from Jonathan Toews.
This is real life.
We all have dreams – and this was mine.
Though I was a soccer player and cheerleader, I never considered myself “athletic.” The old adage goes that those who can’t do, teach. Well in my case, it’s those who can’t do, write.
I get to live my dream every day. My job consists of covering sports and writing about it. Seriously, what’s cooler than that?
But this, my friends, is the big league.
There’s a special something in the air at the SAP Center tonight — after all, the defending Stanley Cup champs are here. It’s a sold out crowd full of teal sweaters, but peppered with groups of Chicago red. It’s a beautiful sight from up here.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I showed up in my red blazer. (Wearing a Toews jersey would be unprofessional after all.) Host teams can be a little unfriendly to anyone who looks like they might be against them. But thankfully for this little editor, the only teeth bared at me were on the Sharks logo.
I have to restrain myself any time either team is in scoring position tonight. But stopping myself from going into full blown prayer mode as I watch the clock tick away with a 1-1 tie in the third is the hardest.
“Please, please don’t go into overtime,” I think silently to myself.
I know that everyone around me is praying for the opposite.
I should tell you that this portion of the column is being written after the game. As the rest of press row cheered around me, I think I made it obvious that I was indeed an enemy in Shark infested waters. It was probably the fact I buried my head into my hands after watching Patrick Sharp biff during the shootout that gave me away.
All was not lost however.
I made my way down to the Blackhawks’ locker room after the game — nervously, I might add — and for a short moment everything I ever imagined for myself was a reality: Erin Redmond, NHL writer.
OK maybe not, but for that instant it was believable.
The fan in me wants to scream at these men.
“Can’t you guys learn to win in regulation? Why do you blow it — they’re 0-6 in overtime, 5-8 in a shootout this year — in OT?” I want to yell with all my might.
But as I look around, I see heads hanging in despair. I see frustration strewn across their faces.
This is what I get the privilege of seeing. On TV, they’ll be interviewed and be professional. They’ll show a brave face for the fans and promise to do better next time.
But here, when no one is watching, they look like anyone who has had a bad day at work. They’re just regular Joes like you and me — it’s easy to forget that.
It’s humbling to see and I decide to buckle down and get back to work, talk to them like you would anyone else.
Then I look up and see Olympian, 2013 Conn Smithe Trophy winner and flat out superstar Patrick Kane standing in arm’s reach of me.
And I’m back to being star struck again.