The last time the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup Final, in 2010, I went to Philadelphia, wore my Duncan Keith jersey and had my physical well-being threatened multiple times.
So I decided to try it again, this time in Boston, for Saturday's Game 2. After all, Boston couldn't be worse than Philly, right? They seem like reasonable, level-headed people other than that time they started a war because they didn't want to pay too much for tea.
Yeah, it was going to be bad.
>> I spent the day taking in the sights in my Keith jersey. I started in Boston Common and within 20 seconds of putting the jersey on I was told the Blackhawks suck. Then a nice old lady came up to warn me about what I was doing. "You would get slaughtered if you did this on Monday."
>> In the Public Garden they put a Bruins jersey on a statue of George Washington (clearly a Capitals fan, by the way) and did the same for a series of duckling sculptures (easily crushable by a brachiosaurus).
>> As I was making my way out of the Common I heard a vendor say, "I should beat this guy up," and he came over to me, looked at me and said, "Oh, hey, you look like Tom Brady." And walked away.
>> Continuing along the Freedom Trail the physical embodiment of my Boston nightmares, a tattooed, ripped, shirtless, bald guy (probably named Fitzy) walked past me and yelled, "baaaahhhm." Which I think means "bum" in real English.
>> No one said anything as I went through Faneiul Hall and Quincy Market, other than a guy who saw my Duncan Keith jersey and said he went to college with him.
>> In the North End I went into Mike's Pastry, where the guy behind the counter said he used to have a Stan Mikita jersey when he was younger. He was a lifelong Boston resident, but he just really liked Mikita. That was pretty cool, I thought.
>> In front of Old North Church there was a statue of Paul Revere with a Bruins jersey on as well. When I was taking pictures of it, I saw a boy named Jacob, 6, wearing one of the only three Blackhawks jersey I'd see all day. They were from Old Town visiting family in Boston and his mom said he refused to take the jersey off for the past four days. His little sister, for the record, was wearing a Cubs hat she made sure I saw.
>> I went to Bunker Hill, where a reenactment of a 1775 militia was taking place. I ended up talking to one of the re-enactors. Shockingly, he wasn't a hockey fan. He said as long as I stayed away from South Boston, I'd be fine.
>> In front of the TD Garden I saw Niki Irzyk, 24, and Steve Stefan, 23, both of Arlington Heights, taking pictures in Hawks jerseys. As soon as they got their pictures, they smartly took off their Hawks jerseys. They booked this trip a while ago and realized there was a decent chance the Hawks could be playing the Bruins. They planned to watch the game at a bar and "possibly" wear their jerseys.
"We've gotten some mean remarks, but it's not bad," Stefan said. "They've made it well-known they don't like our kind here."
While we were chatting, a couple of tour buses drove past and pointed us out. We got booed.
>> After wandering around Cambridge, where I heard more about genomes than goalies, I walked around Fenway and one of the hot dog vendors talked to me about the series. I said everyone had been pretty good to me so far. He said that was because "they hadn't started drinking yet."
>> I was going to go watch the game at the Cheers bar because I thought it would complete my troll job on the city of Boston, but when I walked in I realized everyone knows your name there because everyone looks like they just came from a business convention and forgot to take their nametags off.
>> So based on a Twitter suggestion from Ana Espinosa, whose boyfriend is a Bruins fan, I went to McGreevy's in Black Bay, which I later found out is owned by the Dropkick Murphy's lead singer. When I asked her if I would die there, she said "possibly."
It ended up being the perfect combination of a great sports atmosphere with only a mild chance of someone going Mark Wahlberg on my eyes. I was the only Hawks jersey in the place and nothing stands out like a red jersey in a sea of black.
>> At the beginning of the game I was hanging by the door for a quick escape when someone came up behind me and hugged me; I seriously thought I was getting shanked. Turned out it was Milana Grozdaich, 23, a Hawks fan from Munster, Ind., who works in Boston now. She wasn't wearing a jersey after wearing one for Game 1 and taking a lot of abuse.
"I have to defend the Hawks, but Boston respects the team," Grozdiach said. "The first game we went to a bar we walked in and the guy at the door said, 'What are you doing here?' People turn and look. I don't see many Hawks fans here."
>> After the Hawks scored their first goal, the place was silent. The Bruins hadn't scored in over a game's worth of time. I definitely didn't want a blowout. And the way the Hawks played the first period, it looked like it might go that way.
>> When the Bruins finally scored, you could feel a giant sigh of relief in the bar. They threw confetti and blew horns. From that point on the bar was full of confidence. While I kept anticipating the worst, they expected a Bruins goal (which might have been because they had around 200 scoring chances).
>> As the game and alcohol level of the Bruins fans progressed, the bar got more boisterous. I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder, I felt hunted. And the whole time I was praying for no overtime. Either way the game would end in overtime would be bad for me and there would be a lot of sudden emotion.
>> So sure enough it goes to OT. The thing that scared me the most was how much the Bruins fans were enjoying the game while I was hardly breathing. I have few recollections of overtime. At some point I just stopped having rational thoughts and tried to become invisible. I still have no idea how the game ended. I just remember a bunch of people screaming, things being thrown in the air, then people screaming at me, grabbing at me and I dashing out of the bar and into a cab like I was in the Beatles, except if everyone hated them.
>> But honestly, I have a lot of respect for Bruins fans. They know their hockey. The experience was so much better than in Philly where people threatened me everywhere I went.
One of the Bruins fans told me he thought Chicago and Boston had the two best groups of sports fans in the country. And he might be right.
Scott Bolohan is a RedEye special contributor.
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