Chicago-area hockey fans happy to see NHL return
The Pink Panthers 14-and-under girls' hockey team takes the ice to play a team from Janesville, Wisconsin at the Franklin Park Ice Arena on Saturday. Many of the fans at that game also were happy to see the return of the National Hockey League after a bit
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:30AM
FRANKLIN PARK — With the National Hockey League lockout finally resolved, the Chicago Blackhawks played their first game in nine months on Saturday, Jan. 19.
Henry Szapielak was looking forward to listening to the Blackhawks play the Los Angeles Kings on the radio while driving between two other hockey games.
“Oh yes!” he said while watching his granddaughter Samantha play at the Franklin Park Ice Arena. Later that afternoon he planned to drive to another ice rink to watch his grandson play.
“I watch (the Blackhawks) every game, with two kids in hockey,” Szapielak said.
With no NHL games being played, Szapielak said he watched the Chicago Bears perhaps more than usual. He still doesn’t get why it took so long for NHL players and owners negotiate a contract.
“There’s no reason to go into arbitration to work it all out,” Szapielak said.
Bob Halen, a sprinkler fitter from Chicago wearing a white Blackhawks jersey, said a shortage of hockey had an impact on him.
“I’ve been a fan since I was about seven, 45 years,” Halen said. “I’m a partial season ticket holder. I missed hockey and going to games.”
His plan for the afternoon was simple.
“Have a few Schlitz and watch it,” he said.
Milan Hanulik of Northlake found himself bored during the NHL lockout.
“I didn’t have anything to do,” said Hanulik, a construction worker who got to attend the sixth game of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2010, when the Blackhawks won the league championship.
Dominic Pilati, a fireman in Melrose Park, was helping his son Dominic Jr. put on his pads and skates Saturday morning. He comes from a family of hockey fans.
“Before I was born, my parents always had season tickets,” Pilati said. “By the time me and my brothers came along, they couldn’t afford tickets anymore.”
Pilati hasn’t attended a Blackhawks game for six years, since his son was born.
Amanda Price, who has dropped off a younger cousin for hockey practice, attended a Blackhawks game a couple years ago, although she doesn’t recall whom they were playing. A nursing student at Triton, she says the absence of NHL games meant little to her.
“(The lockout) didn’t bother me that much, although all my friends were upset,” Price said.
In contrast, Dave Tumpach of LaGrange Park described himself as “miserable.” Tumpach has a nine-game package as is on a waiting list for full season tickets.
“I followed (negotiations) online as best I could,” he said adding that he has tickets to see the Blackhawks play the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 27.
“We’ll see what kind of hockey it’s going to be,” Tumpach said.