Awakened by a championship ring
WIMBLEDON, England -- The phone rang at 4-something in the morning, London time. I don't remember exactly because I was as thrilled as I was deafened.
Per an agreement with my family made three hours earlier via Skype, the call meant there were five minutes left in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, and the Blackhawks had a chance to clinch.
After days of searching every back door that my smarter flat mate from ESPN -- also here to cover Wimbledon -- could think of, we could not get the game on TV or streamed online. The NHL broadcast agreement with the U.K. prohibited any Stanley Cup finals game from being carried here, which left me apoplectic.
My Boston-leaning colleagues also were not happy, though maybe they knew what was coming because they did not seem nearly as upset as I was.
However, three hours earlier, when he could no longer put up with my whimpering, my husband, Rick, held his iPad up to the TV -- thus ruining his and my two teenage children's viewing experience -- so I could "watch" the game.
This arrangement worked out fairly well -- despite the fact that I felt as though I was viewing the game with cataracts -- until 7½ minutes in, when the Bruins scored and my son, Alec, accused me of jinxing the Hawks and all but ordered me to bed. (It was about 1:40 a.m. my time.)
Let me pause for just a moment to explain that as a sportswriter for the past 30 years, my level of local fan enthusiasm has dissipated to a very acceptable, objective place over the years. However, there are teams that are closer to your heart than others, and any sportswriter who tells you otherwise is lying.
For anyone alive in the early 1970s in Chicago, no explanation is required to place the Blackhawks in the city's sporting culture. When my older brothers iced over our backyard patio, turned over an old redwood table and stuck me in the "net" with a catcher's mitt, football helmet and pillow and fired away, I was Tony Esposito, and they were Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.
Even Dick Butkus said he couldn't compete.
And when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane came to town, and Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz took over for his dad and put games on local TV on a regular basis, my kids were hooked. Once again, so was I.
Scarcely a game has been missed at our house over the past six years. And it got to the point, when covering games as a columnist for ESPNChicago.com, that I almost missed staying home and cheering on the couch, observing with some amusement my son's various, ratty good-luck T-shirts and my daughter Amanda's occasional vain attempts to have the channel switched to something with a dramatic arc between periods.
The idea of going to bed with the Hawks trailing 1-0 in Game 6 was abhorrent to me, but I did have my strength for a possible Game 7 to consider. Plus, my husband's arm was getting tired from holding up his iPad at just the right angle.
And so the deal was struck: Don't call me if the Hawks are going to lose and force a Game 7. Wake me if there was five minutes left and they had a chance to win.
If I was still a bit groggy when I picked up the phone; the screams promptly ended that. I switched on my computer and, bless whoever invented Skype, a crystal-clear picture accompanied the postgame celebration.
I was, of course, devastated to miss watching live the tying and winning goals, scored within 17 seconds in the final 1:16 of regulation. But sharing that next half hour with my family, watching the Hawks pass the Cup together, commenting on each player and viewing the highlights from my apartment in Wimbledon Village was an experience that I will remember a long time -- as long, in fact, as I will remember covering Game 6 in Philadelphia, three years ago, when the Hawks won the 2010 Cup.
But I'm still annoyed at the NHL.