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Blackhawks fans anxious for playoff hockey: ‘We’re playing with house money’

Fans enjoy a little bit of normal as the Chicago Blackhawks advance in the NHL playoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks fans Jim Moore, left, and Tony Vittal enjoy a drink at WestEnd ahead of the Blackhawks game against the Edmonton Oilers, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.
Chicago Blackhawks fans Jim Moore (left) and Tony Vittal enjoy a drink Friday at WestEnd before the Blackhawks play the Edmonton Oilers.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

It was like 2015 all over again.

The Chicago Blackhawks vying for a chance to bring the Stanley Cup home. Fans filing into bars, slamming beers and eating burgers.

The lingering pandemic seemed almost forgotten — but temperature checks and signs encouraging mask-wearing were quick reminders.

Tony Vittal and Jim Moore shared a table near a window at the WestEnd, 1326 W. Madison St., chatting moments before the puck dropped. The Blackhawks would go on to win, closing out the series against the Edmonton Oilers.

“We’re fired up. It’s like we’re playing with house money — they don’t belong here, they shouldn’t be here — but we’re excited,” Vittal said. “It’s almost like the first season ended and now we are playing a whole new season.”

Nate Campbell, Jessica LaPorte and Eric Baumgartner enjoyed beer and wings at WestEnd’s sidewalk patio, the game playing on several TVs near their table. They were excited to remember when the United Center hosted playoff hockey and a global pandemic hadn’t disrupted the nation.

“It’s a little sense of fake normalcy, I guess you can say,” LaPorte said. “It’s just fun to see them playing like how they used too especially with all those goals they made in the last game.”

Campbell said it’s “shocking” the Hawks are in the position they are — but now, he added, they have a real shot at the Stanley Cup.

“It’s exciting because we’ve sucked for a few years,” Campbell said raising his beer and laughing.

Frank Trovato was watching the game at the outdoor patio of Vintage Bar, 1449 W. Taylor St. He’s been a Hawks fan for over 12 years now and the thought of playoff hockey is thrilling.

“It’s a bit of euphoria, I have to say, because even though they shouldn’t be here, they have as good of a chance as anyone,” Trovato said. “We’ve seen the lowest seed beating the highest seed a lot of times in the NHL, so anything can happen.”