Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Eric Weinrich, right, who starred at North Yarmouth Academy and the University of Maine, plays for Chicago in 1998, the last of his five seasons with the Blackhawks.
1998 Associated Press file
"One of the things that gets lost in the fury of the game is how you start doing so many things instinctively. I'm a defenseman. Someone dumps the puck in my end and I'll take a look over my shoulder without thinking and know exactly who's behind me, where, and what I'm going to do. You practice these things over and over and over and this is where it's helping you most."
Then there's the crowd. Blackhawks fans are just as boisterous as Bruins fans. Weinrich played in Chicago Stadium, before it was demolished in 1995. Madhouse on Madison, it was called. When the largest pipe organ in the world (more than 3,000 pipes) sounded the first notes of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the crowd would erupt.
"Boston is loud, but in Chicago it was like nothing you've ever experienced," he said. "You couldn't hear the guy singing. My body was shaking at the end. It was hard to keep your composure; it didn't hurt your adrenaline level at all."
The crowd has been just as noisy in the new arena, the United Center. Nonstop noise. Even casual fans don't need to be told what's at stake when they tune in playoff games in Chicago or Boston. The noise tells the story. It follows what sometimes seems like long, uninterrupted minutes of play. This isn't baseball or football or even basketball with their constant stoppages.
"I love the fact the games are so spontaneous," said Weinrich.
His Blackhawks reached the Western Conference finals in the 1994-95 season before losing to the Detroit Red Wings in five games. Three of Detroit's four wins came in overtime. Conference winners move on to the Stanley Cup finals. It was the closest Weinrich would get to the prize.
He knows the joy of being on winning teams in the playoffs. "It's an amazing feeling to win a series," he said. "It gives you a feeling of being a little more invincible. I know what I've done and I've just got to keep it going.
"To lose, it's really heartbreaking. You're in disbelief it's over. It's devastating. You play all season just for this chance. You're pretty drained. You really can't think of anything.
"You look around the locker room. All of us have been fighting for each other. It's a bond. It's more than a game."
It's the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: