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This is what it sounds like when 'Hawks cry


Whoever said 'He who laughs last, laughs longest' should talk to my old university pal Jeff. Jeff was a good friend, but when it came to hockey teams, we were rivals. He grew up in Windsor, Ont., and thus, cheered for the Detroit Red Wings. I, on the other hand, have been a lifelong Chicago Blackhawks fan since I was eight years old when I ended up with a hockey card of Blackhawks defenceman Keith Brown, which said he was born in Corner Brook, my hometown, despite never being raised there. That was enough to make me an enduring fan, much like I assume young boys and girls in Riverhead and elsewhere in this province now have Detroit Red Wings fever in their blood, just because of Danny Cleary.

Your attention please - Whoever said 'He who laughs last, laughs longest' should talk to my old university pal Jeff.

Jeff was a good friend, but when it came to hockey teams, we were rivals. He grew up in Windsor, Ont., and thus, cheered for the Detroit Red Wings. I, on the other hand, have been a lifelong Chicago Blackhawks fan since I was eight years old when I ended up with a hockey card of Blackhawks defenceman Keith Brown, which said he was born in Corner Brook, my hometown, despite never being raised there.

That was enough to make me an enduring fan, much like I assume young boys and girls in Riverhead and elsewhere in this province now have Detroit Red Wings fever in their blood, just because of Danny Cleary.

But this was the mid-'90s. The Red Wings were on the verge of greatness. My team, however, holding on to the dubious claim of having the longest drought without a Stanley Cup, was about to sink even lower, if that were possible.

Despite that, my Blackhawks were tough opponents for the Red Wings that year and finished the season with a winning record (three wins, one loss, two ties) against their old rival.

As for my rival, I reminded Jeff of that winning record time and time again: the day after a Blackhawks win, and even days later when it wasn't even relevant. He told me, of course, when the Wings defeated the Blackhawks - which didn't happen much that year - and would remind me, "At least our last Stanley Cup team photo is in colour."

Then spring came around. Exams were finished and everybody headed home for the summer. I headed back to Corner Brook; Jeff returned to Windsor.

I lost contact with most of my university friends over the summer, which made for great reunions the following September.

But when I returned to university following Labour Day that year, I knew Jeff had already arrived before me.

He somehow tracked down where I'd be living in the dorm that year, and the first thing I saw when I found my room, still holding my suitcase, was a huge picture of Steve Yzerman holding the Stanley Cup over his head.

That previous spring, the Red Wings had defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in four games to win the Cup.

It never crossed my mind over the summer that this was the fate handed to me. But standing there, watching the Wings captain hold the Cup over his head and stare back at me, I knew there was nothing I could say that could triumph this friendly feud.

I had lost.

My team had beaten his the previous year more than his had beaten mine, but in the end, his proved to be the best in the league, regardless of how many times they lost to the Blackhawks.

The only times I hear from Jeff these days is by e-mail when our teams play each other. This year was not unlike that season a little more than 10 years ago. My Blackhawks were a tough opponent for the Red Wings this year - Chicago won five of seven games against the Wings - and I certainly reminded him of that after each of those Red Wings losses.

However, my team failed to make the playoffs - by only three points, I should add. Last week, his won the Stanley Cup. Again.

And lo and behold, when I arrived at work Thursday morning, just hours after the Wings captured their fourth championship in the last decade, one e-mail awaited me when I turned on my computer.

It was from Jeff.

"It doesn't get old or boring," he said. "You really got to try it some time ... maybe this century."

He's still laughing.

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