Hawks Fans.. they’re everywhere. Obviously there are plenty of North Americans currently working, studying or serving overseas. However, there’s also us: the few, the proud, the “Actually Foreign” Hawks fans. We battle Ass-O’Clock game times and massive indifference from friends and colleagues to follow our team. Some of us have never been to Chicago, let alone the UC, yet we consider ourselves as much a part of Hawks nation as anyone.

My own story starts with Da ’85 Bears (as so much else does) and has its twists and turns that led me to the ’09 WCF and the sealing of the deal.  But this isn’t about me. Obviously this is a subject close to my heart, so I reached out to a bunch of my fellow Toilers-In-Timezone-Hell with a few questions. Which are below.  These good folk are from Ireland, Scotland, Sweden & Germany. With the exception of Sweden, Hockey is either a minority sport or practically non-existent.  Their words are their own, the italicized questions are mine.  Next time you’re watching the Hawks, raise a glass to them. And if you’re in our neigbourhoods, look us up.

 

(Author’s note: these interviews were conducted in the early stages of the Minnesota series)

 

CtA: So, considering it’s hardly a popular sport in your part of the world, why Hockey and why the Hawks?

Sarah (Essbeee): Scottish, lives in Glasgow. Author and graduate student. Hawks fan since 2000. Three Hawks tattoos and counting!

There’s no sport like hockey. From the family feeling with the fans to the absolute passion of the sport hockey is like nothing else. Its not a sport its much more than that! Why Hawks other than because they’re the best? I like the underdog and when I started following them they were the underdog. And then came along Toews and Kane and Sharp and the Cup and its been an amazing ride!

Oskar Lindkvist: Swede, lives in Örebro, Sweden. University student. Hawks fan since 2006
Hockey is, as you all know, a big part of Swedish sport. We have a big league here as well that most of the people follow and so do I. I have always been a fan of NHL even before I got to the age, that I could choose to stay up at night and watch them. Been playing EA NHL since 98 and I always (for some unknown reason), always chose Blackhawks. Every day after school there was a show about the nights highlights (I guess it was the NHL Tonight or the equivalent to that show), which I always watched and hoped for a Blackhawk win. When I was around 14-15, I started to watch weekend games first and then I just couldn’t resist watching every game of the week. I’m now 20.

 

James: 24, lives in Donegal, Ireland. Office worker by day, hockey fanatic by night, Blackhawks fan by the grace of God.

It was pretty simple really. I was an impressionable young lad in 2000, the PlayStation 2 had just been released and I was in dire want of getting some good games for it the moment that launched that were not Tekken Tag Tournament. One of the gaming magazine demo discs had NHL 2001 on it, I loved it, and I’ve been a hockey fan since. I went without allegiance for a good while, trying to find a team that I had a certain degree of affinity with (the Sabres and Ducks remain some of the teams I hope do well for themselves, I have an old Mighty Ducks jersey in my wardrobe), but honestly, at that point, they were just teams that I played with, it was before high-speed internet and well before streaming matches live online. Around 2007 or thereabouts, we finally got broadband internet at home, and a friend of mine from Chicago (who I had actually met on a soccer forum) encouraged me to get into watching the Blackhawks, hot off their new home-game broadcasting license. The rest, as they say, is history.

 


Corinna: German from Rüsselsheim, Germany. Pencil pusher job. Hawks fan since 2012 (better late than never, eh?):
I just love fast sports. I’ve played Handball (Team Handball) all my life, and Hockey is not that different. Except there are less players. And it’s on ice. And with sticks and a puck. And all the other things. But in the end, it’s a Team effort and you have to know where your teammates are and they need to have your back and you need to have their backs. 

 Why the Hawks. Well, a friend of mine showed me a Hockey game and it was the Hawks. So I got interested, and the more I learned about them, the more I liked them. The different players, the different styles, the chemistry they have going on, is for me, the thing that got me about the Hawks the most. They’re good at what they’re doing, not just individually, but as a whole. They don’t give up and they fight, but not unfair.

 

Katharina:28, lives in Wiesbaden, Germany, medical resident, Hawks fan since 2011
Actually a friend got me hooked on hockey. She used to watch a lot in Finland where she has many friends and started watching NHL hockey and practically forced me and my freinds to watch with her. At first I was very much against it, but as soon as I gave it a chance I fell in love with the sport. And from the very beginning the Hawks had caught my eye, they were an all around awesome team, I loved all the different players and very soon the other fans. They just have this awesome fanbase.

 

 

CtA: What is the biggest challenge to following the Hawks from your location? Timezones? Massive indifference from your friends/colleagues when babbling about “Last night’s awesome game” while brutally sleep-deprived ?

Sarah:

Timezone. I see far more of 5am than I really want to! Also none of my immediate circle of friends follows hockey so when I start talking about it you can see their eyes clouding over!

 

Oskar: The biggest problem to me is probably the planning. There takes a lot of planning to still get the hours of sleep a night that I need. If there’s a west coast game, it’s easy to just sleep before the game (around six hours), and wake up 4AM to watch the game and then start the day. If the game starts at midnight or 1AM, you can get a few hours of sleep after the game. The worst is the 2AM-3AM games and of course, this is the most usual as a Blackhawk fan. You try to get 3 hours before and 3 hours after, which sounds brutal. But all these years doing this has just made me used to it I guess. It doesn’t feel any more weird than it does for you guys when the game starts 7PM or 8PM. I don’t mind though the noon games on weekends, haha.

James:
It’s definitely the timezone. Actually watching the games live is the biggest hurdle of them all, now that we have access to them. As someone who spends the vast majority of his days plugged into the internet, watching them on tape-delay on Game Center Live is no longer an option, as I wouldn’t be able to stay away from places where I’d have the result spoiled on me. As for talking to others, I’m aware that they don’t give two shits about it, so I don’t talk to people about it. I’ve tons of people I know on places like Facebook and Twitter that I talk to on the regular about the Hawks (like your good self), so it’s not as if I have to enjoy it in pure solemn isolation. Bit irritating not being able to yell and cheer at the screen though, when I was in Chicago recently, it felt weird being both in the stadium and in a packed bar for a roadwatch and sitting in almost-silence while everyone else is losing their vocal chords around me.

 

Corinna:
Oh most definitely the timezones. Most games start around 3 am and I usually have to get up around 5.30 am to get ready for work. I quite enjoy the games on the weekend and/or early games (for them). It’s also quite good to have friends around who like Hockey and the Hawks so you can watch games together or talk about them the next morning. Other friends and family usually doesn’t get it, especially since we are in the Playoffs right now and they don’t get the excitement over it. Football (soccer) is very popular here and I come from a family of Handball players, so there is a lot of discussing those sports at home and at work.

 

Katharina:
Most challenging for me is the time difference. I have to get up very early in the morning, sometimes if a game starts late in the US I can’t even watch till the end before I have to leave for work. So constantly being sleep deprived is a real challange. Also I work a lot of nights aswell and then just miss games even though I would have been awake. That sucks! My colleagues are not even completely indifferend, they make fun of me all the time, because they think it’s such a stupid sport to like and so inconvenient, they just don’t get it at all!^^

 

 

 

CtA: Who is your favourite Blackhawk and why? And is there a Hawks player who annoys you?

Sarah:

Thats so hard! Favourite there’s so many! Bollig (yes I know!), Crawford, Seabrook, Hossa (ofcourse!) are all favourites. Would be easier to say who isnt my favourite! A player who annoys me? Shaw used to but he’s definitely grown on me! Non hawks favourite player not that you asked is Danny Briere. So between the playoffs and wondering if he’ll play next year hockey is crazy for me right now!

Oskar:The easy answer to this is of course Toews or Kane. It’s a nice and safe pick, but while I love them both, they’re not my favorite players in this team. Another easy answer for me would be picking a Swede, a homer choice in two ways. My favorite in this team is probably a guy like Saad or Shaw, two guys who bust their ass every guy and never quit on a play. They might not be one of the guys who gets all the points, but they are the guys who show a lot of heartI don’t think there’s any player on Hawks this year that particularly annoys me. Yes Oduya has made a few mistakes lately and Crawford can let in a few easy goals, but they are only humans. If I had to pick someone, I would say Bollig. Mostly because I’m not a fan of these kinds of players, I guess it’s just a cultural difference from where I come from. As I said, I’m not really annoyed with Bollig, he has been better lately, but if I had to pick someone, it would probably be him.

 

James:
My current favourite is Brandon Saad. That guy is the god damn truth. We all think he’s good now and it helps a lot that he’s got some phenomenal talent out on lines with him, but the fact of the matter is, this guy is only going to get far, far better than the high skill level he’s already at. It’s way too early to come out and project that this kid’s going to have a Hall-of-Fame career, but I definitely believe that he’ll win at least one Stanley Cup. Here’s hoping that it’s this year, eh? As for player that annoys me? Brandon Bollig would be too easy of an answer, but Dave Bolland’s relative anonymity this season is certainly cause for concern. His inconsistency rags me because I know he can do far better far more often, so his failure of playing up to par, coupled with his cap hit, makes him virtually unmovable.

 

Corinna:
My favorite Blackhawk is not one, but two – our defense team Seabrook and Keith. Can’t name one without the other. As a (Handball) goalie myself, I know how important a good defense is, and they are the best we have, maybe even in the whole NHL. They work very well together and even though they’re split up right now, they’re still the best.
There is not one Hawk player who annoys me. The team as a whole works really well and all of them play important roles to the success of the Hawks, like we’ve seen in the past season. Every line and every player does their best.
Katharina:
I’m gonna have to go with Toews. He’s such a dedicated player, hard on himself, kind of a perfectionist and performs well. Also a leader, which is something I always admire. Being so young and already so capable of leading a diverse team like the Hawks through good and very bad times!
No one really annoys me, there are some players I’m kind of indifferent to, but I would miss pretty much all of them should they get traded.

 

CtA: How do you find interaction with the North American-based Hawks fans?

Sarah:

I think some don’t think we’re real fans because we don’t attend as many games. But some absolutely love that we follow the team! Met some really good friends through the sport.

Oskar:

I love interacting with other fans and talk to them about hockey, especially North American fans. If you talk to most Swedish fans (who don’t really watch NHL but still knows a lot of hockey), they will talk about the Swedes. I don’t mind talking about the Swedes in our team, but I like it more when it’s North American guys who complements them, because then you know they actually deserves it. I follow Chris on both facebook (where a lot of discussion can appear on the comment section) and twitter, and I’m also quite active on reddit’s r/Hockey and r/Hawks.

James:
It’s like I’ve known them forever. I feel like given the Duncan Keith incident a week or 2 ago, I might be opening up a can of worms onto myself here, but it’s certainly helped that I’m a guy. I fear that a lot of non-American-based Blackhawks fans, notably women, might be put off by the bad apples claiming “You’re a girl, what do you know about a sport your country barely even plays?” or “You’re just a bandwagon fan, GTFO!”, but I’m going to put this out there: I know female European Blackhawks fans. Some of whom are featured in this very article, some others too. I’ve never seen any Hawks fans call them out on not being a “true fan” or some other bullshit like that. I’ve never gotten it either, thank goodness. I probably can’t speak about the fanbase-at-large, PARTICULARLY DA MEATHEADS MY FRENT, but for the majority, the Blackhawks fans are the most welcoming fanbase I know of. I’ve been to Chicago twice, and I’ve attended Hawks games and roadwatch parties over there, and almost everyone loves each other and it’s just fantastic just how much they consider me one of their own, almost as if I live there. And I wish I did, trust me.

 

Corinna:
They are all awesome. Quite a lot are a bit surprised when you tell them you’re a Hawks fan and from Germany, but they’re very welcoming and happy to meet international fans. Big thumbs up, best fellow fans in the world!

 

Katharina:
Awesome!! I made a couple of friends in Chicago during my visits and we stay in contact via whatsapp and twitter. It’s great to have someone to talk to about the Hawks and there’s always someone available, even at the weirdest times, because they might have just gotten up or couldn’t sleep! And they have been so kind and helpful and everyone seemed to think it was special to be a european Hawks fan. At one of the Games in the UC two of them wanted to find me an my friend american husbands, so we could get a greencard and move to Chicago to see more Hawks Games!

 

 

CtA: What are your predictions for this series/Playoffs? What is the key to Chicago becoming the home of the Big Shiny Thing again?

Sarah:

After the first game I predict i’ll be losing a lot of my nails! I think anything really is possible. They need to forget the season and forget everyone is tipping them to win it. They’ve worked so hard all season and they need to keep that up. With Captain Serious I dont really see that being an issue. I’m so proud to be a hawks fan!

Oskar: I have never liked being in the favorite role and all this talk about sweeping the Wild. They are a good team and we saw that this tuesday, even though Hawks wasn’t on their best level as well. Of course I believe we have a great chance of winning the Stanley Cup, but we all know how logic never has been a part of playoffs. Our defense need to be solid which I’m perfectly calm with as well. Hjalmarsson is on a SC-2010 level, Keith and Seabrook does their job and of course Roszival who has been better than I expected. If Oduya is on the same level as he started the season, we should be okay and you all saw the pass he gave to Stalberg in OT. That our offense needs to work, is quite obvious and we have so much talent there, it’s insane. What baffles me though, is the powerplay. If you look at the players on our PP setup and then at the stats, it doesn’t make any sense.Playoff is a weird thing and you can analyze what needs to be changed this and what need to be changed that. In the end though, it’s just winning 16 games and we do have the team to do that.

James:For the series against Minnesota? Originally I had this down as a sweep, but after the tremendous performance of Josh Harding the other night, now I’m not so sure. I just hope we don’t tire ourself out so much carpet-bombing a hot goalie only to let in sloppy goals against the run of play. The same thing happened against Mike Smith and the Phoenix Nordiques-Elect last year, and it could very well happen again if Mike Yeo decides to ride the hot hand and keep Harding in instead of Backstrom. As for the Key to the Cup? Solid defence. A lot of fans seem to want to conjure a goalie controversy out of slapshot vapour trails, but the truth is, regardless of who’s in net, if the guys in front of the goalie don’t perform, then you can’t point fingers at Crawford or Emery (or hell, Karlsson. Hutton surrendered his playoff credentials by taking against St. Louis) any more.

 

Corinna:
I don’t want to jinx anything so there won’t be any predictions from me, but: Stick on the ice, head down, shoot, score!

 

Katharina:
I think it’s a difficult position to be i right now. To be in the spotight for having to perdorn very well, but no one will think it special if they do. If in one game they shouldn’t it will almost immediately be a big deal. Kind of what it’s been like during the season with the added pressure of this bein the playoffs. There’s a lot of pressure on our guys. On the other hand they’ve shoen they can handle pressure. Snd they have an amazing team right now. As sonn as Emery is back in the lineup we have basically two number one goalies. We have a very solid defense and 4 lines that can all be extremely dangerous, and if one line just can’t seem to score another will come along to take their spot for the game. We’ve also shown that the team can deal with and overcome key players being hurt and missing games. I think if the pressure doesn’t get too much they can go real far this year!  I’ll sure as hell be around to see them make it happen!

 

 

CtA: Finally, what is your local language/dialect version of “Let’s Go Hawks”?

Sarah: Lets go Hawks! Please don’t hurt Bollig!

Oskar: I would guess if I just translate it, it’s “Kämpa Blackhawks”

 K is pronoucned as Sh in Shocking. ÄM is pronounced as EM in Emma and the PA is normal like in Patrick.
James: It’s actually translated as “Up the Blackhawks!” but “Blackhawks Abú!”. It’s been ages since I’ve gone anywhere near the Irish language, but I believe that in sports, you can translate the location name, but the team name stays the same as it is. So the New York Rangers would be “Nua Eabhairc Rangers”. 

Corinna: Los Hawks! or my favorite from a different sport:

 ”Blackhawks vor, noch ein Tor!”
(something like “Blackhawks to the front, another goal!”)

 

Katharina: probably something like Los, Hawks, or Auf Geht’s Hawks. but to be honest we use so many English phrases in Germany, people would just simply use the English term because it sounds better.

 

Because Oskar comes from Sweden, where Hockey is actually a popular sport, I had a couple of extra questions for him, one of which is one of the Burning Issues of our Time

 

CtA:  Who are the most popular NHL teams in Sweden?

This is quite an easy answer. Me and my Islanders friend talks about this all the time. We have a lot of Rangers, Caps and Red Wings (ugh) fans here. Most of them though, are just saying they cheer for that team, but they don’t really watch the games. If you meet a Wings fans on a NHL forum though, they are probably fans like me, but if you are in Sweden and ask someone which team in NHL they follow, most likely, the answer is one of these three and they don’t watch the games. Swedish Elite League is so big, they don’t really need another league (since it’s at night). This has made me develop a hate for these three teams (they Wings hate was already there), because of the casual fans here in Sweden, which probably sounds stupid. Disgustingly, Canucks is probably the fourth most popular.

 

CtA:  Do you ever feel like strangling Pat Foley when he mispronounces Hjalmarsson’s name?

Haha, I’m quite used to it. I don’t think there’s a single Swedish (or another European) name in the NHL that are really pronounced correctly. The American spin to the name is so standard. Oduya is probably the closest one though. Stalberg’s name is actually Stålberg and the ‘å’ is pronounced somewhat like the ‘o’ in ‘bowl’. As I said, I’m so used to it, that I sometimes even pronounce the Swedish players “the American way” to my friends.

*
There you have it, folks. It makes me proud to be a Hawks fan, knowing that people are not only  Committed to the Indian in Chicago, Chicagoland, Illinois, USA, Canada but also all the way across the ocean. When I’m sitting in a darkened room, in the wee hours of the morning, watching Hossa score or Hjammer clear the puck, I am aware that others are right there sharing it with me.

 

Thanks to Sarah @essbee80, James @jayc4life, Oskar @Lindkvist1515, Corinna and Katharina @eurohawks for participating. Go find them on Twitter. They’re good folk, and your friends.
Let’s Go Hawks!