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I don’t really remember the first time he told me he was thinking about giving up season tickets, but I do remember that the handful of times he brought it up to me I would beg him to reconsider. My excuses for my family to drop thousands of dollars on brutal hockey was shaky at best: What if they’re good, dad? I like watching other teams’ great players come and play. You’ve had them too long to give them up. Someone who won’t appreciate the game will buy your seats.

I’m sure there were more poorly thought out reasons that I came up with.

I was probably in junior high the first time he mentioned it to me — little did we know that the futility of this franchise would last through college. I’m sure he and my mother had talked about it for much longer. We weren’t rich people, the money for season tickets wasn’t throwaway cash to us. In my late 20’s I’m just starting to understand the sacrifices that my parents made for me to play hockey 12 months a year, send me to college, and make sure that I was happy. Paying for season tickets to watch the Blackhawks seems insane to me now.

The early part of 1998 saw the Hawks sitting at 16-35-8. One of the greatest captains in Hawks history, Dirk Graham, was a disaster behind the bench. I loved Dirk Graham. I was probably too young to actually understand what kind of player he was, but I remember him being fearless. Maybe I just dug the mustache — my dad has a good one and young me may have associated the captain of the Blackhawks with my father for that reason. You can see a lot of Graham in Jonathan Toews — rising to the occasion (a natural hat trick in the ’92 finals is as brass balled as it gets), sticking up for teammates, he was great at all of it.

He sucked as a head coach.

I was on a fifth grade class retreat to Wisconsin to learn about Jesus and how to do things outdoors when he got fired. It was a week without phone calls home and our only interactions with the outside world were handwritten letters. It was less culty than I just made it sound. Most parents sent letters to their kids with some candy or some other stuff for them to entertain themselves with. Dad sent me a letter that told me that Dirk Graham got fired. I cried.

My fifth grade pals didn’t get why I was upset and the chaperones on the trip had no idea who Dirk Graham was. I was on an island in Jesus Country and my prayers that the Blackhawks would turn it around wouldn’t be answered for nearly a decade.

I know for a fact that he talked to me about finally giving up on this team and the season tickets in high school — right after head coach Brent Sutter tried to fight young center Tyler Arnason in a bar in Nashville. I remember being at the breakfast table and my dad saying something along the lines of “Why am I giving these losers my money?” It was a valid question. I had no answers.

I pointed to the rebuild the team was going through. I decided that the savior of the franchise was a 20 year-old Tuomo Ruutu — heralded as the best player outside of the NHL for a few years. I pointed to him, the ABC line, and the fact that one of my goalie instructors, Craig Anderson, was splitting time in the Hawks’ net. Come on, Dad. Please!

Prior to the Sutter fight and disastrous 03-04 season, in the summer of 2003, the Blackhawks drafted Brent Seabrook in the first round. The Hawks had started to host their prospects camp at Johnny’s Icehouse and it was open to the public. Dad worked out of a home office and one day when I wasn’t skating we decided to check out the camp. I’d venture to guess that there were 12 fans there.

Walking in to Johnny’s we saw a blacked out Dodge Magnum pull up. Exiting the vehicle like clowns coming out of a mini clown car, we saw General Manager Bob Pulford (a worse leader in 2003 than George Bush), Sutter, Scouting Director Al MacIsaac, and Assistant GM Dale Tallon.

Those guys, I was convinced, were on the road to saving the Hawks — maybe not Pully, but I had confidence in Tallon for some reason. I think I just liked him from the years he was a broadcaster. The wee-knee call is still one of the funniest things ever said on a sports broadcast. Regardless, 15 year-old me decided that the Chicago management was on the right track.

Seabrook showed up to camp the day we arrived (he missed the first few days due to his high school graduation). He looked like a high school Elvis-impersonator with his weird mutton chops. Duncan Keith was there, Dustin Byfuglien (who was a shooter at my goalie school that year if I recall correctly) was there, Adam Burish was there, James Wisniewski was there, Corey Crawford may have been there. The beginning of the core of the 2010 Stanley Cup champions started at this camp.

We had no idea what we were really watching, though. Sitting next to us was Tallon, just out in the open. Who the hell was going to bother him? The Hawks were awful, nobody in the city gave a shit about them, so he could sit wherever he wanted and expect to not be bothered. Except by us.

Dad asked him, “I’ve been a season ticket holder for 25 years, should we be excited about this year with Ruutu and some of these young guys?” It was a reasonable question after one playoff appearance in six years.

“You should be excited about 2006,” was Tallon’s response.

In 2006 the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews.

Four more years of futility before the Blackhawks would make the playoffs again. I got kicked out of the University of Illinois after the 06-07 season and had to move home. I wasted my parents’ money. I was jobless. I was aimless. I was a mess. Killer Carlson-style mess.

My relationship with my parents had fractured a bit. But the drive to clean up and get back to school was somewhere in the back of my mind. I was in the midst of a personal rebuild.

The Hawks were a professional sports team mirror of my life. They were awful — Jeff Hamilton was the third leading scorer (He was bad). Ruutu wasn’t the offensive dynamo we had expected. The Hawks signed a 100 year-old Peter Bondra. Adrian Aucoin was the worst captain in Blackhawks history. Money was wasted.

The team was aimless under then-head coach Trent Yawney. But there were signs of life when Dennis Savard took over for Yawney midway through the year — we got full seasons from Seabrook and Keith, Patrick Sharp arrived and was a nasty competitor and goal scorer. Something was happening.

That summer the Blackhawks drafted Patrick Kane. Despite finishing with the first overall draft pick (bad) dad kept the tickets.

I’m not sure if it was the reason that my dad kept pumping money into the Chicago franchise that year, but I think our relationship started to normalize through watching hockey. I went to 10 or 12 games with him to watch Kane and Toews and the upstart Hawks. We watched any and every NHL game on VS. or OLN or whatever the hell NBCSN was at the time.

My parents helped me get a job and I went back to school. I cut out some temptations and people from my life. Sitting in section 317, row 1, seat 4 was when I felt best. My addiction to hockey was the one that mattered. I’d spend a lot of time that year buried in my laptop watching pirated games when there were none on TV.

The Blackhawks finished third in the Central Division — just a few points shy of the playoffs. The core was coming into its own.

That summer there was no question of whether or not the Pauly family was staying in the United Center. The Hawks were on the verge of making the playoffs and the personal rebuild was going well —I miraculously got back into U of I.

I ditched a summer class to hang out and watch highlights of game 5 — and of course to pregame. It was college after all. I couldn’t sit in class knowing that I might get to see my favorite team win a championship in a few hours. No way.

Earlier in the week I’d talked to my parents and it looked like my dad was going to be on his way back to the Chicago suburbs from working in Central Illinois during game 6. I wanted him to watch it in Champaign. He’d said something about trying to get home and not wanting to drive on I-57 at a ridiculously late hour. I was disappointed, but understood. I’m sure my mom would’ve enjoyed watching with him.

Then, at about 3 p.m. I got a call. Dad was coming to watch the game.

When you watch your favorite team in overtime at a bar, you get hyperaware of your surroundings. Someone 45 feet away is chewing too loudly or some jackass is clamoring for a baseball game to get put on and it’s all annoying. Sometimes people get up and walk in front of the screen you’re watching. Other times some jerkoff is applying too much malt vinegar to his fries.

You just want everyone to stop, shut the fuck up for a second and experience what you’re experiencing. The agony. The anticipation. The stress. The euphoria.

I don’t remember much of the 1992 Finals. I mean, I think I cried and was bummed out, but I was too young to really know what the hell happened. One of the greatest players that ever lived and one that that can probably be in the conversation came in and dummied a gritty, talented Chicago team. A four game sweep.

Dad was there with his best friends and got to watch the Penguins hoist Lord Stanley’s mug in their town. It must have been crushing. Awesome, no doubt. But awful.

There’s no way he and his pals could have known the futility and hopelessness the next 15 years would bring them. They’d been to the top of the mountain, but they got knocked off of it quickly and went into a canyon that somehow had a crack that reached the center of the Earth. Even that doesn’t seem like a big enough metaphor for how awful the Blackhawks were in the early aughts.

When Patrick Kane scored in overtime, I stood on a chair and yelled. My friends were hugging, chugging beers, and genuinely losing their marbles — a bunch of beauties running on primal instincts.

Dad remained seated. I think the malt vinegar at a nearby table got to him, his eyes had watered. We hugged. We shared some words that, frankly, will stay with me. He high-fived some of my friends and then paid my group’s bar tab (which, to this day is still an indeterminate amount of money — though I believe DNAinfo’s Jon Hansen might have an answer). He was headed back to the ‘burbs. His son celebrated like he’d scored the game winner.

I’ll never, ever forget that moment.

Since this hockey renaissance started, more and more people have come out of the woodwork to ask me if I was going to games and to let me know that if I ever needed to get rid of a ticket or bring someone with that they’d be available.

Prior to tonight’s Game 6 tilt, I’ll bet that a dozen people have asked me if I was going.

I’m not going to Game 6. Tonight’s an opportunity for my dad and his longtime ticketholder buddies to see something that the Pittsburgh Penguins took away from them 23 years ago.

That group was the reason I’ve been to more games than I can count. They watched and were able to digest more awful Blackhawks players than I’ll ever see. When they first got tickets in the mezzanine at Chicago Stadium they’d hoped for a chance to see the Blackhawks win it on home ice. It’s taken 30+ years and tonight they have that chance.

I don’t deserve it. It’s not my time, but with this franchise, my time could come sooner rather than later.

Go Hawks.