Here's to Hinsdale becoming a hockey town

A NHL player once said about hockey that half the game is mental and the other half is being mental.

That latter part often applies to hockey fans as well. On a cold Feb. 16, 1966, my mom was nine months pregnant and watching the Blackhawks vs Rangers. Fun fact, back then the center red line was painted in a red and white pattern to distinguish it from the solid blue lines on the black and white WGN broadcast. Bobby Hull scored his 46th goal that season at 07:27 into the first period. A hat trick would put him at 48 goals, just three shy of the record. My mom hung on to hope while ignoring the early contractions, but Bobby didn't score again that night (he would eventually break the single-season goal record 3½ weeks later). She was finally convinced to head to the hospital late in the third period, and I popped out at 10:45 p.m. with a given name inspired by Bobby Hull's then 1½ year old son Brett (my parents dropped a T). So yes, I was literally born into

hockey fanaticism.

I have vague memories of watching Hull, but I do have a treasured photo of getting my stick signed by Bobby the year before he departed to Winnipeg in 1972. Back then, my youth hockey playing experience consisted of plastic roller skates strapped over our shoes, a tightly rolled up tube sock for a puck, "skating" with my brothers in our unfinished basement and breaking a lot of lightbulbs. We also had some competitive rod hockey games with the flat metal players that were always popping off.

"Learn to skate" programs weren't much around in the early '70s for me, but they were plentiful in 2013 when the Hawks won their second of three Stanley Cups during the decade. My son Nate enrolled and has been involved with hockey (first youth, now Red Devil) ever since. He's loved every minute of it.

As a beginner, you're relegated to the early morning skates which weeds out many. Nate never had an issue with the Saturday 6:30 a.m. wake-up calls – he'd consistently pop right up, excited about ice time. The same can't be said about his 6:30 a.m. school wake-up calls.

Unlike most professional sports, players and coaches are accessible and gracious. Nate has had the opportunity to interact with Denis Savard, Chris Chelios, Brian Campbell, Kendall Coyne, Eddie Olczyk, Jamal Mayers, Marty Brodeur, Vince Dunn, Patrick Kane and Coach Q. My hope is that someday Hinsdale moves from a baseball to a hockey town with more families enrolling their girls (and boys) into a hockey program. You'll watch exciting competition, meet some great families and your kids will learn valuable lessons in both sport and life.

April was bittersweet this year seeing the final dismantling of the three-cup dynasty. With Kane traded away and Toews having played his last game as a Blackhawk, the key players that sparked my son's fandom as a toddler were now gone. Things were looking bleak after this season, however, in early May the Blackhawks won the draft lottery for the No. 1 pick. And the No. 1 pick the Blackhawks selected in last night's draft? An exceptional talent in Connor Bedard who will be the key player in getting the Blackhawks back to competing for Stanley Cups.

In the summer of 2015, Nate and I watched the Blackhawks capture their third cup within his seven years of existence. I'm confident we'll be watching them raise another cup within his next seven years.

- Bret Conway of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist. Readers can email him at [email protected].