By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Imagine yourself as Ryan Hartman.
It’s June of 2010, and your favorite team, the Chicago Blackhawks, just delivered a Stanley Cup. As a 15-year-old kid from nearby West Dundee, the parade in the city’s streets was an unforgettable moment. Hartman sweated bullets among an estimated two million others, with dreams of being on those double-decker buses someday.
The phone call came to Ryan Hartman on Thursday evening. When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was on the other line, the 20-year-old forward grew a pit in his stomach, fearing bad news.
Instead, this was the call Hartman had been waiting for. He was to join the Blackhawks, a team which he grew up supporting as a loyal fan.
Now, Hartman, the Blackhawks’ first-round pick in 2013, dons that famed sweater. He’s teammates with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, fighting for another championship parade. That call from Bowman turned into a moment Hartman will never forget.
“It’s a dream come true, obviously,” said Hartman. “Growing up a Hawks fan and watching the Hawks, idolizing some of these players that are on the team right now, it’s an honor to wear the jersey and I’m glad to be on the team.”
However, the nerves never left Hartman. Thursday brought a near-sleepless night, and Friday — game day — offered an excruciating wait until puck drop. Butterflies continued an endless circulation of his stomach.
When soloist Jim Cornelison delivered his stunning rendition of the national anthem, it really hit Hartman — he was a Blackhawk, not a fan in the stands. The nerves stayed strong until his first shift on the ice, minutes into the game.
Off the bench came Hartman and Dainus Zubrus was in his sights. The Devils’ forward seemingly stood still as Hartman sped through to the puck. He lowered the shoulder and sent Zubrus backwards in air, his helmet flying even further. The 22,186 fans inside United Center exploded with excitement.
Out went the nerves for Hartman, who made a statement to the NHL. With a cruel, clean hit, he calmed the lingering tension.
“I think knocking someone over always make you feel better about yourself,” said Hartman.
Added Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville: “You couldn’t get a better start.”
Indeed, Hartman’s welcome-to-the-NHL moment came during the raucous Cornelison anthem, but the welcome-to-Hartman moment was letting out the demons by dismantling of a Devil.
What Hartman felt on Friday is a feeling few, if any, can relate. He watched the Blackhawks as a true fan, suffering through the dark age’s end and into the franchise’s revival, with Toews and Kane. He’s attended games at a United Center that were filled with 12,000 and many with 22,000.
Just one hit brought Hartman from gut-wrenching nerves to jubilation. As a hockey player in Chicago’s suburbs, a fan of the Blackhawks’ championship turnaround, he had long hoped of a night like Friday, but never imagined it would be possible.
“It’s got to be pretty cool,” said Toews of Hartman.
Without a doubt, Captain. Consider this: Toews rode a double-decker bus with Lord Stanley’s prize to his side, while Hartman celebrated as a 15-year-old Blackhawks fan and aspiring hockey player.
Hartman wasn’t a Chicago prospect at that time, or even a blip in Bowman’s notebook — just a kid with a dream.
“I was at the parade, cheering them on,” said Hartman. “It’s pretty surreal.”
Two million fans filled the streets for the Blackhawks’ 2010 parade. Only one would fulfill the goal of wearing that famed logo for Chicago’s storied hockey franchise.
Hartman has lived the dream come true.