It was October 9, and life seemed to return to normal as I found myself in familiar surroundings: Row six, in a window seat, waiting to taxi for takeoff as the Blackhawks embarked on their first road trip of the 2008-09 season.
A pair of weekend games awaited this young, confident Hawks team.
The first test took place against the Rangers at famed Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple.
In what seemed like only minutes we were in the New York area, landing on the Jersey side at the Newark airport. Our bus driver hinted that the trip to our hotel in midtown Manhattan was only a short distance but that it would take over an hour to get there and he was right; the infamous Lincoln Tunnel looked like a parking lot as thousands of cars, buses and assorted vehicles slowly made their way through.
The dawn of the 2008-09 season came earlier than I had wished, as a chorus of police sirens drew me from my slumber well before my scheduled wakeup call. It was New York, so I guess I had to expect it.
At the morning skate I met the father and sons of Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland, a native New Yorker. It was a warm, fuzzy moment to see them all together on the Blackhawks' bench until Mike’s sons started throwing pucks at the empty nets. Soon, two voices - Mike’s father, George, and Mike himself - told them to stop.
It seemed almost destined that Haviland would make his NHL assistant coaching debut in the arena where he had not only played as a kid but where he’d attended numerous games during his youth.
Later that day, I encountered several Blackhawks fans wearing the team colors and walking through crowded Times Square. At one stoplight, I asked a guy wearing a red Hawks jersey if he was truly a fan or just another front-runner. His answer: “No, I’ve been a Hawks fan for a couple of decades." He told me that he and his friend were from Oaklawn and had flown in to attend the game that night and Saturday's game in Washington.
I saw many more Blackhawks fans making their way to their seats inside MSG. It gave me a good feeling to know that though they were significantly outnumbered, they took pride in being both visible and vocal during the game.
I had a hunch I’d see many of them the following night down in Washington, D.C., and I was right.
While in D.C., I went on a game-day stroll. Blackhawks TV took a video camera along to document the walk and some of the sights of D.C. The segment has since been named "Walkin’ with Wiedeman
." I hope that any of you who take the time to check it out will enjoy it.
Unfortunately, the Hawks were beaten by the Caps with all-world power forward Alex Ovechkin doing most of the damage.
Some road trips don’t offer much in the way of fun or interest away from the rink and a trip to St. Louis can be one of those trips. But this trip was special in one way as the Hawks' new head coach Joel Quenneville was going back to the city where he had made so many great memories, but was returning this time as the head coach of a rival team.
Unbeknownst to all of us was that during the morning skate, then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama was giving a speech below the St. Louis Arch.
Later that evening, a 3-1 third-period lead didn’t last as the Blues tied the game in the final 15 seconds of regulation time, then won the game in the shootout.
St. Paul, Minnesota was our final October road destination. Though a trip to Minny can hold unexpected surprises, there wasn’t much to write about. Aside from the first-rate accommodations at the host hotel, an easy walk to and from the X-Cel Energy Center and the excellent care provided us by the Wild P.R. staff, we left St. Paul with a 3-2 loss to the Wild and one lasting lesson: We unanimously hate the trap!