I was watching baseball on a barstool in Forest Park, because it’s more fun than watching sports in my basement. I asked the guy to my left if he was a Sox or Cubs fan. With refreshing candor, he admitted to being a “bandwagon fan.” He supports whatever team is winning.

Many hockey-come-lately fans, like me, have been accused of climbing aboard the Blackhawk’s bandwagon. Hey, it’s not my fault the Hawks weren’t on TV for decades. Now, I’m completely captivated by the sport I first discovered during the Hawk’s championship run in 2010.

This year, I’ve only missed seeing a few regular season games and I’ve been scheduling my life around the playoffs. Part of my attraction to hockey is that I found other sports to be unwatchable. Pro football games are four-hour marathons, bloated by commercials and endless reviews by referees.

I don’t know what happened to the NBA. I’ve been a Bulls fan since the franchise was founded but I can’t even watch this year’s Finals. The game seems slow and plodding. The players look disinterested and the refs have caught replay-itis. Baseball has been in a gradual decline for decades.

Hockey, on the other hand, is mesmerizing mayhem. It’s lightening quick, with teams trading frantic scoring opportunities at both ends of the ice. It even features an occasional fight. I loved contact sports growing up. Just think what violence my friends and I could have caused with sticks in our hands. In fact, hockey players would be arrested, if they weren’t committing their atrocities on a rink.

I greatly admire the players. They’re incredibly well-conditioned and skillful. Except for the occasional thug, they are all honorable men. Hockey is hard-hitting but clean, like rugby. Except the players are magicians on skates. They are fiercely loyal to each other and over-protective of their goalies. I’m impressed by hockey coaches, too. Most of them look like they could spit nails. I even appreciate the officials. They’re athletic and adept at getting out of the way. They may blow a call now and then but they keep order in an atmosphere of simmering hostility.

The Blackhawks just happen to be most fun team to watch. They wear the best logo in sports; their fans are knowledgeable and devoted. The way they carry-on during the National Anthem – there’s no pre-game excitement like it. Most importantly, the Blackhawk’s roster is populated by young stars, with freakish ability.

I like the rules, too, though I’m learning new ones every game. The Power Play is the greatest invention in sports. It’s giving a child-like “timeout” to an offending player and his opponents an increased opportunity to score. If only basketball would replace mind-numbing free throws with a man advantage.

Finally, I have a Forest Park reason for wanting the Blackhawks to succeed. Not to sound like a civic booster but a long playoff run helps the bottom-line of our bar-based economy.

I do have one question, though, for those who have ridden the Hawks bandwagon longer than me: Which penalty is worse: “Roughing the Blue Line” or “Icing the Goalie?”

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.